Uganda is a tropical African country that is set at the equator. The country has snow on top of its highest mountain, The Rwenzori. Uganda boasts of a temperate climate and picturesque skylines. It also harbors the world’s second largest fresh water lake, the Victoria, which is also the source of the world’s second-longest river, the Nile.
These attractions, as well as Uganda’s famous ancient inter-lacustrine kingdoms, have been an African exploration destination since legends like Ibn Battuta, and Henry Morton Stanley started the flood.
Britain’s famous wartime Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, once proclaimed Uganda as the Pearl of Africa in his book: “My African Journey”.
The gateway into the Uganda is Entebbe town. When one is coming in from the skies to land at Entebbe airport, they are given a teaser of what to expect in this beautiful African country, Uganda. There is little wonder that Entebbe town was once the seat of the colonial British government.
From the capital city, Kampala, Uganda is split into five major destinations: the East, the North, the West, the Central, and the Islands. Each of these destinations offers a unique African experience in itself.
Western Uganda is also the mother of the country’s African kingdom culture. At one time, Uganda’s kingdoms were one large empire known as Kitara which then split to form the 5 kingdoms of modern Uganda: Bunyoro, Buganda, Busoga, Toro, and Ankole.
Bunyoro, Buganda, Busoga, and Toro kingdoms are still active while Ankole is in abeyance.
It was at the courts of these kingdoms’ monarchs that the politicking that was to make modern Uganda took place. People like John Hannington Speke and Captain Fredrick Lugard met the Kabaka of Buganda to persuade him to accept the overlordship of the British empire while Emin Pasha and Samuel Baker tried and failed to take power from the Omukama of Bunyoro.
There are important monuments currently existing to remind us of the history of the old times.
Two particularly dominant figures of the time, Kabaka Muteesa, and Omukama Kabalega are found in all history books written about Uganda in the 19th century. Muteesa is known for inviting the British into the country while Omukama Kabalega is known for fighting them.
The tombs of these two kings are now popular tourist destinations in Uganda. Kabalega rests at the Mparo tombs in Bunyoro while the Kasubi tombs where Muteesa lies are listed among the UNESCO world heritage sites.
Uganda’s heritage does not only lie in architectural relics and regalia of former monarchs, but also in nature. In the heart of Uganda’s central region at Mubende hill, once finds a tree of vintage presence that is linked to an influential Priestess known as Nakayima who is presumed to have lived around the 16th century.
This Nakayima tree itself dates back to earlier times and is believed to be the oldest tree in Uganda. The tree also still serves as a spiritual shrine to the famed priestess and is much visited by both local and foreign tourists.
So many natural sites in Uganda have been preserved including the rocks which serve as spiritual destinations for many believers. There are many interesting rock formations with mysterious caves throughout Uganda.
On top of having various rocks and trees, Uganda has a myriad of amazing waterfalls. Take the Ssezibwa falls, found after a 45 minutes drive from Kampala.
At Bigo Bya Mugenyi in southern central Uganda, the excavated remains of the powerful Chwezi dynasty, believed to have come from the Ethiopian highlands, are found here. Excavators found iron implements, pottery, and other artifacts of great anthropological value.
The recent history is also marked by the impact of Arabs and Europeans. These visitors who first traded in slaves, guns and trinkets left more of an enduring mark on the land and on the people of East Africa. They also brought with them different religions.
The Arabs introduced Islam as a new way of worship while the Europeans brought Christianity. Today, Uganda is the realm of these two religions. At Namugongo, there are Muslim, Protestant and Catholic shrines to commemorate the famous Uganda martyrs.
The Uganda martyrs were murdered between 31 January 1885 and 27 January 1887 on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II, the King of Buganda at the time. Kabaka Mwanga was against the foreign influence on his subjects that had been brought about by the new religions. He ordered the martyrs to denounce their faith at the pain of death.
The Uganda martyrs met their death with great spirit and enthusiasm and have since been beatified by the Roman Catholic Church and honored by Uganda which has set aside a national day in their memory.
Pilgrims from all over the world converge at Namugongo in Uganda to hold Holy Mass in memory of the Uganda martyrs. A martyrs trail has been established tracing the journey taken by the Uganda martyrs to Namugongo where they met their death. This brings a glimpse of spiritual Uganda to the travelers.
On Lake Victoria are the beautiful Ssesse Islands where nature has been kept for the most part in its original state. The tropical forest, the golden volts, and the fishing folk on the vast Lake Victoria have kept the original picture of Africa intact. Ssesee Islands offers an enticing retreat from the concrete bustle of modern cities.
At Ngamba Islands on Ssese, a chimpanzee sanctuary was established. Here a visitor can closely watch the friendly and playful African primates in this exciting environment.
The city center, Kampala is where one finds the best hotels, the exotic food restaurants, cinemas and shopping malls.
The Uganda National Theatre, an important cultural point is located right in the center of Kampala, next to the Parliament of Uganda.
One can trace the history of Uganda and take a peek at the life in Uganda at different generations at the Uganda museum found barely 10 minutes drive from the city center.
When it is night time, Kampala opens up. Kampala by night is a different spectacle from what one sees during the day. The night is when all the different backgrounds fuse into the fun that is commonly Uganda.
This cheerful spirit was unknown 21 years ago. Uganda was then a melancholic place to be and bad governance reigned throughout the land. There was no security of any kind and the economy had gone to the dogs. A protracted people’s struggle led by Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, restore sanity to the country. Today every 5 years a new government is voted into power by an electoral process.
This stability has foreseen investor confidence and an awakening of Uganda’s economy from a dark limbo. The combination of peace, stability, and good governance has brought about a steady and fast growth in all areas of the economy and Uganda now ranks high as an investment and tourist destination in Africa.
The Pearl of Africa has renewed itself drawing from all the wonderful gifts nature bestowed upon it.
Welcome to Uganda, an African country gifted by Nature.(Uganda, The Pearl of Africa)