Ikram Hassan (1918-1991), Professional Hunter

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  1. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    Ikram Hassan (1918-1991), Professional Hunter

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    Ikram Hassan, Professional Hunter

    He was also Big Game Hunter extraordinary, a scholar to the end of his days and one of natures rare gentlemen. Ikram was born into an educational Muslim family in Kenya in 1918, at the end of the First World War. His father Dr. S.G. Hassan rose to be the Provincial Vetinary Officer of the Coast and held the post with distinction for many years till his retirement in 1952. Ikram's brother the Late Fez Hassan was a well known lawyer in Mombasa and an avid collector of rare books of Africana.

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    Ikram Hassan (1918-1991), Professional Hunter

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    Ikram Hassan, Professional Hunter

    Nurtured in this atmosphere of learning and respectability the young Ikram tried to study Law and then Vetnary sciences only to give up both as not quite to his likings. But the disciplines of learning gave him a lifelong addiction to reading and his fund of general knowledge was truly impressive. Somewhere in the late forties when the world was changing as fast as it is again today, Ikram found his African Hunting Safaris: a company for Big Game Hunting aimed mainly at the lucrative American Market. In those days, this was the preserve of White Hunters - an intrepid breed of professionals renowned for their courage, hunting skills and personal extravagances, all celebrated in Hemingways novels and romanticized in Hollywood films. It looked like a foolhardy challenge. But after the first few years of struggle, Ikram found this nitch.

    His safaris were meticulously planned, his knowledge of the country-side second to none and his personal charisma, quite unique. Ikram hid his steel under a modest, shy and gentle exterior. He became an instant success with those who went with him. By the early sixties when Kenya was racing towards Uhuru, Ikram’s fame and reputation had made him one of the most sought after Hunters in Africa. His clients included Presidents of famous American corporations and wealthy, self-made men for whom the adventure and the man leading it were as important as the elusive trophy itself.

    First, the hunters camp pitched in the magical African night with its campfires, its green tents and the faraway cough of a lion hunting its prey in the heart of darkness. Then, the next day with its long dusty drives, the walk through heavy thorn bush with camouflage all round where East, West, North and South all look the same and then, quite suddenly, the moment itself: that split second when man sees death in the form of a charging lion, a marauding buffalo or the snarling visage of a leopard just feet away. To have gone through such an experience was to venerate the man who had brought them to it and then taken them out alive and well. Ikram Hassan, the brown hunter, was up there among the finest of such men. Leo Rothe, a frequent client wrote about Ikram in a book of African adventures calling him “A legend in his life time”.

    In his heyday lkram was a handsome, tall, scholarly looking man who discoursed as easily about Big Game, Guns and Trackers as he did about Religion and Politics. Since Adventure was a way of life, he walked continually with death and danger. Inevitably he had a number of close shaves himself, almost always resulting from a client's over-eagerness to “bag his trophy”.

    There was the memorable incident with a wounded buffalo. The animal had rushed off into deep bush. The client was told of the dangers that now loomed just ahead and advised to stay behind. He declined. There was no time for further discussion. The buffalo had to be flushed out. In single file then, the tracker, Ikram and the client followed the bloodspoor. The buffalo, perfectly camouflaged lurked closer than they thought. It burst upon them, huge, mad with rage and intent on revenge. The client fired, missed and took over. The unarmed tracker sprang aside. The enraged animal caught Ikram and tossed him into the air. Miraculously he slipped off its horns and fell wounded to one side as the buffalo, confused by a torn coat sleeve blocking its vision pawed the earth bellowing with fury. Somehow in that instant the tracker handed back the fallen gun to Ikram and it all ended in a thunderclap as the shot found its mark. The murderous looking horns made a fine trophy.

    Hunting in Kenya was always strictly controlled and heavily licensed, bringing in its fair share of foreign exchange. As his fame spread, Ikram was asked to conduct safaris in the Sudan, Ethiopia and the jungles of India. But when the ban on hunting came to Kenya in 1979, he hung up his guns. A unique way of life had ended and for many an era was over.

    After his retirement from hunting safaris, lkram looked at the prospect of converting big ranches into mini game parks. He and Leo Rothe hit on the idea of attracting Game to a small natural salt lake in Taita. This was how the Saltlick Lodge in Taita was really born from an idea nurtured by Ikram. Not being a businessman the opportunity passed him by.

    Others, more savvy in the ways of corporate finance and development turned it info the huge success that it is today. Ikram moved on.

    With his sense of fair play and natural friendliness, he got involved in social work and put into this, the same zest, honesty and good humor that he had into everything else in his life.

    As the hunters image slipped from him that of the cleric and social worker took hold. A characteristic Muslim cap replaced the hunters hat.

    In their big country-house in Mombasa, life went on as it always had. Friends would come in and out.

    When death came it was swift and unexpected from a stomach ailment. The day before he had been winning at cards with his wife. Dr. Bilkis. She passed away in 2008.

    Ikram's memory lives on and will be cherished forever in those who knew this fine Kenyan gentleman.

    A Great Professional Hunter from the Golden Days of African Hunting...


    Monish
     

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