Written by Cynthia Njeri.
“A Tourist looks, a Traveler lives”.
Sentiments that I know all travel enthusiasts reckon and agree with. Living for a traveller means exploring and finding out more about the new city/country that they are visiting; exhaustively ticking off the bucket list. And that is why you’d agree with me that for a traveller, the luggage enjoys more of the classy accommodation that we pay for than we do. Ha!
Being the country’s national and commercial capital, the population in Kampala is as large as it is in Nairobi. The city is clean and well maintained with lawned grass even in public parks. We noticed police trucks alongside the streets we passsed through, and upon inquiry we were told its to reinforce security especially to control prospective riots.Traffic is owed to the narrow roads of the city of Kampala especially in the evenings. As we roamed about,we identified a building akin to our very own Afya Centre thats in our CBD as a common meeting place incase one got lost.
THE INDEPENDENCE MONUMENT.
At the heart of the city is the independence monument which signifies the country’s freedom. Standing on the concrete pedestal, surrounded by the overgrown grass, the imposing work of art shows a woman, as I do believe, standing firmly on the ground with her legs slightly parted while hosting a baby in the air as if to touch the sky. The child on the face of it beckons the sky in triumphant jubilation while its mother seems to ponder the future. The towering sculpture signifies a newborn country let free from the bondage of colonization. But is this truly the case? Food for thought!
KING KABAKA’S PALACE
King Kabaka’s Palce is a magnificent historical piece of architectural art that peers through the city. It is the royal home of the King of Buganda kingdom; Kabaka. Just like any royal homestead, the palace is elegantly surrounded by a well-maintained grass plot. It was difficult to spot dirt on the compound. At the entrance lies a lion symbol probably signifying authority.
The residence has four main gates each with its meaning and purpose. Pen and paper ready?
The first gate is called Wankaci and is the gate used by the King, Queen and the Prime Minister (Katikiro). The second gate is Kalala where the king is expected to marry a very beautiful woman. Unlucky for us ladies, i suppose that we were to be dressed in dresses/skirts inorder to meet the King. Who knows I might have been in the headlines as the girl who went for an adventure but instead became the adventure! Ha-ha!
The third gate; the Nalongo gate, is where the King’s gifts are brought in from while the final gate; the Ssabagobo gate is the gate that the King uses to go through for his personal issues. In such instances, he slyly uses normal cars and no one should know that he is moving out.
As you approach the Palace you will notice a roundabout that leads to it. At the roundabout there are towering long drums halved to create a way in between that is only accessible through a gate. The gate is always closed and can only be accessed by the King as he drives out the palace. The reason why the King cannot use the roundabout but the running pass is to avoid making him dizzy. Besides, the King has authority over the roads leading to it so he can use them as he pleases. I know, I know! Ha!
You will also spot a shell of Kabaka Mutesa II’s Vintage car lying on a concrete floor as an attraction.
IDI AMIN TORTURE CHAMBERS
Further down from the Palace lies the torture chambers built by Idi Amin himself with the help of Israelites during the reign of terror and torture.
The green-lawned pathway will fool you for a minute that the place is amusing but it’s not. It is as disheartening and dark as the stories told and read in our history books. The chambers still seem to be mourning because of the bloodshed, torture, and pain experienced by the thousands of people locked there. A somber atmosphere is what you will experience in those chambers. The walls are stained with blood and handprints of people trying to find a way out!
OLD KAMPALA NATIONAL MOSQUE
It is famously known as the “Gaddafi Mosque” and embodies a colorful structure with outstanding features of Art. It is built on Old Kampala hill which is one of Kampala’s city’s seven hills. The mosque also stands on the original spot where the British first hoisted their flag which signified Uganda as the British Colony. Being the first time in a mosque it was quite a thrilling experience.
The Mosque houses the headquarters of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council and its complex consists of a Large mosque Hall that is usually open to all Muslims for Friday prayers and also for other Islamic festivals. It can accommodate over 35,000 people. This makes it one of the biggest mosques in East-Central and Sub Saharan Africa.
The mosque is an attraction because of its Architectural designs and most importantly because it offers the best views of Kampala City at 360 degrees with its surrounding seven Hills. To experience the aerial views of Kampala one has to climb up to 304 steps in order to get to the top of the Minaret. I did not find the climb exhausting probably because the stair-cases are spiral but even if it was for some, the views from the top were compensation enough. One to behold! However, Unlike the KICC in Nairobi which can accommodate close to 3000 people at a time at the helipad, the top of the Mosque can only accommodate a few people at a time due to the nature of its top design.
The mosque is open to all people from 9 am-6 pm. On arrival one reports to the tourism information office desk where the ladies and the gents are veiled as per the Islamic custom. You can call me Aisha! Ha!
Located in Jinja, it is a gigantic concrete and steel structure with 72 harp-like white cables connecting the bridge deck to two 69-meter tall inverted-Y pylon towers. It is 525m long with an expected lifespan of 120 years.
It is an architectural masterpiece with an aim to enhance tourism in the country. Scenic views are exactly what you will experience with a complimentary cool breeze and views of the River Nile.
NEW YEAR PARTY
To mark the end of a decade and the beginning of another, fireworks, a good meal, and great company, inter-alia are key. We ushered in the New year at Lake Victoria Hotel which offers an enormous compound by its swimming area to host more than 1000 people at a go for the new year’s eve. The young and the old were present and eager to usher in the new decade. The atmosphere was chilled until we arrived and disrupted the mood with our hype and dances as we know best. How else will you know that Kenyans are in the building? We really stole the show thanks to Tevin who even relieved the MC of his duty and took over the Dj’s playlist.
At Exactly 12 am fiery sparks whip the sky, bursting through the night for a continuous period of 7minutes. It was mind-blowing.
What a way to usher in 2020. With great views, in a new country experiencing new cultures and with an amazing company of friends. Probably a sign that 2020 will be the year that we make great strides in this travel journey! Amen! Thank you starboard safaris for the amazing experience and thank you to the traveling family that was formed and made the whole experience worthwhile. Cheers!