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Section of Fort Jesus to be closed for renovation

The National Museum of Kenya has announced a section of Fort Jesus National Monument will be closed.

In a notice, the National Museum said that the exhibition gallery will be closed for renovations, but other areas within the Fort will be accessible.

“Exhibition Gallery will be closed for renovations and refurbishment from 23rd October 2023 until further notice. Other areas within the port shall remain open to the public for normal tours. We apologise for any inconvenience caused,” they said.

The closure comes just days as schools are about to be closed for the long holidays. It is a popular destination for school children during the holidays as it becomes a beehive of activity for educational tours.

Fort Jesus remains a very famous iconic landmark in Mombasa county and it is a tourist destination that offers meals, rich history, and a spectacular sea view.

Built by the Portuguese in the late 16th century, Fort Jesus has been the hot-point of many a battle, changing hands from its initial European owners to the Omanis and finally serving as a prison in colonial Kenya before its current status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Fort Jesus was curved out of the coral reef and as such has no foundation.

The massive and imposing fort has repeatedly changed hands since it was built by the Portuguese as states fought for control of this key choke-point for the flow of regional trade.

Built between 1593 and 1596, the fort, which is protected by plastered coral walls as high as 18 meters, features a starlike, angular shape, designed so that any assailant trying to climb any of the walls could easily come under fire from one of its many watchtowers, and so that cannonballs would be more likely to ricochet rather than scoring a direct hit.

Seen from the air, the fort, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, was designed in Renaissance fashion to reflect the proportions of the human body, and looks like a man lying on his stomach facing the ocean.

Fort Jesus was occupied by the Portuguese for almost a century, who used it as the main point of control over the port of Mombasa and the maritime traffic of the Swahili Coast.

When it later fell into the hands of the Omani sultan, it was turned into an administrative center. When the British took over, the fort was converted into a prison until the eve of independence in 1958 when it was declared a National Monument.

Today the fort, which sits on a 2.36-hectare site, is open to visitors who can view some of the surviving historical structures, including an open water cistern used by the Portuguese to harvest rainwater, the ruins of a church built by the Portuguese and a 23-meter deep well bored by the Arabs.

The fort features a Swahili Cultural Centre established in 1993 to educate visitors on traditional Swahili ways of life, Swahili influence on occupants of the fort, and Swahili arts and crafts.

A museum located at the center of the fort displays Portuguese warships sunk during the siege conducted by the Arabs in 1697, which lasted three years and marked the final expulsion of the Portuguese from the region.