"Mombasa's old Fort Jesus" Kenya Things to Do Tip by Bwana_Brown
Kenya Things to Do: 396 reviews and 566 photos
On my earlier 1973 solo trip through East Africa, I had travelled further east than Amboseli, ending up on the Indian Ocean coastline, where I was astounded to see a postcard-like fortress guarding the harbour of Mombasa! It turns out that the Portugese began building Fort Jesus in 1593 as part of their trade network along the tenuous routes to their far-Eastern possessions in India, China and Indonesia. By 1598 the fort was ready for habitation but its construction continued until completion in 1631. Not paying much attention to the details of history in this part of the world, I had never realized that this once-British colony had long-before been Portugese territory.
Fort Jesus has had its share of battles, changing hands more than once over the centuries as both the locals and Arab slave-traders battled the Portugese for control of this coral outcrop at the entrance to Mombasa. Its first major test came in 1631 when the locals revolted and massacred the garrison, requiring Portugal to recapture the Fort in 1632. The next assault came in 1661 when the Omani Arabs decimated the city, but were unable to capture the fort. They had better luck the next time, beseiging the fort for over two years (1696-98) before it finally fell to their forces. This basically put an end to Portugese influence in East Africa, although they later ruled large colonies to the south in Angola and Mozambique. Fort Jesus came under British rule in 1895 when this part of Africa became a British Protectorate, and it was converted to a prison by its new owners.
The fort is now a very interesting museum and tourist attraction. I was not to see another example of this architecture until visiting Portugal itself in 2004!
Directions: Mombasa harbour, on the Indian Ocean east coast of Kenya
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