Kampala, the capital city of Uganda is located in the central region on the shores of Lake Victoria. The city has many attractions, destinations and tourists’ activities ranging from events to prime time venues and hotels. Located just 40 Km from Entebbe International Airport, Kampala will amaze you with its beauty, culture and hospitality before you venture the rest of the country.
Attraction’s that visitors warmly explore every time when they take tours in Uganda include the National Museum, the famous Kasubi tombs, Kabaka’s Lake, Bulange Mengo, Kabaka’s palace (Lubiri, Mengo), the Uganda National Cultural Center, various religious centers like Bahai’ Temple, Kibuli & Gadhafi Mosques, Namirembe Cathedral, Rubaga Catholics Cathedral, Namugongo Martyrs’ Shrine, various shopping malls and night clubs.
Old Kampala: Old Kampala sits at the original Kampala Hill. It is where the first administrative blocks were built before the city expanded and most administrative buildings were shifted to a more central location. Old Kampala stands out because of the unique old colonial and Indian style architectural buildings. It has changed a little recently with more modern shopping malls but still offers the best opportunity to see how Kampala looked then and now.
The Gadhafi Mosque: This is the largest mosque in Uganda with the capacity to accommodate over 15,000 worshipers. It was Idi Amin Dada who first started building the mosque in 1972. It was only completed in 2007 with a generous donation from Colonel Muammar Gadhafi of Libya.
The mosque is built on top of one of the 7 major hills of Kampala and at the spot where the colonial capital was located. Climbing to the highest point of this mosque provides arguably one of the best views of Kampala city.
The administrators of the mosque have been considerate enough to allow tourists visit the mosque and take photos at a small fee of about $3. Visitors are led around the premises by an in-house Tour Guide. Women are required to cover themselves with a headscarf (available at the offices) before touring the place.
Kibuli Mosque: This is the most popular mosque in Uganda. Kibuli Mosque is regarded as the entre of Muslim activities in Uganda. It is where the top Sheiks reside. The mosque lies on one of Kampala’s original 7 hills (Kibuli) offering great views of the capital city. Prince Badru Kakungulu of Buganda donated the land where the mosque stands to the Muslim fraternity in Uganda.
The Buganda Parliament (Bulange): The Buganda parliament holds sessions every month where several issues pertinent to the Kingdom are discussed. The Kabaka (King) of Buganda only attends the beginning and last sessions of the year. His role is to open and close the sessions. In the earlier centuries before the coming of the colonialists, these sessions were held under a large tree and then to mud grass-thatched buildings. The parliament building received a major facelift with modern buildings around the time of independence. A guided tour around this building will provide fascinating insights about the history of the Buganda Kingdom, the fifty-six clans and formers kings.
Kabaka’s Palaces in Mengo and Lubiri: The Mengo palace building is built on top of one of Kampala’s major hills (Mengo) and close to the Buganda parliament (Bulange). The Mengo palace has largely been abandoned since the Kabaka Mutesa II was ousted by President Milton Obote in 1996. The palace later played a terrible role during the regime of Idi Amin Dada. A notorious torture chamber was built here by Idi Amin where over 250 people were murdered at different points during his rule. Amin was ruthless to anyone he saw as a threat to his rule.
The Kabaka’s lake: This Lake is 200 ft deep and is the largest man made/excavated lake in Africa. The Lake is found in Ndeba and was built by Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda to connect the Kings palace to Lake Victoria while also providing an escape route during major wars. The Kabaka took part in the digging process to encourage his subjects. Clan leaders of Buganda consider the lake sacred and occasionally gather to clean it. This beautiful lake is now a tourist attraction on its own and offers a perfect atmosphere for relaxation, boat rides/racing and bird watching. There are several accommodation facilities around the lake for those who wish to spend more time around the place.
Kasubi Tombs: This one of the several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Uganda. This large grass-thatched building is a very important site to the Baganda people. It is also among the leading tourism sites in Uganda. It is the burial ground for 4 of their former kings. The Baganda believe that their kings do not die but simply disappear to another world.
While at the tombs, you can spot the large hut holding the tombs, the royal clothing, hunting tools and other monuments of these past kings. The royal guides will share with you stories about each of the kings and the roles they played during their reign and history of the Baganda people. The site is taken care of by descendents of the Kings wives.
The Bahai’ Temple: The Bahai’ Temple is built on Kikaya hill near Gayaza road. The temple is special because it is the only one of the Bahai’ faith in Africa. It is a magnificent building sitting on a large piece of land that offers a serene environment for relaxation and bird watching. The temple grounds are also a favorite place for meditation and are frequented by people from all religious backgrounds. From its raised position, the Bahai’ Temple provides great views of Kampala city and the surrounding suburbs. If you are interested in knowing more about the Bahai’ faith, then you should attend their morning Sunday service.
Uganda Martyrs Shrines in Namugongo: The Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo is located close to the Kampala – Jinja highway and is one of the most visited religious sites in Africa. In June 1886, about 32 Christians were burnt alive or simply speared to death on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga for their refusal to denounce Christianity and the Muslim faith in favor of the traditional Buganda religion.
After accepting them in the beginning, the Kabaka grew to hate all foreign religions, seeing them as a threat to his rule. The Kabaka was particularly angry that the some of his pages were no longer obeying some of his orders after their conversions. The Shrines are built to remember the young and brave converts who refused to denounce their faith even after undergoing great pain and suffering.
Over one million people congregate in Namugongo every 3rd of June to honor the lives of these Martyrs. The Shrines in Namugongo offer opportunities to learn something about the history of Christianity in Uganda. The Roman Catholic shrine in particular has a beautiful environment for relaxation, meditation and prayer.
Namirembe Cathedral: This is arguably the most beautiful cathedral of the Anglican faith in Uganda. It is also known as St. Paul’s Cathedral and was built in 1919 making it the oldest in Uganda. Namirembe Cathedral sits on a spot with great views of Kampala city. The Archbishop of the Church of Uganda (Anglican Church) resides in a building next to the cathedral.
If you are a member of the Anglican Church and are looking for a good spot for worshiping, then this might just be the place to go to. The cathedral also has a graveyard with remains of Ernest Cook and Bishop Hannington (murdered in 1885 on orders of Kabaka Mwanga). Ernst Cook was the nephew of Sir Albert Cook (a colonial administrator) and is credited for having built the large Mengo hospital.
While visiting the cathedral, don’t miss to check out a small hut housing the large drums used to call worshipers for service. You can complete your tour of the cathedral by having tasty lunch at the Namirembe guest house.
Rubaga Cathedral: Rubaga Cathedral is built in one of Uganda’s main hills offering good views of the capital. It is where the headquarters of the Roman Catholic faith in Uganda is located. Before the Cathedral was built in 1914, one of the palaces of Kabaka Mutesa I sat on the land. His son Kabaka Mwanga II later donated the land to the French Catholic missionaries.
The construction of the current church started in 1914 and ended in 1925. Ironically, the cathedral was built in memory of the 22 catholic martyrs of Uganda burnt in Namugongo under the orders of the same Kabaka who gave out the church land.
While on a visit to the church, do not forget to visit the burial ground of the first African catholic bishop and later Arch Bishop Joseph Kiwanuka. Entering the church is free but donations can be made at the church offices.