In 1561 Mombasa declared war on the Northern settlement of Malindi, which had remained a Portuguese ally. The armies of Mombasa were utterly defeated, and the Portuguese moved their garrisons of troops onto the island, starting work on Fort Jesus in 1593.
The grand fort dominated the island and was a clear symbol of Portuguese strength and dominance. However, in 1631 a local uprising managed to unseat the Portuguese and the Fort fell under the control of the Sultan. The outraged Portuguese soon returned, and so began an epic and bloody battle for control that would see the Fort change hands 9 times before 1875.
Today the majestic Fort is a National Monument, standing high over the harbour. The Fort is an interesting place to spend a day exploring the gun turrets, battlements and houses within the walls. There is an excellent Museum and trained guides available.
For those who want to learn more about the struggle for Fort Jesus, the Fort plays host to a spectacular sound and light show 3 nights each week. Visitors are welcomed into the Fort by guards in flowing robes brandishing flaming torches. They are led to a specially designed and choreographed show that uses lights, sound effects and costumed actors to bring to life the long and turbulent history of the Fort. At the end of the show, a candlelit dinner is served in the open courtyard of the Fort, under the stars. This wonderfully atmospheric night out is the perfect way to end the day, and learn more about the history of Mombasa.