Tag Archives: Fort Jesus

Why Zuru Kenya?

Millions of travelers year in, year out, make Kenya their chosen holiday destination. There has to be a good reason why…

One of Africa’s top tourist destinations, not only does Kenya rank high in the world as a safari provider, it also features beautiful white sandy beaches, famous national parks, varied rich cultures, and very welcoming people. Granted some aspects of your trip may be affected by poor infrastructure or a few security concerns in some regions; the adventures, scenery, people and exhilarating experiences will have you coming back to the country for more!!

Here’s why we think Kenya should be top of your destinations to visit list!

1. Home of Safari

George_Elsa_Mak31eCrjpgSubject to a series of safari-inspired film classics such as Mogambo and Born Free, Kenya is famous in the safari world as having been host to the greatest, unrivalled private hunting safaris frequented by American presidents and European royalty. Photography safari was also pioneered here in the 50’s and 60’s and countless documentaries such as BBC’s Big Cat Diary serve as pull factors drawing safari enthusiasts to the country.

2. White sandy beaches  kenya-beach-2The Kenyan Coast boasts of both beautiful white sandy beaches along the warm azure waters of the Indian Ocean and an abundance of unspoilt coral reefs providing for  arguably the best diving sites in the world. The coral reefs harbor dolphins, turtles, tropical fish, as well as whale sharks. Activities here are centred around swimming, diving, game fishing, rafting, snorkeling among others.

The most popular beaches are Mombasa Beach, Lamu Beach, Diani Beach, Bamburi Beach Tana River Delta Beach, Malindi Beach, Watamu Beach and Tiwi Beach.

3. Rich Culture

Samburu-tribal-people-of--013One of the most exciting aspects of a safari in Kenya is the chance to meet and interact with local tribes people …With 43 or so tribes, this country is home to an abundance of culture  bound to give you great appreciation for other peoples way of life. Right from the most known Maasai/Samburu warriors, down to the Swahili culture at the coast…whether you are fishing with the people from the south, or riding camels in the North, here is where you’ll get to sample varied tastes of culture.

4. The exclusivity of Lamu

Lamu_Kenya20120328184732_sThe island of Lamu has seemingly become the place to go for exotic holidays. The place is a buzz with upmarket clientele during the holiday season and is certainly the embodiment of shabby-chic. The islands of north of Lamu also play host to some similarly shabby-chic but nonetheless upmarket beach lodges, notably Kiwayu Lodge and Manda Bay Lodge; great bases from which to explore the island ruins and isolated beaches, as well as to sail and dive the network of waterways.

5. The Great Wildebeest Migration

wildebeest migration in masai mara, kenya2011The most exhilarating experience is to watch thousands of zebras and wildebeests migrating in the “Great Wildebeest Migration” in the Masai Mara and Serengeti. Watch as the migrating animals fight for their chance at greener pastures while escaping the lions and crocodiles preying on them.

6. Our History

Fort_jesusA portrait of Fort Jesus

Kenya does not fall short of historical sites to visit. Some of which hold mysteries and facts bound to leave you in awe…be it political, social or economic, our countries history is one to draw you in. Some of the prominent sites include Fort Jesus, the oldest coastal fort in the world and Shimoni, once used a holding pen for slaves during the slave trade.

7. A wide range of activities

29-ACTIVITIES-3_600x300Enjoy wildlife safaris, bird watching, windsurfing, horseback riding, golfing, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, mountain biking, snorkeling, scuba diving, hot air ballooning, mountain climbing, hiking, water skiing, fishing, and many more wonderful activities.

8. Affordability

Money-ShillingWith a favorable exchange rate against many international currencies, Kenya is a fairly inexpensive tourist destination. Although the Kenya shilling fluctuates, it always gives a much better value compared to other major currencies, such as the United States dollar, sterling pound or the Euro. The cost of living is much lower in Kenya as well when compared to Europe or the United States.

9. Climate

climate-mapKenya enjoys a wonderful tropical climate. It is generally warm all year round, with plenty of sunshine and cooler nights and mornings. Visitors are able to enjoy most activities on the beaches and in the national parks all year round. Since Kenya lies on the equator, the seasonal temperature changes are not extreme. However, due to the differing topography, you will experience different weather patterns when traveling across Kenya. The hottest months of the year are February and March with temperatures as high as 93°F (34°C) while the coolest season falls between July and August with temperatures dropping to around 60°F (16°C). Kenya provides very perfect weather for those who live in colder countries to escape to.

