Portuguese Fort, Kilwa, Tanzania. Author and Copyright Alan Sutton
Portuguese Fort, Kilwa, Tanzania. Author and Copyright Alan Sutton

Kilwa: a Portuguese Fort in Tanzania

Written by Marco Ramerini. Photos by Alan Sutton

Situated along the coast of Tanzania, Kilwa fort was built by the Portuguese in 1505 and was the first stone fort built by the Portuguese along the coast of East Africa. The construction of the fort was the work of the sailors and soldiers of the squadron of D. Francisco de Almeida, the first viceroy of Portuguese India. The fort was built soon after the conquest of the city of Kilwa (Quiloa), which took place on July 25, 1505. A few years later, in 1512, the Portuguese abandoned the fortress.

Today the remains of the fortress are made up of a small square fortification of about 20 meters on each side, the side facing the land is the best preserved, while the side towards the sea was largely destroyed in recent years. The fort still maintains two towers at its corners to the land side, while on the sea side, there are only a few remains of a tower and a bastion.

Entrance Gate, Portuguese Fort, Kilwa, Tanzania. Author and Copyright Alan Sutton...

Entrance Gate, Portuguese Fort, Kilwa, Tanzania. Author and Copyright Alan Sutton…

The fort of Kilwa Kisiwani is on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1981.

Inscription criteria: Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara. The remains of two great East African ports admired by early European explorers are situated on two small islands near the coast. From the 13th to the 16th century, the merchants of Kilwa dealt in gold, silver, pearls, perfumes, Arabian crockery, Persian earthenware and Chinese porcelain; much of the trade in the Indian Ocean thus passed through their hands.

In 2004 it was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger.


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About Marco Ramerini

I am passionate about history, especially the history of geographical explorations and colonialism.