Kampala 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).
 

 

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