Fort Jesus is one of the oldest museums with a very rich historical background that dates back to the 16th century; it was built by the Portuguese in 1593 as a secure place for Portuguese living along the coast of East Africa, it was built on a coral ridge at an harbor entrance that was used by the Portuguese for movement of trading goods.
During those early days, Fort Jesus attracted the interest of so many people along the coast; this included the Arabs and the British, it is believed that the fort changed hands at least nine times between 1631 and the early 1870s. Between 1837 and 1895, the fort changed ownership and was converted to soldier barracks and in 1895 it was proclaimed by the British who converted it to a prison.
In 1958 just before the Kenyan independence, Fort Jesus was declared a National Park in custody of Trustees of the Kenya National Parks. In 1962, Excavation was then carried out and the Fort became a National Museum. Fort Jesus remains a very important historical landmark in Kenya and the entire coast of East African.
Today Fort Jesus is a Unesco World Heritage treasure and Mombasa’s most visited site, the trace of the rich Mombasa history can be seen on the meter thick walls, with the traces of the European graffiti, Arabic inscriptions, Swahili embellishment and the archaeological excavations.
Besides the historical Fort, other attractions within fort Jesus include:-
Mombasa Butterfly House
A Live Butterfly Exhibit which presents a paradise of tropical butterflies and invites you to enjoy natural environment, learn about biodiversity and its connection to local communities.
Swahili Cultural Center
A Swahili Cultural Center established in 1993 as a joint project to train young men and women from Mombasa and Lamu Old Towns on traditional Swahili crafts and business management.
A constituent branch of the Institute of Primate Research (IPR) in Nairobi, They collect wild snails from the field and test them for schistosomiasis parasites. If positive, they are transferred to IPR for further investigation; if negative, they are infected with bilharzia ova and left to multiply. These are analyzed and eventually dispatched to IPR where they are used in a schistosomiasis vaccine project.
The Mazrui Hall
Flowery spirals that fade across a wall topped with wooden lintels left by the Omani Arabs.
Portuguese sailors scratched graffiti that illustrates the multicultural naval identity of the Indian Ocean, leaving walls covered with four-pointed European frigates, three-pointed Arabic dhows and the coir-sewn ‘camels of the ocean’, the elegant Swahili mtepe.
The Omani house
The San Felipe bastion in the northwestern corner of the fort, was built in the late 18th century.
Includes the eastern wall, the Omani audience hall and the Passage of the Arches; which leads under the pinkish-brown coral to a double-azure vista of sea floating under sky.
Optional Attractions in Mombasa
Mombasa Haller Park
Mombasa Mamba Village
Tour the old town and market
Visit Akamba Handicraft center
Mombasa Marine National Park
Visit Bombolulu workshop
Beach tour to Diani Beach and Nyali Beach
Fort Jesus is located within Mombasa City, about 5 minutes’ drive from city center, along the Nkrumah road, off Moi Avenue.