Posted by on Nov 27, 2013 in History | 0 comments

Fort Jesus was constructed in 1593 like a fortress for the Portuguese living around the East African coast. It forms among the important landmarks in Kenya revealing the extent of foreign excess in Africa.

Fort Jesus is Mombasa’s most popular tourist attraction. The fort, located across the coastline near the Old Town, is really a monumental piece of architecture which was built in the 16th century through the Portuguese. The fort includes a museum that displays various artifacts in the era where Mombasa served like a transit point for the slave trade and commodities, and which enjoyed regular visits by seafarers and so on. Its interior comprises of torture rooms and prison cells where slaves were held in captivity before being traded. Weapons for example canons, which were used to defend the fort from invading foreigners in addition to rioting locals, can be seen both outside and inside of the fort. The fort opens its gates for viewing each morning and closes at dusk.

History of Fort Jesus – Turbulent Past

A brief history of Fort Jesus goes back hundreds of years. During the 16th century, Mombasa became increasingly vital for Portuguese exchange the Indian Ocean region, as well as their trade route to India. Curiosity about the town was purely for commercial reasons, particularly trafficking in ivory. However, there have been persistent raids from the Turkish, and continuous threats in the Omani Arabs, a hard cruel lot who have been intent on the East African slave trade. Slavery became a mode of production across the coast, and within the East African region, it had reached an unprecedented level. A large number of natives were captured in the interior and exported towards the Persian Gulf and Arabia via Mombasa, for use as concubines, laborers, guards, soldiers, and so forth. It is actually the view in some quarters the East African slave trade far exceeded the trans-Atlantic trade during this period.

Construction of Fort Jesus

The making of Fort Jesus was therefore necessitated through the need to defend Mombasa and the surrounding areas, not with regard to the indigenous people, however for an Imperialist Portugal that had to repel repeated incursions inside a region they had occupied for any century. In the two hundred and forty 4 years after 1631, the fort what food was in the center of nine epic battles because of its capture, particularly by the Omani Arabs who had sovereign influence over neighboring Zanzibar, the main city of the Indian Ocean slave trade.

History of Fort Jesus in Mombasa

History of Fort Jesus in Mombasa

Fort Jesus was utilized as a dungeon for slaves and all types of trade by the Omani Sultanate or the Sultan of Zanzibar, so when under the control of the Portuguese, like a bastion for the protection of their trade routes. Many slaves perished within the fort, either from torture, disease, or hunger because they awaited ships to transport these to their fate in another country. A Milanese architect designed the fort, also it was constructed in the 4 years from 1593-1596.

The location, at a coral ridge and right in the entrance to the harbor, was well considered because any ship could be easily seen and at point blank selection of the mounted canons. In addition, the place was suitable for delivery of supplies by small boats in case of a siege, the most famous because of the Omani Arabs from 1696-1698. When the British colonized Kenya, they took charge of the fort and tried on the extender as a prison for political dissidents. The function of the fort for the security from the coastal region during the Mau-Mau uprising within the 1950’s, the most aggressive violent agitation by Kenyan’s for Independence from Britain, is extensively recorded.

Fort Jesus has many battlements and ruined buildings inside the compound including Omani house, built-in the late 18th C and housing Omani jewelry in addition to displays on Swahili life. The Passage of Arches is really a passage that was cut with the coral to give access to the sea.

Fort Jesus Museum in Mombasa Old Town

This really is now one of the National Museums of Kenya. The emphasis is around the ancient trading cultures from the Kenyan coast, especially Swahili, Arab and Portuguese artifacts, with mainly local finds and donated objects. They include:

  • Ceramics – Persian and Portuguese glazed ware, and Chinese porcelain probably imported from India.
  • Wreck finds, particularly from the 17th century Portuguese vessel.
  • European trade beads, old maps and navigation equipment.
  • Types of the two main types of trading dhows.
  • Antique carved and inlaid wooden Swahili furniture, household and military hardware.

Touring Fort Jesus

When tourists first reach the fort on an evening, they’re met by guards in flowing robes with flaming torches who proceed to stage a carefully choreographed sound and lightweight show that describes the fort’s turbulent past. A candle-lit dinner is served following the show. But Fort Jesus really involves life during the day.

Inside the fort are ancient wall paintings of ships, chameleons, fish, and soldiers in armor, completed with ochre and carbon by Portuguese sentries. It comes with an eighteenth century inscription and wonderful stone benches within the “Hall of Mazrui” located on the seaward end. There’s a museum on the property with pottery on the thousand years old, and the vertebrae of the whale on a stool. There are also exhibits from archaeological finds from the Manda, Gede, and Ungwana sites. During the prolonged siege from the fort by the Omani Arabs in 1696-1698, the Santo Antonio de Tanna was sent as re-enforcement from Portugal. However, it sank within the Indian Ocean and a large number of objects that have so far been recovered in the ship are on display.