Fort Jesus. PHOTO/ COURTESY

Kenya’s historical monument at the Coast, Fort Jesus, could be collapsing soon and end its 500-year history after it emerged that it has developed cracks due to strong sea waves.

According to Amran Hussein, the Keeper, Antiquities, Sites and Monuments, Coast region,
the structure designed by an Italian architect Joao Babtista Cairato developed a critical crack at its footing after it was hit by extremely strong water waves.

“Last year the waves were so strong and it was so windy that a crack developed at the foot of the fort,” says Hussein, as quoted by a local daily.

Another expert, Purity Kiura, who is the Director of Antiquities, Sites and Monuments at the National Museums of Kenya says that Fort Jesus’s problems have been building up for five centuries.

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“Its possible climate change and sea waves have been hitting at the coral stones for the last 500 years. In the past, there was a wall to protect the fort from the waves but this was eaten away. The waves have now reached the base of the fort,” Kiura says.

The fort stands over a spur of coral, and it tells the story of how the Portuguese at one time ruled the trade routes of the Indian Ocean. Its location ensures that they could see any ship as it approached.

It also tells the story of how many slaves perished from torture, hunger, and disease as they waited to be transported. During the East African Slave Trade era, slaves would travel to Arabia and the Persian Gulf through the port of Mombasa, many becoming laborers, guards, soldiers, or concubines.

Between 1631 and 1895, it was captured and recaptured, changing hands nine times, with the Omani Arabs winning control over it in 1698. In 1895, the British transformed it into a prison, and held slaves in the torture rooms and cells in the inner part of the fort.

The fort became a national park in 1858, and in 2011 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, marked as one of the most brilliant structures from the 16th century.

Today, it is one of the most visited historical sites in East Africa but very soon it might rumble and be washed away together with its history by sea waters.

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