Kampala, Uganda

Kampala, Uganda by Dr. Mahmood Amani

Kampala, the Capital City of Uganda, much like Rome was originally built, is spread over seven hills and takes its fabled name from Kasozi K’impala, interpreted as “the hills of the antelopes”. The origin of Kampala goes back to 1891 when the Kabaka of Buganda held his court on Rubaga and Mengo Hills. Today as you stand on the hills within Kampala you are blessed with magnificent evergreen views intermingled with red tiled villas, green iron roofed bungalows and tall modern buildings surrounded by a lush green countryside and the nearby Lake Victoria. Kampala succeeded nearby Entebbe as capital of Uganda when the country became independent in 1962 and has a population (2003 estimate) of 1,246,000. The bustling city is Uganda’s intellectual and business center. It grew as a center for industries such as flour and sugar milling, cotton ginning, tanning, coffee processing, and the manufacturing of textiles, soft drinks, beer, cigarettes, and cement.

Kampala was badly damaged during the civil war that followed the overthrow of the president, Idi Amin, in 1979. In the decade or so since President Museveni came to power, the city has gone from a looted shell to a thriving city befitting the capital of one of the most rapidly developing countries in Africa. The electricity works, clean water comes out of the taps, damaged buildings are now habitable, many new ones have gone up, and the shops and markets are once again well stocked.

The city is of high significance since the historical times. The city of Kampala was destructed and constructed twice. In spite of such turbulent history the capital of Uganda has retained its significance. Apart from being the political hub of the country, this city also has some of the most important universities of the country. These include Makerere University (1922), the Uganda Martyrs University (1993), and Ndejje University (1992).

Kampala, at an altitude of about 1,220 m / 4,000 ft, is said to be built on seven hills, but the city centre is on just one of them, Nakasero. The top half of the hill is a garden city of wide, quiet avenues lined with large houses behind imposing fences. This is where you’ll find the embassies, international aid organizations, up-market hotels, government offices and the rich. The bottom half is a completely different world, composed of shops, small businesses, budget hotels, cheap restaurants, street markets, Hindu temples, and the bus station and taxi parks.

Some of the important edifices in the city of Kampala are Kasubi Tombs that were the traditional royal tombs of the Kabakas of Buganda, Uganda Museum featuring a display of Uganda’s cultural heritage, and a vivid reminder of their fabled past, and Lugard’s Fort. Some of the other places of attraction that are present in the city are Ugandan National Theatre which opened in 1959 and is truly a national theater for the people of Uganda, the Namugongo Martyrs’ Shrine, which commemorates twenty Ugandan Christians that were burnt alive in 1886 on the order of the Kabuki of Buganda, and Ssezibwa falls. The other thing that Kampala is famous for is the vibrant and colorful nightlife that is further spiced up by the presence of casinos.

Kampala also has several famous religious landmarks. These include The Rubaga Cathedral also known as St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, which is a magnificent edifice standing on a hill overlooking the city; The Namirembe Cathedral, also known as St. Paul’s Protestant Cathedral located on an adjacent hill, which is the largest of its kind in East Africa; The Baha’i Temple, which is the only temple of this religion found in Africa; The Hindu Temple on Sikh Street; and The Kibuli Mosque which is situated on Kibuli Hill.

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