(The column first appeared in The Week on October 28, 2021)
- In 1870, Mayankutty Keyi, a shipping magnate from Kerala’s Malabar region, performed the hajj. The wealthy Mayankutty was not pleased with the facilities provided for Indian pilgrims in Mecca. So, he bought 1.5 acres, barely 300m away from the Kaaba—the most sacred site for Muslims—and built a villa there with seven rooms and a huge hall. He named the villa Keyi Rubat, adding the Arabic word for rest house to his surname. Buying the house was not a big deal for him, as he already had homes and warehouses across the globe—including in Amsterdam and Vienna. Keyi means ship owner in Persian. The Keyi family’s clients included traders of all sizes and even the biggest joint stock company of those times, the English East India Company.