10. Great Game

39.-Three-male-Lions-walking-closely-together-Masai-Mara-KenyaKenya offers some of the best and most accessible game viewing in the world, including the hard-to-resist attraction of the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino). These, together with many other animals that are unique to Africa, can be seen at the national parks and game reserves throughout Kenya.

The months between June and October, and December to March are the most popular times of the year to Visit Kenya. April, May and November can be quite wet.

 

 

 

 

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Mombasa: The “Island of war”

Situated on the Eastern coastline, bordering the Indian Ocean, Mombasa is Kenya’s second largest city and the top coastal destination. The city, originally known by its Arabic name منبعثة Manbasa,  was popular as ‘Kisiwa Cha Mvita’  Swahili for “Island of War”, due to the many changes in its ownership. Sitting on an island it is separated from the mainland by two creeks Tudor and Port Reitz.

mg_1267Image credit: Joe Lukhovi

0313 EnglishPoint Marina in the foreground. Mombasa Island between Tudor Creek and Kilindini Channel Mombasa city overflows with an abundance in culture that dates back to its history as a significant trading center. The Swahili culture at the coast today has retained ancient customs and traditions highly influenced by the Portuguese, British, Chinese, and Arab settlers. The city is also affiliated with great explorers like Vasco Da Gama – the first European to land in the then town, with several memorabilia still standing to portray the historic presence of the Portuguese in the coast. The Mijikenda, Swahili, Arabs, Taita, and Akamba are among the Inhabitants of this beautiful land.  Whereas the major religions practiced are Islam, Christianity and the Hindu.

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Aside from being an important regional tourism and cultural center, Mombasa is also a significant economic hub. It boasts of a large seaport, the Kilindini Harbour, that serves not only Kenya but also links other interior countries to the Indian Ocean. The rich marine life is also something to brag about allowing individuals the pleasure of pursuits like scuba diving, snorkeling, deep sea fishing among others. Mombasa is also envied for its nightlife, its lovely weather, phenomenal white sandy beaches as well as its quality beach resorts. Revellers can enjoy a good time out in the many night spots available most of which are beachfront. Some of the top hotels here also offer their own clubs.DSC01171Other entertainment spots in Mombasa include casinos, cinemas and a Little Theatre Club, the latter of which puts on some fun shows. The region is also known for its divine dining experience where travelers get to enjoy aside from fresh sea food, internationally-inspired cuisine, that includes but is not limited to Chinese, Indian, Italian, and Swahili.

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Getting Around
Mombasa is the central access point for the entire coastal region. It can be accessed directly from Nairobi by air, road, or rail. There are scheduled flights to Mombasa as well served by Moi International Airport although travelers can also access the coastal city via various airstrips. The main mode of transport around the town is by matatus, Taxis and tuk tuks. Some of the historical sites in the city can also easily be accessed on foot.

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Must do in Mombasa:

Fort Jesus

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Fort Jesus is Mombasa’s most popular tourist attraction. The fort, located along the coastline near the Old Town, is a monumental piece of architecture that was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese. The fort has a museum that displays various artifacts from the era where Mombasa served as a transit point for the slave trade and commodities, and which enjoyed regular visits by seafarers and the like.

Its interior comprises of torture rooms and prison cells where slaves were kept in captivity before being traded. Weapons such as canons, which were used to defend the fort from invading foreigners as well as rioting locals, can be seen both inside and outside of the fort. The fort opens its gates for viewing in the morning and closes at dusk.

Old Town  

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“Old Town” is the part of Mombasa that is reminiscent of the days when the Arabs exerted a heavy influence on the town and its culture, and especially in the architecture and language (Swahili has a lot of phrases derived from various Arabic dialects). It is well known for its ancient buildings, extravagant art designs and curio shops that sell antique and popular Kenyan souvenirs.

