Old Fort Zanzibar - Overview, Meaning, Today and More

The Old Fort Zanzibar Stone Town: Overview, Meaning, Today and More

The Old Fort of Zanzibar, Ngome Kongwe, is a must-see when visiting Stone Town. In its story, Zanzibar is encapsulated.

The Portuguese erected Stone Town’s Old Fort Zanzibar in the 17th century, and the Omanis renovated it in the 18th century. It is one of the city’s oldest structures. The fort’s interior courtyards routinely host cultural festivals and other events open to the public and free of charge.

Usage and History of the Old Fort Zanzibar Over the Years

The Portuguese Occupation

The Portuguese originally occupied the Old Fort in the 1500s, when they arrived on the islands. The remnants of a historic church can still be seen at Old Fort Zanzibar, although little of the original structure survives.

It Served as Zanzibar’s Railroad station

There was a short railroad line between Stone Town and Bububu hamlet during the Sultanate and British rule. As a transportation hub, the Old Fort  performed its purpose admirably. The Old Fort Zanzibar train ran from 1905 until 1930.

As a Fortified Arab Settlement

Old Fort Zanzibar took on its current form when the Omanese arrived to protect Zanzibar from the Portuguese. When this happened, it was around 1650. The fortification was rebuilt from scratch by the Omanis.

Stone Town’s Cultural Epicenter

As a result of this notable historical marker, a theater was built at the Old Fort Zanzibar in the 1990s. Sauti za Busara and the Zanzibar International Film Festival are now held there.

Sauti za Busara Festival - A band playing
Sauti za Busara Festival – A band playing

What Exactly Does Ngome Kongwe Mean?

In Swahili, the Old Fort, or Ngome Kongwe, is also known as the Arab Fort. The term “The Old Fort” is a colloquial term for it.

Current State and Activities of the Old Fort Zanzibar

Cultural activities: Being a part of our daily lives; festivals of various shapes and sizes, movie nights, fashion shows, weddings, and a wide range of cultural events can be held at the Old Fort! Attend the Sauti za Busara music festival in February and the Zanzibar International Film Festivals in July to taste the local culture.

Buying and eating out: A few small shops in the fort sell mainly clothes and art. In addition, there is a nearby restaurant that serves food to patrons of the amphitheater. Zanzibar Urban Adventures maintains an office in the final tower, while the two outermost towers have an art gallery.

The working hours: Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. For special events and bar nights, the opening is extended. The shops and offices within the Old Fort run on their schedules, but they never go past the official opening hours of the building. All visitors to the Old Fort are welcome with no entry charge.

Tours that Include a Stop at Old Fort Zanzibar

If you’re looking for a quick peek inside the Old Fort before the tour begins, we’ve got you covered. In addition, a number of our tours include a stop at the Old Fort.

A Tour to Stonetown

Walking tour of Stone Town’s history and current situation; at the heart of Zanzibar’s cultural and historical life, you’ll find this vivid and enigmatic city.


Zanzibar’s music, culture, and handicrafts are explored on the Old Fort Zanzibar tour. Not just to look at, but to experience it! To thank Zanzibar Urban Adventures for their usefulness.

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