city tours and attractions
Although itís the capital of Uganda, Kampala
lacks major attractions. It is not known for much else than
being the seat of a series of tyrannical governments during
the 1960-70s. Despite this, itís one of East Africaís most
laid-back and friendly cities and you will undoubtedly pass
through it overland, en route to other Ugandan destinations
and national parks.
Kampala is situated 40 kms north of Ugandaís International
airport at Entebbe on Lake Victoria, and is spread haphazardly
over seven hills. Its name comes from a Kiganda expression
Ė kasozi kíempala Ė meaning the hill of antelopes (impala)
Ė not that there are any impala in those there hills
today. For a city itís quite young and was only established
in 1962. A settlement has been there since Kampala was
made headquarters of the Imperial British East Africa
Company in 1890. With a population of around a million,
itís on the small side for a capital city compared to
say, Kenyaís Nairobi, but it retains a small town charm.
People passing each other in the street often know each
other and stop for a chat. Local clientele mix in the
bars and restaurants and shopkeepers greet regular customers
warmly. And, unlike some other African cites, itís safe
to stroll around.
On the downside, itís a victim of 1960s concrete architecture.
The office blocks and faded shopping malls bear testament
to European town planners addicted to hideous ugly grey cement.
At the end of the war years, when systematic looting and destruction
destroyed much of the city, Kampala sat cracked and crumbling
for three decades. The buildings were riddled with bullet
and shell holes, and electricity wires, sewers and drains
lay exposed and broken. Itís only over the last five years
that the government has started to fix it up and the city
has been rejuvenated as a result. Unfortunately they chose
to repair the concrete monoliths rather than replace them.
But the city's infrastructure has been restored and new hotels,
sports stadiums and shopping malls are appearing almost monthly.
Itís a fairly green city, with a number of gardens, parks
and golf courses.
The city centre is on the centrally situated Nakasero
Hill. The top half is where most of Kampalaís parks
are, with quiet avenues of large houses, embassies,
International aid organisations, up market hotels and
government offices, all with an ever-present view of
Lake Victoria. The bottom half of Nakasero Hill is a
world away from this. It's a vibrant African street
atmosphere of shops, roadside traders, budget hotels,
cheap restaurants, markets and the mind-boggling matatu
(minibus taxi) stands. The streets in this congested
area overflow with people, battered old cars, lottery
ticket sellers (a huge deal in Kampala!) and pavement
vendors selling everything from rubber stamps to watch
repairs and cheap electronics. To soak up the African
street feel, visit the mind-boggling taxi stands and
the markets. The Nakasero fresh food market just off
the cityís main drag is one of the most colourful places
in East Africa. You can find piles of bananas, pineapples,
tomatoes, mangoes, every fruit and vegetable you can
think of, and some you canít Ė delicious jackfruit or
matoke (cooking banana).