Fort Jesus Museum in Mombasa should be on your bucket list if you are planning to visit the Kenyan coast. There is more to it than the photos on the internet. It does not matter whether you are a history enthusiast or a wandering traveler; there is always something interesting about the museum that is worth checking out. But first, go through this article for a dress-down of why it was constructed, its purpose and its significance.


Fort Jesus is the most popular tourist attraction site in Mombasa. It is located along the Indian Ocean’s coastline, near the Old Town. It is a monumental piece of architecture that is rich in history. It has a museum to display several artefacts from the era when the Kenyan coastal towns served as transit points for commodities and slave trade by various seafarers.

The Portuguese built the fort between 1593 and 1596 to the designs of Giovanni Battista Cairati to protect the port of Mombasa. It covers an area of 2.36 hectares, which includes its moat and immediate surroundings.

After its construction, the Portuguese started establishing themselves in the fort. However, it became a subject of battles, and as a result, it was captured and recaptured several times. Its ownership was changed between several rulers, like, the Omani Arabs, between 1698 and 1895. After 1895, its ownership went to the British.

The fort had several cannons built to protect it from invaders, and when the Portuguese recaptured it from the British, they refurbished it many times.

Explore the Fort

Besides being considered one of the Mombasa tourist sites, it is one of the most significant and well-preserved examples of the 16th Portuguese military fortification. It bears the testimony of the first successful attempt by western civilization to rule the trade routes along the Indian Ocean, which had before remained under Eastern influence. It is also the most outstanding landmark in the history of this type of construction. 

The fort has an interesting layout, as reflected in the Renaissance ideal that perfect geometry and proportions are to be found in the human body. It was constructed on a spur of coral rock with imposing walls and five bastions. Its structures bear physical witness to the interchange of cultural values and influences between the African, Arab, Persian, Turkish and European people that fought to maintain control of the port of Mombasa.

Apart from the prison cells, inside Fort Jesus in Mombasa is an exhibit of artefacts discovered during excavation. There is also a water cistern that the Portuguese used to harvest water and a 76-feet deep well.

Reasons Why the Portuguese Fortress Was Built

So, if you were wondering why Fort Jesus was built, read on for more information. You will be surprised to learn that it had more to do with it being a historical site that would signify the presence of the Portuguese on the Kenyan coastline in the 16th Century. Its location was influenced by Mombasa, the trade centre and gateway to India during the 16th Century.

The Portuguese built the present-day museum as a defensive block. It served as a back for the Portuguese soldiers dedicated to guarding the Eastern Coast of Kenya. Later, when the British proclaimed the protectorate, it was converted into a prison. The country’s slaves were held in the torture rooms and cells in the fort’s prison.

Where to Stay?

Amboseli accommodation options suit all budgets. It ranges from tented safari camps to luxury game lodges. The self-catering Bandas/simple cottages offered by the Kenya Wildlife Service are the most affordable, while the park lodges offer a more private and luxurious experience. The Bandas are divided into three options: Simba Cottages, Chui Cottages, and Kilimanjaro Guest House. 

On the other hand, the Amboseli national park lodges such as the Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge, Tawi Lodge, Oltukai Lodge, Satao Elerai camp, and Ol Donyo Lodge offer a more luxurious option that includes private terraces, various safari activities, and swimming pool. For people looking to camp, the Amboseli Campsite is conveniently located near the national park.

Functions of the Fort

The fort is ideally situated along the coastline of Mombasa and is considered among Kenya’s points of interest. Its location made it ideal for Portuguese soldiers to see ships and water vessels approaching the harbour. It was perfect for them to control the trade operations along the eastern coastline. They would also use it to protect Mombasa from any external influence.

However, when the British proclaimed its protectorate in Kenya, the fort was converted into a prison. The prison, as seen in Fort Jesus photos, tells the history of a gruesome past. Enslaved people were tortured in the fort and left to succumb to hunger and diseases. During this period, enslaved people were shipped to Arabia and the Persian Gulf through the port of Mombasa.

In 1958, Fort Jesus became a national park to signify the importance of the historic built environment in Kenya. It is a significant historical landmark in Kenya and is managed by the National Museums Association of Kenya. It also got registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011 and is one of the most visited places in Mombasa. Since it is richly endowed with the history of the Kenyan coast, you ought to consider checking it out.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are the commonly asked questions about Fort Jesus.

What Is Fort Jesus Known For?

The structure is recognized as a testament to the first successful attempt of western civilization on the East African coastline. The structure signifies the Portuguese influence over the Indian Ocean trade.

Who Built Fort Jesus?

The Portuguese built the fort between 1593 and 1596 and used Giovanni Battista Cairati’s designs under King Felipe II of Castille’s orders. The structure was built on coral rocks and on 2.36 hectares of land.

Where Is Fort Jesus Found?

The structure is located in Mombasa along the Kenyan coastline.

How Much Is the Entry Fee at Fort Jesus?

The museum is open to locals and international visitors from Mondays to Saturdays and remains closed on Sundays. It is open between 8 am and 6 pm. Non-residents pay an entry fee of $10.00, while resident adults and children pay 200 and 100 Kenyan shillings, respectively.

How Much Does It Cost to Enter Fort Jesus Mombasa?

Resident adults pay an entry fee of Ksh 200 while children pay Ksh 100. Non-residents pay an entry fee of $10.0.

If you want ideas and recommendations for places to visit in Kenya, consider reaching out to us. We offer travel advice and connect you to the country’s fascinating and picturesque hidden gems. Our rates are affordable, and communication is prompt. We also handle the shortest deadlines and guarantee value for your money.

Fort Jesus has quite the history, especially regarding the hostilities of the interested parties that lived in Mombasa. Maybe, no fort experienced the turbulence it did, especially during the Omani Arabs’ attack between 1696 and 1698. So, checking it out is an experience you do not want to miss out on. 



Do you want to visit Fort Jesus? Pega Tours has you covered! Contact us today and we will prepare a customized itinerary for you and your family or friends.