Uncovering Fort Jesus, Mombasa

The African continent is the renowned birthplace of the Early Human Migration where our ancestors moved out of Eastern Africa to settle down in distant lands. Africa’s rich history is peppered with geological formations and cultural intermingling. Hence, it shows its might on the UNESCO’s Heritage List. It has a total of 93 sites listed, out of which 51 are culturally based. Keeping in that in mind, today we are going to journey into Kenya and take a look at Fort Jesus. 


Fort Jesus | credits to MK Campbell

Today, Fort Jesus can be seen standing tall on the Island of Mombasa, Kenya. It was given the status of a National Park in 1958 and later a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. Situated at the old port of Mombasa, this Fort is known for showcasing the cultural developments that Kenya underwent. It tells a tale of the first successful Western trade route dominance on this side of the ocean and subsequent battles to overthrow each new conqueror. 

Why is it of significance?


The old and new


The Fort was established by the Portuguese between 1593-1596 as a means to protect trade routes. It reflects Renaissance architecture and was built in the shape of a man whose head was lying seaward. Despite the centuries of captures and surrender, the Fort manages to hold its own. 

The initial design reflected the Renaissance ideals and the Portuguese’s elements. However, over the years it adapted to its many conquerors. Grips over its rein was passed through the hands of the Arabs, Swahilis and English and with each rein came new tweaks to the original design. For example, when the Arabs took control, they raised the heights of the walls which catered to the functionality element of a fort.


The Old Fort | credits to Konstantinos Dafalias


Moving past architecture, the Fort stands out for cultural exchanges. It was an important center in the trade route established towards India. Hence, it could play host to innumerable people of different descents and bore witness to cultural interactions. People from all over came here to discuss the prospects of trade. These were not the only interactions. Some interactions were birthed by force (overthrowing powers). However, they are not insignificant as the walls of the Fort tell stories about how it had numerous roles. From a guardian of the port to the center of trade and a prison in the English’s reins, this Fort is not short of stories to tell. 


Getting there 


Nyali beach, Mombasa


Mombasa, Kenya can be accessed by airplanes with Kenya airlines providing many flight options in and out of the city. From there Fort Jesus can be reached through a variety of options – mini-buses, auto rickshaws and taxis. Don’t forget to take your time admiring this piece of history when you are there!


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