Mombasa old town is believed to be the first place at the Kenyan Coast to be settled by the Swahili ethnic group. At the mention of Old town, the first thing that crosses ones mind is the view of an old quiet town located at the edge of the sea that boasts of rich culture, a diverse community, deep history and ancient architecture- Fort Jesus.
Fort Jesus was built in 1593 by the Portuguese to enforce their rule over the Swahilis living on the coast. It was constructed on a rocky hill right on the water, giving the occupants magnificent views of the Indian Ocean. Most of the turrent was assembled out of coral which gave its walls a rigid porous texture that is immediately noticeable and very unique
The Fort symbolizes not only the history of Mombasa, but also the architectural prowess of the Portuguese in designing and building martial structures that are based on Renaissance era values of proportions and geometrical elements.
Wandering the fort grounds is an insightful journey through Mombasa’s history. The museum opened in 1962 and has become a popular attraction for tourists, students and researchers.
Inside the museum, we found an intriguing collection of archaeological artifacts from the fort, as well as Manda, Ungwana, Gede and other sites, some of which had been donated by private individuals and others that had been recovered from the shipwreck of the San Antonio de Tana that has been at the bottom of the Indian Ocean since 1697.
As you wind up the tour of the old town, just a few meters from the main entrance and opposite Fort Jesus, lies the graveyard of the family of Ali Al’amin Mazrui who was an academic professor and a political writer on African and Islamic studies. He was born in Mombasa.
Important tips when visiting Fort Jesus:
- Carry bottled drinking water, dress for the coast and do not forget your sunscreen.
- Have some cash with you, it is more convenient than swiping your card.
- Have a guide with you during tours, tourists can be easy targets to thieves and con artists who masquerade as locals.Learn to bargain, unscrupulous traders usually take advantage of visitors and charge them exorbitantly for goods and services
- It is not mandatory to tip in Kenya, but a little appreciation goes a long way for proper services rendered.
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