Zanzibar City

Old Fort – Ngome Kongwe

If you visit Stone Town, you simply cannot miss the Old Fort. Its history tells the story of Zanzibar in a nutshell.

Old Fort is one of the oldest buildings in Stone Town, originally built by the Portuguese in the 17th century and later re-built by the Omanis in the 18th century. It is free to visit, and cultural festivals and happenings are often organised in the inner courts of the fort.

First used by the Portuguese

The location of the Old Fort was first used by the Portuguese, who came to the islands in the 1500s. Very little remains of the original structure, but ruins include evidence of an old church.

Turned into an Arab Fort

The Old Fort got its current form when the Omanese came to defend Zanzibar against the Portuguese. This was in the late 1600s. The Omanese completely re-built the fortification.

Used as a Zanzibar train station

During the Sultanate days and the British rule, there was a short train connection from Stone Town to Bububu village. The Old Fort was used as a terminal. The train ran from 1905 until 1930.

The cultural center of Stone Town

In the 1990s the Old Fort officially became a cultural center, and an amphitheater was built. Nowadays it hosts festivals like Sauti za Busara and Zanzibar International FIlm Festivals.

What does Ngome Kongwe mean?

The Old Fort has many names — it is also called the Arab Fort and in Swahili, the name is Ngome Kongwe. This simply means “The Old Fort.”

Old Fort Today

Cultural happenings

Big festivals, small festivals, fashion shows, movie nights, weddings… The Old Fort functions as a great forum for many different cultural events. Check out the music festival Sauti za Busara in February and the Zanzibar International Film Festival in July.

Shopping & food

There are small shops at the fort, mostly selling clothes and art. There is also a restaurant near the amphitheater. In the further-most towers, you can find an art gallery.

Opening Hours

The Old Fort front office is open every day from 8 am until 6 pm. For events and bar nights, the entrance is open longer. The shops and offices inside have their own hours, but never past the official opening hours. Old Fort entrance is free of charge.

Tours that include a visit to Zanzibar Old Fort

Most of our tours start in front of the Old Fort, giving you an opportunity to step inside the building for a moment before the tour begins. We also have a few tours that include the Old Fort in the itinerary.

Stone Town Tour

A walking tour through the past and present of Stone Town. This atmospheric and mystical town is the cultural and historical heart of Zanzibar.

2.5 Hours  •  Private Tour  •  From $50

Zanzibar Music & Art Tour

Meet painters, carpenters, henna artists, and musicians as we unlock the cultural, historic, and musical secrets of Stone Town and beyond.

4 Hours  •  Private Tour  •  From $80