Old Town is best seen when explored by foot with an experienced guide, as the streets are too narrow to accommodate a large number of vehicles. The town’s inhabitants are mostly of Arab origin who’s forefathers once roamed the same streets of the town. Fort Jesus is located just a few steps away from where the town “starts”, thus a complete tour of the fort and the “Old Town” can be done in a single day.

Mombasa Elephant Tusks 48983702Like the great arches of St Louis and the Eiffel tower, the great elephant tusks monument  in downtown Mombasa is probably the cities enduring monument and landmark known world over. Built to commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth to the town in 1952, the pair of overarching, giant intersecting elephant tusks sit astride eastbound and westbound lanes of the busy Moi avenue and are a symbolic representation of entrance into the heart of the town.

The “tusks” aside from symbolizing the ivory trade that Mombasa, and Kenya overall, was known for also coincidentally spell the letter “M” for Mombasa. Take a leisurely walk along this road and look at the various shops or buy curios. You can even stop by the many restaurants to eat your favorite Arab, Swahili or European themed foods.

Hindu Temples

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Hindu temples are one of the many symbols of Mombasa’s cultural diversity. Temples are a popular tourist spot and a tour can usually be taken inside the temple, with a historical background of the particular temple given by one of the temple gurus. Extravagant idols and stone carvings of the various religious beliefs are typically displayed within the temple and on its walls.

A popular spot for locals and international travelers alike,  Mombasa is undoubtedly  the perfect coastal holiday destination.

Weekend City Tour

Over the weekend, we spontaneously decided to explore one of Mombasa’s oldest town and historical sites. On Sunday we went to tour Mombasa’s most popular tourist attraction, Fort Jesus where we spent a better part of the afternoon learning about its history and significance from our tour guide, Ali Mohammed whom we met by the entrance.

Read more about Fort Jesus… https://zurukenya.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/fort-jesus-fortaleza-de-jesus-de-mombaca/

DSC01024DSC01001 DSC01000 DSC01005 DSC01004 DSC01003 DSC01002 DSC01006  DSC01008 DSC01009  DSC01011 DSC01014 DSC01015Our guide Ali explaining to us about the materials used to build the fort.

DSC01016 DSC01017 DSC01019    DSC01026 DSC01024The view from the fort…beautiful!DSC01002 DSC01003 DSC01004 DSC01005  DSC01008   DSC01010  DSC01019 DSC01009 DSC01016 DSC01017   DSC01027 DSC01026 DSC01025   DSC01029 DSC01030

One of the curio shops within the fort. This was formally the kitchen area used by the portuguese and the setting remains the same to date aside from some minor renovations.

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Carol stands beside the tree believed to be 2 million years old, how outstanding!! This tree owes its existence to the Jurassic period and what stands here is believed to have been the roots of the tree that are now visible due to subsistence. The fort was built around it.

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Ancient Portuguese art on display at the fort. The art was excavated from the fort’s grounds and due to aging the museum had to trace the drawings using graphite.

DSC01053 DSC01056 DSC01057 DSC01058 DSC01061 DSC01062 DSC01063 DSC01065 DSC01066 DSC01067DSC01108 DSC01107 DSC01105 DSC01104Remains of one of the Portuguese soldiers buried at the fort

DSC01103 DSC01102 DSC01100Remains of the Portuguese chapel brought down by the Omani Arabs

DSC01097 DSC01095 DSC01094 DSC01093An Omani chest

DSC01092  DSC01090 DSC01089 DSC01068DSC01070Gede ruins replica

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After a few educative hours at the fort we headed on to the streets of Old town where we were awed by the architectural influence of the Portuguese and the Arabs on the buildings. The streets of Old town are always so alive with bright colours of the traditional coastal khanga and kikoy, the all purpose wrap around cloth worn by both men and women. The exotic town has retained its culture and one will find here busy markets, women along the narrow streets in traditional buibui, fishermen selling their fresh fish at the dhow docks and the sweet aroma of varied spices in the air.

