Destinations Eastern Africa

5 Amazing Historical Buildings To Check Out in Mombasa

Jumba la Mtwana
Written by Abraham Odhiambo

Are you looking to explore the history of Kenya‘s Coast through the ages? Well, there are a number of historical buildings in Mombasa where you can start at. Mombasa is one of the six coastal treasures in Kenya boasting two distinct parts of completely different nature.

The North Coast is one of Africa’s leading tourist destinations known for idyllic beaches, balmy weather and diverse marine life. Then there is the charming coastal city which is home to several time-honored buildings and monuments worth exploring. See Africa Today takes a look at five historical buildings in Mombasa which will take you on a walk through the city’s rich history.

1. Fort Jesus Museum

Fort Jesus Museum is one of the most popular attractions in Coastal Kenya. Built by the Portuguese in 1593, it is also one of the oldest historical buildings in Mombasa. The fort, which was of strategic value and to repel attacks, faced a lot of hostilities over the years. It even acted as a prison for a short period of time.

Fort Jesus

Fort Jesus. Photo/ National Museums of Kenya.

Accredited as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, Fort Jesus Museum is a leading tourist destination in Mombasa now. Tourists here have the chance to explore the island and view some of the historical structures that are still in existence, including Oman House where the Sultan who governed the East African coast stayed.

2. Jumba La Mtwana

“Jumba La Mtwana” is a Swahili word which can be translated to “large house of slaves” in English. It was built in the 14th century and supposedly abandoned in the 15 century. Within this area, four mosques, four houses and a tomb have survived in recognizable condition.

These houses include the Great Mosque, the House of the Cylinder, The House of the Many Pools and The House of the Kitchen. If you visit the ruins, you’ll get a serene spooky feeling as you witness how nature and humans co existed in the 14 century.

Jumba la Mtwana

Jumba la Mtwana. Photo/ Safari254.

3. Mombasa Memorial Cathedral 

ACK Mombasa Memorial Cathedral is one of the historical buildings in Mombasa. The Anglican Church dates back to British colonial times and has a similar appearance to that of the many mosques in Coastal Kenya. It was designed in such a way so that it could blend in with the local architecture.

The all-white cathedral church has arches and a silver-colored dome and is nothing but beautiful. Its builders initially eyed Freretown, which former slaves from Malawi established in 1875. At the time of its consecration in May 1905, Mombasa Memorial Cathedral had cost about £4,400.

Mombasa Memorial Cathedral

Mombasa Memorial Cathedral. Photo/ Holidify.

4. Mnarani National Monument 

Mnarani is a Swahili word derived from the word “Mnara”, which translates to a minaret or pillar in English. Located on a step overlooking the Kilifi creek, Mnarani is one of the historical buildings in Mombasa.

There is no accurate information on the history of the foundation of Mnarani. However, speculations have it that the Swahili people founded it in the early 14th century. According to archaeological findings, the site had settlements until the 17th century. Afterwards, it was completely abandoned and left to the passage of time.

5. Old Town 

Well, you can’t talk about historical buildings in Mombasa and fail to mention Old Town. Situated on the south-east side of Mombasa Island, Old Town covers an area of 72 hectares. It has been inhibited by a mix of local, Arab and Asian settlers for so many years.

Old Town

Old Town. Photo/ Planet of Hotels.

Old Town has mostly been converted into souvenir shops and restaurants where you can find a lot of items and artefacts. An entrance to the town is a coffee pot and cup. Next to the coffee pot is a remnant of the original trolley track which was laid in 1890. If you like architecture, this place will amaze you.

Which Historic Building Is Found in Mombasa?

One of the historical buildings found in Mombasa is Fort Jesus. The fort is one of the most outstanding and well preserved examples of 16th Portuguese military fortification and a landmark in history. It has served different purposes over the years.

Which Is The Oldest Historic Built Environment in Mombasa?

The Old Town is the oldest historic built environment in Mombasa. Due to its cultural significance and historical importance, it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What Is The Old Name of Mombasa?

Mombasa’s original Arabic name is Manbasa. In Kiswahili, it is called “Kisiwa Cha Mvita”, which means “Island of War” due to the many changes in its ownership.

What Monument Is Found in Mombasa?

One of the notable monuments found in Mombasa is the Fort Jesus National Monument.

About the author

Abraham Odhiambo

Abraham Odhiambo is a writer with interests in nature, travel, African safari and sports. I'm pursuing a bachelor's degree in Media and Communication at Egerton University.

Leave a Comment