Kampala courtesy and cuisine win over visitors


Kampala’s city centre teems with motorcycles that act as taxis, competing with the town’s versions of Kenya’s matatu whose crew are as indisciplined as those in Nairobi. Photo/FILE

Blowing a whistle in the middle of Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi would most definitely get you arrested by City Council askaris.

But in Kampala, Uganda, it is the police officers, specifically the traffic police, who blow the whistle in the middle of the town to control traffic.

Whistle-blowing helps to control the chaotic traffic in Kampala’s city centre where traffic lights are few or do not work.

At any given time, the city centre has thousands of motorcycles that act as taxis, competing with the town’s versions of the matatu that are as undisciplined as those in Nairobi.

Armed guards

Gunshots do not stop people in their tracks. They are not from gangsters or policemen like would be case in Kenya, but are fired by watchmen.

Kampala guards carry guns of various shapes and sizes although most of the weapons appear rusty and old.

Some are hunting guns that fire powerful but spaced shots and it is not easy to come across an AK47 or a G3 that are used by security forces in the region.

Apparently, the guards are disciplined with their guns and only fire in the air when the need arises, say, to disperse the crowds —and the crowds are in plenty in Kampala.

One of the most admirable areas in Kampala is the Owino Market. Despite dirty and overcrowded streets, the area is an example of informal market commerce set within a city.

It mostly sells apparel of varying quality imported from the Middle East and Asia.

The market is comparable to Kenya’s Eastleigh or Ethiopia’s Markato in Addis Ababa.

It also features money changers an indicator that petty theft is rare in this city that is built on the hills.

There are all manner of stories that are peddled about Ugandan women, including their culinary prowess.

Being in Kampala offers one the best chance to confirm these legendary tales.

While some confirmations would require special arrangements, others like the public show of respect accorded to men by the fairer sex is obvious, even in the streets.

The sight of a woman kneeling down in the middle of the street, say like along the pavement of Moi Avenue, to greet a man is not strange.

It is not a show of submission but respect. A similar gesture in Nairobi would be taken as a sign of insanity.

Females are highly valued in Kampala. One water mineral water bottling company has a water brand that is dedicated to women.

In Kampala, food has a special place. Sometimes having breakfast would be mistaken for lunch because of the voluminous amounts that are served.

Serving buffet in Kampala would either require one to have emergency servings for the guests because of the big servings or let the waiters serve specified amounts.

At a company function I attended, food twice run out before all the guests could be served but there were no complaints.

Golf enthusiasts would be pleased to know that the be luxuriant green Kampala Golf Club is perhaps among the few such clubs in East Africa that do not have colonial architecture.

The one-storey clubhouse building is a modern structure that is different from the colonial-styled club houses found on most of Kenya and Tanzanian golf courses.

May be this is because Kampala is one of the few African capitals that was not founded by the colonialists.

History has it that Kampala or the city of nine hills, came from being a hunting fortress for Mutesa I, the Kabaka of Buganda.

Online sources say the area was made up of numerous rolling hills and lush wetlands.

It was an ideal breeding ground for various game, particularly a species of antelope, the impala.

Because of this, the Baganda called it the place of Impala or Ka – Impala.

It was also known as the “hill of antelopes” or in local Baganda language “Kasozi K’empala”.

The city grew as the capital of the Buganda kingdom, from which several buildings survive, including the Kasubi Tombs (built in 1881), the Buganda Parliament, the Buganda Court of Justice and the Naggalabi Buddo Coronation Site.