Art, Culture, Books and Travel
By Elisha Mayallah
I had to get away, to clear my head. The beginning of the year had more than its fair share of stress, and I was readily distracted to the point where reading, writing and thinking were more difficult than ever before. My concentration had been diminished. It was early this month.
So I sent an email to my friend, who runs a travel company in Kampala. He had organised a trip I’d taken a year ago and I had been overwhelmed by the sites, smells, sounds and tastes, but at the same time I felt cut off from the narrative of lives I watched unfold.
I wanted to return to Kampala to clear my head of that earlier visit. A short bus ride to the airport and a 4-hour flight (with a transit-break) was all I needed to get to one of the most unique, diverse place in the East African region.
My reasons for going to Kampala were very clear: Beautiful countryside, unique culture, delectable local food menus (similar to a home-cooked meal at a local family’s home), the nightlife and, of course, the city of Kampala.
It was around 10 pm on a Wednesday night in nearly pitch black darkness when my plane touched down on what seemed a very dimly lit runway in Entebbe, Uganda. As I walked off the plane onto the tarmac I was greeted by a starry night sky, a slightly chilly, but refreshing breeze, and a familiar country.
I then approached the terminal, took a deep breath and nervously searched my pockets for my passport as security guards strolled through the queue of people waiting to get their passports stamped for entry into Uganda.
When my host finally saw me after I had picked up my luggage, he looked wide eyed and relieved. It had taken me an unusually long time to make it to the gates leading to the frenzy of taxi drivers, families, and friends waiting for the arrived passengers.
With it being late in the night on the road towards Kampala, the road stretched before us, I could not make out much of the landscape other than the paved road ahead of me. I could, however, make out the many shanty one-storey structures that lined the streets most of the way from the airport to Kampala.
It would not be until the next morning when I woke up, with only a slight jet lag to my surprise, and walked outside into the sunrise as the morning dawned clear and sweet – without more than a whisper of a breeze. And onto the hotel’s patio that I would see the beautiful city of Kampala where I had arrived the night before.
It is very difficult to recall a single version of Kampala considering the unpredictable experiences I have had visiting the city over the years. But several hills, expansive countryside, loads of people and businesses and beautiful buildings grace and dominate the panorama and the skyline of the capital city of the “Pearl of Africa”. Who wouldn’t want to visit it?
Other things I noticed about the local people include their devotion to family and their knack for being very social. Locals are generous, friendly people who embrace visitors who want to see and learn more about their beautiful country.
In Kampala, night life is the way of life. Every visit, I find myself in different places, a stretch of inviting drinking joints, pubs, hotels and restaurants, crammed underneath apartments, compete to provide its patrons with the utmost possible service.
While walking around the streets of the capital city, there are people everywhere. There is, however, much more traffic than the city was built for; be careful walking along the narrow streets, as it seems to be up to pedestrians to jump out of the way of cars and ‘bodabodas’ attempting to manoeuvre past each other, and many drive much too fast in the city roads.
That said, vendors chatting it up on the sidewalk to anyone who will lend an ear and transact, is also another daily sighting.
Plus dozens of modern shopping malls have set up their footprints in and around the city such as Garden City, Nakumatt Oasis, Quality and more: The usual shopping streets in the CBD continue to attract hundreds of shoppers all day long.
For a change of pace, Muyenga, Kabalagala, Mukono, Kawempe, Ntinda, Nakulabye, Kololo, Bulange, Bweyogerere, Nakawa and more provide a laid-back relaxation and a chance to cosy up in comfort. That said, Ggaba, a fishing village located near the shores of Lake Victoria has stood still in time possessing a medieval charm uncommon in other fisherman areas, and the preparation of assorted fish delicacies here proves to be nothing short of exquisite.. It is the place to head if you fancy fresh Tilapia and chips.