This is the first of a few blogs from my short trip to Mombasa, Kenya. My DSLR died on the trip, so I had to get a compact flash reader to retrieve the photos. Luckily the water that killed the camera spared my photos. I’ve always placed a higher value on my captured experiences than the gear itself.
Fort Jesus is 16th century Portuguese military fortification located on Mombasa Island and built during the reign of King Philip I. It was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2011.[src]
The fort occupies a strategic position at the mouth of the Mombasa Harbor. The outline of the fort is in the shape of a person, with a head, two arms, and two legs. Our guide told us that it is meant to represent the body of Jesus, for which the fort is named.
1: The fort is built into an outcropping of coral, using coral rock and lime for building materials. Much of the yellowish lime plaster has worn away, leaving the black coral rock exposed. This creates a beautiful contrast of color.
2: Antique cannon on display from the fort line the central walkway. One of the cannon had a loose cannonball you could handle. For their size, the cannonballs are extremely heavy, and you can get a sense of how much damage they are capable of.
3: The fort contains ruins of various buildings. Upon closer inspection you can see they were also built using porous coral stone as the primary building material.
4: One of the many cramped guard towers line the perimeter of the fort. Many of them you can actual climb into. I can’t imagine being a sentry assigned to one of these towers for hours on end.
5: Cannon line the harbor-facing walls of the fort. In its time, the fort was a formidable deterrent to invading naval forces.
6: A resort located across Mombasa Harbor is framed by one of the forts portals. It was a beautiful morning, but later that afternoon a thunderstorm rolled in.
7: These original paintings by Portuguese soldiers were discovered during the restoration of the fort. Their favorite subject was nautical themes like ships and fish. The lighting wasn’t particularly great, and for obvious reasons we weren’t allowed to use a flash.
8: The Omanis controlled Fort Jesus in 1698 after subjecting it to a siege that lasted two years and nine months. They remained in control for thirty years [src]. The fort changed hands several times prior to Kenya becoming a British protectorate in 1895. It was used as a prison by the British until 1958. The building pictured was built during the Omani occupation. Recently, the Omani government has financed its restoration, including building a small museum inside.
9: A pair of antique canons flank the entrance to the fort. The entrance fee is 1200KSH, which is about $12 for foreigners. There will also be guides outside the fort touting ‘official tours’. I don’t recommend using them, as they will attempt to rush you through fort. Our guide almost skipped us past the Portuguese soldier wall art, which was one of my favorite features of the fort.
10: The fort is visible across Mombasa Harbor from where I stayed, the Hotel Englishpoint. Although the fort was a few hundred meters away, it was about 15 minutes away by car via the closest bridge crossing the harbor.
Thanks for dropping by! I hope that you enjoyed my travel photos and commentary, and will return for more travel content in the future.