The fort, built by the Portuguese in 1593-1596 to the designs of Giovanni Battista Cairati to protect the port of Mombasa. It was the only fort maintained by the Portuguese on the Swahili coast, and is recognized as a testament to the first successful attempt by a Western power to establish influence over the Indian Ocean trade.
The property covers an area of 2.36 hectares and includes the fort’s moat and immediate surroundings. The design of Fort Jesus is an example of Renaissance architecture, the masonry techniques, building materials and labor are believed to have been provided by the local Swahili people. The building, bears physical witness, in its structures and subsequent transformations, also to the interchange of cultural values and influences between and among peoples of African, Arab, Turkish, Persian and European origin that fought to gain and maintain their control over this strategic port.