“Pearl of Africa”

I started to write this while I was in Uganda in February. Since January I have perceived myself as being “late”, while Emmyht kept telling me that I am just on time. As I didn’t get to finish it then and was busy doing other things, I figured I would complete and post it upon my return to Uganda. After having spent almost six weeks here, my best compliment to this country would be: “I love Uganda!” ♥

12 facts you might not have known about Uganda:

1. Uganda is often referred to as “the Pearl of Africa”. Winston Churchill coined the expression, for “its magnificence, for variety and form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life”. Here you can get a full package of the best that Africa has to offer – game safari, adventure activities, escape to a remote island and be almost on you own, and the amazing mountain gorillas. Not to mention a great cultural life. If you come to Uganda, you’ll find it difficult not to be impressed. I am.

2. The capital of Uganda, Kampala, is renowned as one of the safest cities in East Africa. Kampala is big enough to keep you occupied for at least 4-5 days, and during daytime exceeds 5 million in population. However, many people commute, and people living here are “only” 3 million. As in any other large city, there are dangers though. There is crime, but a lot less than what you will find in for example Nairobi. Several passerby have told me to be careful and look out for my belongings. Pickpockets are about. Be aware…

3. There are 43 living languages in Uganda. Luganda and Lusogo are both Bantu languages, and mother tongues of many Ugandans. English is the official language, which is why you will hear many locals speak with a British accent. And there are also those who have an American accent. I asked one man if he has lived in the United States. “No,” he replied. “Born here, raised here, have never left Africa.” He could have fooled me…

4. Among the most popular artists in Uganda are Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers (yes, really!) People here like “the oldies”, I am told. Oh, and I almost forgot about CΓ©line Dion. Even as mobile phone tunes – “My heart will go on”. I think it is among the top 5 list of mobile phone tunes, if there is one.

The Nnabagereka (Queen) of Buganda Kingdom, Sylvia Nagginda.
The Nnabagereka (Queen) of Buganda Kingdom, Sylvia Nagginda.

“It is an honour
and a privilege to serve my country
and my people as Nnabagereka.”

5.Uganda is the only republic that I know of that also includes a kingdom – Buganda, the Kingdom of the Ganda people (17% of the population). Buganda was one of the most powerful states in the 18th and 19th centuries. Later it was abolished by former president Milton Obote in 1962, but restored in 1993 under President Museveni. The kingdom had a degree of autonomy from the state. Head of the kingdom is Muwenda Mutebi II, and the queen is Sylvia Nagginda. She is involved in work in human and social development.

The Virunga mountains, bordering to Rwanda.
The Virunga mountains, bordering to Rwanda.

6. The Virunga Mountains is known as one of the world’s “best tourist sites”, according to the National Geographic. There is evidence of volcanic activities in the region – both their destructive nature and also how volcanic eruptions create new landscapes.

The youth marching band in Kabale.
The youth marching band in Kabale.

7. “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” The character Forrest Gump said that in one of my favorite films. I do like my chocolates. To me, Uganda is like a box of chocolates. I just don’t know what I’m going to get. This country is full of little surprises, and it is not predictable. While i stayed in Kabale I was surprised to hear marching band music – as in trumpet, trombone, the tuba and the waldhorn. They are not common, but there is at least one, in Kabale, near the border to Rwanda.

Excellent dancers at the National Theatre. And quite good looking, too... ;)
Excellent dancers at the National Theatre. And quite good looking, too… πŸ˜‰

8. The fine arts scene has reached its advanced stages in Uganda. There is a variety of cultural life that I have not experienced anywhere else in Eastern or Southern Africa. South Africa is probably an exception though, in which the arts scene is still to be discovered by myself. Dance, live music, stand up comedy, and the fine arts, including poetry and art. There are creative, and independent artists who promote the form of arts and creativeness that they enjoy. On Valentine’s Day I attended a stand-up comedy show at the National Theatre. What I understood and was spoken in English was good, but most of it was in Luganda. I still enjoyed it. The first comedian on stage said, “Those who received flowers, say yeah. Those who didn’t receive, say yeah yeah. Those who received plastic flowers, say nothing.” Hahaha… πŸ™‚

Robusta coffee.
Robusta coffee.

9. Uganda is the second largest exporter of coffee, runner up to Ethiopia. In 2011 the country exported 311.290 bags of 60kg. The population of Uganda prefers tea, and consumes about 3% of its own coffee crops, so most of it is sent overseas. For coffee its main trading partners are the European Union, Sudan, the United States, Switzerland, India, Australia and Russia.

The amazing mountain gorillas.
The amazing mountain gorillas.

10. Uganda is one of the few countries where you can view mountain gorillas in the wild. No zoos anywhere in the world keep them, mainly because none have survived captivity. Uganda has a policy of allowing maximum eight tourists to visit a group each day, making gorilla safaris a sustainable trade in tourism. The Virunga Mountains is one area where you may visit the mountain gorillas. Another is Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, where I went.

Mt. Stanley, Rwenzori mountains.
Mt. Stanley, Rwenzori mountains.

11. The Rwenzori Mountains (‘Mountains of the Moon’) is the highest mountain range in Africa. It is about 120km long and 65 km wide. The three highest peaks are on Mt. Stanley, which is the third highest mountain in the continent at 5.109 m above sea level. The first documented sighting by a European was by Henry Morton Stanley in 1889. With snowcapped peaks and frequently enveloped in clouds, they appear to be the Alps of Africa. From what I have read the mountain range offers some of the best, and safest hiking, in all of Africa.

Keen on bird watching safari?
Keen on bird watching safari?

12. Uganda is often referred to as a bird watchers’ paradise with its abundance in species. There are 1083 identified species, and more than half of the recorded species in Africa exist here in Uganda. Even within the vicinity of Kampala it is possible to view 300 species in just one day. The shores of Lake Victoria, the lush forests of the Albertine Rift and the banks of the river Nile provide excellent habitat for birds. The record for bird viewing is 665 species within a three-week period. Fancy trying to beat that record…?

Come to Uganda – you will love it! πŸ™‚

Author: silbra

6 thoughts on ““Pearl of Africa”

  1. Am not surprised you got hooked!
    Uganda is toxic.
    Thanks for the shout out and the good description of Uganda.

    1. Hi Aidah Precious, Thank you for your feedback. πŸ™‚ I am really looking forward to return to Uganda in not too long, hopefully. πŸ™‚
      Silje

    1. Hi Lena, Thank you for your message. Uganda is truly amazing. I am sure you would enjoy it. πŸ™‚
      See you soon,
      Silje

  2. Your shared experience has brought back memories of my motherland. I cannot agree more for the box of chocolates statements. Thanks for sharing your experience Silje webale nyo (Tussen talk ). Lena karibu Uganda (welcome to Uganda ).

    1. Dear Wanda,
      Thank you for your message. I’m glad to be able to give other people joy from my travels. :):) Each country in the region is beautiful in it own ways, and Uganda is one that I really enjoyed.
      Cheers,
      Silje

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *