7 Amazing Forts, Fortresses and Castles in Africa
Citadel of Qaitbay
The Citadel of Qaitbay is an impressive fortress in Alexandria, Egypt, that dates back to the reign of the Mamluk Sultan Qaitbay (1468-1496). It was built as a part of the city’s defensive system on the site of the Lighthouse of Alexandria which was at the time in ruins. Though it eventually lost its defensive importance, the Citadel continued to be used as a defensive fortress until the late 19th century. In the 1950s, it was turned into a Maritime Museum.
The Elmina Castle, also called Feitoria da Mina, is one of the many forts, fortresses and castles that were built in Africa by the Portuguese. It was erected in 1482 in the coast town of Elmina, Ghana, and became one of the first European structures south of the Sahara Desert. Established as a trade settlement, the Castle eventually came to be used in the Atlantic slave trade, serving as a depot for slaves most of whom were sold to the Americas. In 1979, it was inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List.
Fort Jesus was built between 1593 and 1596 by the Portuguese on the Mombasa Island, Kenya, to secure the port of Mombasa. The fort with a shape of a man when viewed from above changed hands nine times between 1630s and 1870s but it remained beautifully preserved. In 2011, it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the best preserved and amazing examples of the 16th century Portuguese military architecture.
Castle of Good Hope
The Castle of Good Hope is one of the oldest surviving colonial structures not only in Cape Town but all South Africa. The star fort, built by the Dutch between 1666 and 1679, was erected to replace an earlier clay-and-timber fort. When completed, it was located on the coastline of Cape Town but due to land reclamation, it is now an inland fort. Since 1936 a historical monument, the Castle of Good Hope used to serve as a replenishment point for ships to and from the Netherlands and Indonesia but was later also briefly used as a prison.
Fasil Ghebbi Castle
The Fasil Ghebbi Castle in the Gondar Region, Ethiopia, is a unique blend of several architectural styles including Arab, Nubian and Gothic. Its construction started during the rule of Ethiopian Emperor Fasilides or Fasil (1632-1667) who chose Fasil Ghebbi as his new capital. The Castle and the rest of the complex have been used by Fasilides’ successors as their residence and seat of government until the 1860s. Though the fortress-city remained a lively commercial center, it gradually fell into decline. In 1979, the Fasil Ghebbi complex was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Also known as the Saladin Citadel, the Cairo Citadel is a medieval fortress that was built by Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria (from 1174 to 1193) to protect the city of Cairo from Crusaders. But it also served as a royal residence all the way to the 19th century. The original Saladin’s Citadel went through numerous alterations and modifications over the following centuries but most of the structures within the complex date from the medieval period. Today, the Cairo Citadel is a museum and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Egypt after the pharaonic monuments.
Cape Coast Castle
The Cape Coast Castle was one of the so-called slave castles on the coast of Ghana. It originally served as a trade post but it later came to be used to hold slaves who were sold across the Atlantic. Built by the Swedes in the mid-17th century, the Cape Coast Castle changed hands several times before it was captured by the British during the Seven Years’ War (1754-1763). The Castle was later also used as the seat of colonial administration and then a school. In 1979, it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.