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.
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
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.