Fort Jesus: The treasure of Mombasa

Fort JesusFort Jesus Mombasa

Fort Jesus is one of the few historical and tourist attraction sites located within the Island of Mombasa. The Fort is an important historical landmark in the whole of East African region and happens to be a very interesting place to spend a day exploring the rich history it has.

The building which has stood the test of time is outstanding and its design is very unique. Its location makes it easily accessible by both local and foreign visitors using both private and public means. Others prefer walking from the main bus terminus through the narrow streets of Old Town. It seats in Old Town, thus making it more appealing to historians.

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Fort Jesus which attracts both local and foreign visitors is located on the edge of a coral ridge overlooking the entrance to the Old Port of Mombasa. It was built by the Portuguese in the fifteenth century to protect their trade route to India and their interests in East Africa Coast which had a long history of hostilities of the interested parties that used to live in Mombasa.

The treasure in Fort Jesus

Perhaps no Fort in Africa has experienced such turbulence as Fort Jesus. Omani Arabs attacked the Fort towards the end of the sixteenth century.  Built and occupied first by the Portuguese, Fort Jesus, changed hands many times throughout its history, coming under Arab, Swahili and English control. All this is well documented and readily available at the Fort.

According to historical accounts, Fort Jesus was at one time in the early eighteenth century used as barracks for soldiers. When the British protectorate was proclaimed on the 1st of July 1895, the Fort was converted into a prison. And on the 24th October 1958, Fort Jesus assumed a new status after it was declared a National Heritage site. It became a National Museum site in 1962.

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Fort Jesus is one of the most outstanding and well preserved examples of sixteenth century Portuguese military fortification and a landmark in the history of this type of construction. The original layout of the Fort, despite several changes, has survived almost unchanged over centuries of continued occupations and re-occupations. It has put Kenya in the historical books and Mombasa a tourist destination for many visitors.
With its imposing structure, and the various traces of subsequent modifications, Fort Jesus bears significant witness to the interchange of cultural values among peoples of African, Arab, Turkish, Persian and European origin.

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The place is always a bee hive of activities with many of the visitors doubling as tourists and historians digging the history of East Africa.

 It covers an area of 2.36 hectares and includes the fort’s moat and immediate surroundings. It is under the management of the National Museums of Kenya. It normally opens its doors at eight in the morning and remains open for visitors even during lunch hours until six o’clock in the evening.

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