Friday, April 13, 2007

Fort Jesus

The meter-thick coral walls at Fort Jesus

Fort Jesus is Mombasa’s biggest tourist attraction. Kenyans will tell you that you haven’t been to Mombasa until you have seen Fort Jesus.

Two years after the arrival of Vasco da Gama Mombasa was sacked by the Portuguese and in 1593 they built Fort Jesus to establish their dominance over the coastal harbor. The Portuguese regarded themselves as representatives of Christ rather than of Portugal. So they sailed under the flag of the Order of Christ and Jesus became an obvious name for the new fort.

Cannons lined up inside the walls of Fort Jesus

However, the Portuguese failed to hold on to it very long and between 1631 and 1875 the fort changed hands at least nine times before falling to British control.
The remains of a Portuguese soldier found at the site

In Swahili, Mombasa is called "Kisiwa ya Mvita," which means "Island of War", due to the many changes in its ownership during this period.

From 1895-1958 Fort Jesus was used as a government prison.


Anonymous said...


Are there a lot of bodies, like in the picture, at the fort? Or is that the only one?

tim said...

There is only one body that has been excavated at Fort Jesus, but with the large number of people that died in the battles there I guess it's always possible that they will find another.

Tim C.

Anonymous said...

i was actually born n i lived in kenya till i was 10 but i neva went 2 fort jesus wats so ironic is dat my parents work 4 a tourin company. i moved to UK 8 years ago n im lukin bak @ my origin.. fascinated bout things dat i didnt kno about. wat a beautiful place.
i wuld luv 2 go bak but it cost so much...

Mwana Mvitah said...

Hi, my name is Mwana-Mvitah EL-Kindiy. I am a name-sake for the general of one army that fought the Portuguese. My name means 'Child of War' or Lady of War'.The general of that army was a woman. She was a Portuguese woman assimilated into the Arab community. I don't know the rest well. When i went to Fort Jesus in 2003, i found her tomb stone there, written in Arabic though. But it was moved. Please, if you are able, find all information regarding this woman and this particular war. This war happened when the Portuguese were defeated, and Fort Jesus was then taken over by the Arabs. That's when the walls were raised in height as the Arabs were taller. I here this ended the slave trade in the East.
I don't know the story well, which is where you come in. Can you fill in all the blanks?

shashidave said...

I was born about 200 meters from the Fort on Vasco Da Gama Street.
It was a prison and my Dad knew the Indian Office in charge Mr Patel, who ocassionally invited him to the fort where he had a small apartment but over looking the sea and had a beautiful view of the other side of the creek. I remember at least two of the prisoners. One was De'Souza who under intoxication killed his wife

shashidave said...

and another one a white man called John. During those days very very few apart from the prisoners had ever seen the fort from the inside and I was one of those privilaged few at the age of 7. Brings some nostalgic memories for me also since a number of friends also lived in the same Street.
Just a wonderful place indeed.

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