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Decision : 35 COM 8B.19
Cultural Properties - Fort Jesus, Mombasa (Kenya)

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Documents WHC-11/35.COM/8B.Add and WHC-11/35.COM/INF.8B1.Add,

2. Inscribes Fort Jesus, Mombasa, Kenya, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (ii) and (iv);

3. Takes note of the following provisional statement of Outstanding Universal Value:


Brief synthesis

Built by the Portuguese at the end of the 16th century and used by them for over 100 years, Fort Jesus, Mombasa bears testimony to the first successful attempt by Western civilization to control the Indian ocean trade routes which had remained under Eastern influence over several millennia. The design of the fort, with its imposing walls and five bastions, is based on the human body, and reflects the characteristics of Renaissance military architectural theory. The Fort also represents an exceptional symbol of the interchange of cultural values and influences between and among peoples of African, Arab, Turkish, Persian and European origin, whose lives have been touched by the presence and role of this imposing structure.

Criterion (ii): Built in a period and in a region which were at the centre of the emerging political, commercial, and cultural globalisation, Fort Jesus, with its imposing structure, is an exceptional witness to the interchange of cultural values among peoples of African, Arab, Turkish, Persian and European origin. Built and occupied first by the Portuguese, the Fort changed hands many times throughout its history, coming under Arab, Swahili and English control. It's important role in the control of trade also saw it host many of the peoples of the Indian Ocean basin. Fort Jesus, Mombasa, also symbolizes the struggle for freedom, as it became a place for resistance for the local Swahili population against domination by any other power. The Fort is also a landmark of social cohesion as it is used by people of diverse cultures while still retaining the characteristics of its previous functions.

Criterion (iv): Fort Jesus, Mombasa is an outstanding, surviving 16th century Portuguese military fortification.  It exemplified a new type of fortification that resulted from the innovations in military and weapons technology that occurred in the 15th and 16th centuries.  In its layout and form, it reflected the Renaissance ideal that perfect proportions and geometric harmony are to be found in the proportions of the human body, while at the same time meeting the functional needs of a modern and well-defended fortification. No other fortress demonstrates a better relationship to the human body as the model for its layout. This layout, though simple, ensured the complete protection of the Fort and allowed it to survive almost unchanged over centuries of continued occupations and reoccupations. The Fort, in fact, marked a milestone in 16th century fortress design, and stood as a stronghold for the safeguard of Portuguese interests on the East African coast and along the trans-Indian Ocean trade. The successful design of Fort Jesus, Mombasa, led to the adoption of some of its strategic aspects to improve other forts in Africa.


The boundaries of the property have been selected to ensure that the functional and visual integrity of Fort Jesus are retained. The boundaries have been delineated so as to include the underwater archaeological remains adjacent to Fort Jesus that are integral to its historical context, as well as the moat area adjacent to the Mombasa Old Town. The property is in good conditions and there is no urban or development encroachment in its immediate vicinity. Minor changes inside the Fort bear witness to its history and do not threaten its integrity.


In regard to authenticity, Fort Jesus, Mombasa, has retained its form, design and materials, with coral stone and lime mortar still being used in the traditional way, where necessary, for repair and conservation work. It has also retained its authenticity of setting, located on an otherwise unbuilt property along the coast of Mombasa Island adjacent to the Mombasa Old Town with which it shares a common history.  

Protection and management requirements

The legal protection and management system for the property are adequate. Fort Jesus, Mombasa, was originally designated a National Park in 1958. This designation protected the Fort and a 100-meter strip around it. Today it is protected under the National Museums and Heritage Act, 2006. A satisfactory management plan has been put in place for the property with the National Museums of Kenya acting as the key stakeholder in its conservation and safeguarding. Long-term conservation issues include protection of the Fort from urban encroachment and inappropriate design in the areas adjacent to the Fort and the surrounding Mombasa Old Town, control of erosion of the rocks along the sea coast, and the ongoing maintenance and conservation of the Fort itself.


4. Recommends that the State Party:

a) Amend the designation notice so as to eliminate the discrepancy between the sizes of the conservation area and the buffer zone and /or ensure that the entirety of the buffer zone is protected so that the additional layer of protection to the property is effective,

b) Develop a holistic management structure for Mombasa Old Town that involves all the stakeholders including the local community, the municipal council, and the mangers of the property, and ensure that the Mombasa Old Town Conservation Office has the necessary tools to ensure that the buffer zone effectively acts as an additional layer of protection to the property,

c) Install markers to clearly identify the boundaries of the property and buffer zone, including its marine boundaries,

d) Give the highest priority to rigorous monitoring and remedial action for the rock erosion,

e) Also give priority to programmed maintenance over restoration, based on the 2009-2019 Maintenance Plan included in the Management Plan.

Themes: Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties: Kenya
Properties: Fort Jesus, Mombasa
Year: 2011
Decision Code: 35 COM 8B.19