A Journey Through Time at Fort Jesus


                                                                                                                                                                                  Photo by Arr Qarpeng

In the spirit of appreciating the cultural richness of Mombasa, a trip to Fort Jesus became imperative to properly understand its history and importance in shaping what Mombasa is today. Amidst the ancient walls and echoing whispers of history, the Swahili concept of "hifadhi," meaning preservation, took on profound significance. As I delved into the intricate tapestry of this historical landmark, every stone seemed to echo the stories of resilience and cultural richness.

Join me on a journey beyond the mere tourist trail as I unravel the layers of Fort Jesus and its resonating tales of preservation.

Exploring Old Mombasa Town

Before reaching the Fort, I wandered through Old Town Mombasa, a vibrant tapestry of culture and history. A tuk-tuk ride offered a glimpse into the daily rhythm of the city, while savoring local delicacies like kaimati, madafu, and achari deepened my connection to the community.

These simple interactions positively impacted the local economy and provided an intimate window into the lives of the people who call this place home. After immersing myself in the charm of Mombasa's old town, I made my way to the imposing Fort Jesus.


Mombasa Old Town, photo by Ninara, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Fort Jesus: A Gateway to History

Fort Jesus, a historic Portuguese fortress was built in the late 16th century and named after Jesus Christ. It was constructed by the Portuguese to protect their interests along the East African coast. Over the years, the fort witnessed numerous battles and changing hands between different colonial powers, including the Portuguese, Arabs, and British. Today, the Fort stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and serves as a museum that showcases the rich history and cultural diversity of the region.

Stepping through the imposing 10-foot doors of Fort Jesus, adorned with intricate brass ornaments, I was transported back in time. The vibrant displays of Swahili, Arab, Persian, and Portuguese influences weave through the fort's architecture. From intricate carvings to ornate arches, each detail whispers a story of cultural exchange and adaptation. Among the stark stones, the delicate white flowers of the mangrove trees stood out as a symbol of resilience and natural beauty. Hilum MburuFort Jesus, photo by Hilum Mburu

Preserving the Past, Embracing the Future

Beyond the Fort's walls, dedicated residents nurture a vibrant community, their heritage woven into the fabric of everyday life. From the workshops where the spirit of Swahili artisans thrive to the fragrant curries, fresh seafood dishes, and sweet coconut-infused desserts from a local restaurant within the fort, each step within the fort reminded me of the coastal people's ability to transform adversity into beauty. 

Kay Chege

Photo by Kay Chege

Lessons Learned

As I embark on a journey, I should always remind myself to embrace the opportunity to connect with the essence of each place. Travel with a mindful heart, positively impacting myself, the community, and the destination you explore.

My time in Mombasa taught me that true appreciation for a destination comes from immersing oneself in its local culture and heritage. It's not just about visiting landmarks and taking pictures; it's about understanding the stories behind them, the lives that have touched them, and the efforts made to maintain them.

Jacob Muimi

Fort Jesus, photo by Jacob Muimi

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