DSC01140 DSC01141 DSC01142 DSC01143 DSC01144 DSC01145 DSC01146Shark teethDSC01147 DSC01148Ancient homes with Indian ArchitectureDSC01149 DSC01150 DSC01151 DSC01152 DSC01153DSC01154 DSC01155One of the oldest mosques in the area. It is still in use today.DSC01156Looks like residents here are Liverpool fans 🙂DSC01157 DSC01160The little Askari (soldier) guarding the place

DSC01163A very old warehouse used to store goods during the Arab trade daysDSC01164DSC01165Our guide Ali seems to really love his job and is good at it too.DSC01166 DSC01168 DSC01169DSC01171 DSC01172DSC01167

DSC01173 DSC01174DSC01175DSC01177 DSC01178 DSC01179 DSC01181Almond tree

This was an afternoon well spent. Many thanks to our guide Ali Mohammed for the tour and the things we learnt. Hope to go on another similar venture soon!

Keep travelling and exploring!!!

Fort Jesus (Fortaleza de Jesus de Mombaça)

Fort Jesus, undoubtedly Mombasa’s most popular tourist attraction, is a monumental piece of architecture built in the 16th century from 1593-1596 by the Portuguese. Sitting on the edge of a coral ridge overlooking the entrance to the old port of Mombasa, the Fortress which was built to protect the Portuguese trade route to India as well as their vested interests in East Africa is now turned Museum, declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2011 and one of the finest examples of 16th century Portuguese military architecture.

Fort-Jesus

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Designed by Italian architect, Giovanni Battista Cairatiand and later dedicated and named  “Fortaleza de Jesus de Mombaça” by the then-captain of the coast, Mateus de Mendes de Vasconcelos, the quadrilateral fort is comprised of four bastions; S. Felipe, S. Alberto, S. Mathias and S. Mateus and owes its existence to the Turkish raids of 1585 and 1588 which is what led to its construction.

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Since its erection, Fort Jesus’ control has exchanged hands numerous times in counting; In 1631, Sultan Muhammad Yusif baptized as Dom Jeronimo Chingulia entered the fort taking the Portuguese by surprise and killing the Portuguese captain, Pedro Leitão de Gamboa. He also then massacred the whole Portuguese population of Mombasa (45 men, 35 women and 70 children) and after two months of siege, abandoned the enterprise becoming a pirate. Right After sultan Dom’s departure, a small Portuguese force under Captain Pedro Rodrigues Botelho, that had remained in Zanzibar, reoccupied the fort.

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In 1696, Fort Jesus fell under siege from Omani Arabs but was easily relieved by a Portuguese expedition in the same year. Unfortunately though, in the following months a plague killed all the Portuguese of the garrison (50-70 portuguese soldiers) and by 1697 the defense of the fort was in the hand of Sheikh Daud of Faza with 17 of his family, 8 African men and 50 African women. After several other sieges from then, the Omani Arabs successfully took over the fort and with this conquest taking the whole coast of Kenya and Tanzania with Zanzibar and Pemba under their control. The fort had clearly become a vital possession for anyone with the intention of controlling Mombasa Island or the surrounding areas of trade. The struggle didn’t just end there though, the Portuguese were not one to accept defeat so easily as they retook Fort Jesus in 1728, when the African soldiers mutinied against the Omanis; a take over that didn’t last so long unfortunately. Tables turned the following year when the Mombasa locals revolted against them and put under siege the garrison. Years later during colonization, the British used the fortress as a prison, until 1958, when they converted it into a historical monument.

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Today, visitors get to explore the gun turrets, battlements and houses within the walls of Fort Jesus. The national monument combines Portuguese, Arab and British elements, representing the major powers that held it at different times in history. The presence of the Portuguese and British is felt through their respective cannons; The Portuguese cannons had a range of 200 meters and are longer than the British cannons which had a range of 300 meters. The Omani Arabs on the other hand, left their mark throughout the fort with numerous Koran inscriptions showcased on the wooden door posts and ceiling beams whereas a former meeting hall supported by 5 stone pillars to the ceiling portrays their Muslim tradition of 5 pillars.

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Those interested in learning more about the struggles that the fortress has housed over the years will be delighted by the spectacular sound and light shows hosted by the fort 3 nights in a week. On the night of the show, visitors are welcomed into the Fort by guards in flowing robes brandishing flaming torches. They are then 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. After the show, the visitors are treated to a candlelit dinner in the open courtyard of the Fort, under the stars. The sound and light show can also be combined with a sunset dhow cruise on the Mombasa harbor.