Fort Jesus makes it into UNESCO World Heritage books


(eTN) – The latest round of declaring sites of significant importance to the world’s cultural heritage by UNESCO has seen Fort Jesus included in the list of now protected and globally-acclaimed monuments, landscapes, and locations. The fort was originally built over 400 years ago by the Portuguese who treasured the safe anchorage they found in Mombasa, besides the opportunities to restock water and supplies for their onward journeys across the Indian Ocean. Fort Jesus has long been a part of the Kenya Museums and while already in great demand by tourists and on the itinerary of every city tours of Mombasa, the latest accolade and honor bestowed on it by UNESCO will undoubtedly lure even more visitors to the site, which is often used for evening functions with special light displays on its massive walls overlooking the inner courtyards.

Visitor numbers in recent years were growing towards the 200,000 entries mark by both foreign tourists and locals including school and study groups, but this latest elevation of the status of Fort Jesus is bound to drive the numbers across this threshold.

At the same announcement, the Kenyan lakes in the Great Rift Valley were also declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, extending from Lake Naivasha over Lake Elementaita, Lake Nakuru, and Lake Bogoria to Lake Baringo. This is both a recognition of Kenya’s conservation efforts so far but also a further challenge to maintain biodiversity and expand conservation measures along the rift valley floor around the lakes, to ensure that their water sources, especially critical for Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru, remain intact and water is not harvested for irrigation to the point where the lakes are starved of inflow.

And for Lake Nakuru, the inclusion in the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites means the plans by the National Highway Authority to carve out a piece of Lake Nakuru National Park’s land for a bypass highway around the municipality of Nakuru also needs to be binned for good now, lest public opinion turns against the highway promoters with equal ferocity as was the case when Tanzania planned their controversial highway across the Serengeti. But for now, it is congratulations to Kenya for this remarkable achievement which will go a long way in supporting the country’s drive for more tourists visiting all corners of the republic.