Kampala: Must-sees, Stories, Kings and Traditions from the Ugandan Capital
Русская версия Did you know that in Uganda one will never say “dead” about any of the passed away king: it is only “changed” which is conventional instead? Or, that there are 53 clans in the country, each of which has its totem – an animal or a plant which cannot be killed/destroyed and eaten by the member of the clan? Or, that they also used to have the shit clan, which apparently, did not last long? Our today’s post is about these and many other unbelievable traditions of Uganda as well as its difficult colonial and post-colonial history – all we learned in the country’s capital Kampala.
We did not only celebrate Christmas in Kampala: there is also a lot to see there, and we recommend dedicating at least two days to this city to learn more about the country itself.
We started with the museum of Uganda. We paid 10000 for two student tickets and 6000 for the photo ticket. To be honest, there is not much to see. Altogether there are five exhibitions: ethnography, ethnohistory, music, natural history и archeology. The museum may be interesting for those who love fossils and unusual musical instruments – there are a lot of them here.
There are a lot of medical instruments here too: many of them are still used by the healers. The state allows the healers to cure people equally to the doctors per se, because there are not too many qualified doctors.
Something we learned from the museum is that in the lake regions of Uganda beer is made from bananas, in the dry regions – from grains, and in the mountain regions – from honey. By the way, we had already had the experience of trying the home brewed beer in an improvised pub at Lake Bunyonyi.
The aim of another exhibition, “Contemporary Uganda” (it opened when Uganda received independence) remained unclear for us. Its collection was too weird: a Ford car and many placards – on World Olympics, malaria, and hydroelectric power plant building. Yet, we were lucky to get the photo with the museum policewoman and policeman to complement Victor’s gallery of pictures with policemen from different countries.
The next destination was the craft village – the market of handmade goods.
Indeed, the market has a lot to offer, but our main aim was the magnets. Surprisingly, the lower the prices are in the country in general, the more expensive magnets they sell. Perhaps, it happens because of the few, yet, rich tourists coming. We were offered the price of 14000 to 18000; then, we bargained till 8000, but then found the standard wooden magnet for 3000 (about 1 euro). Just to remind: in Burundi the cheapest and the most primitive wooden magnet cost 5 euros, in Rwanda –2.5 euros.
Kampala city. After the market we went towards the parliament; it was the afternoon time – very hot and stuffy, with crowds of people and lines of transport.
Yet, behind the markeplace we found the internet cafe on Rubanga Rd , and, what is more, the Ethiopian restaurant [GPS: 0,31245;32,56687]. Nastya is a fan of Ethiopian food: she recommends it to everyone! For 8000 we got a dish for two, 2000 more – and we got famous Ethiopian coffee.
Finally, we reached the parliament, and the guided tour there turned out to be really interesting!
The price of the tour is 10000 for students and 15000 for adults. The guide told us about the kingdom of Buganda – the largest in the territory of Uganda, its clans and traditions. The major part of the excursions took place in the center of the Uganda parliament.
Clans in Uganda.
We learned that every Ugandan belongs to a clan (there are 53 clans in total) which has its totem – usually a plant or an animal. The member of the clan cannot eat or kill the totem animal of his or her clan as well as the clan of his spouse. Accordingly, it is a monkey which is both the clan totem and the taboo to kill and consume for one clan, or matoke bananas, grasshoppers, beans, etc. for others. They even used to have the shit clan, but it is not there anymore – they must have disappeared or changed the name of the clan. By the way, in Uganda they believe that touching the shit helps to make the dream come true and brings good luck. In the parliament, they have the pictures with the symbols of all clans.
Yet, there is a tendency to marry out of the clan to avoid incest. Also, the son is assigned with the clan of his mother. As a result, the kings who usually have many wives have sons belonging to different clans. This creates the feeling of democracy: every next king is from the different clan. The same clan cannot have two kings one after another for the same democracy purpose. In all the clans, the brother’s father is called father too, so does the mother’s mother, who is called mother. Every clan has its headquarters, a motto, and a football team. The clans vary in size: some have more members and some – less.
Kings in Uganda.
The kingdom of Uganda – Buganda used to be a British colony, and later received the more independent status of British protectorate. Uganda became independent in 1962, although the fights for power continued within Uganda long after that. Nowadays, the king of Uganda does not have the juridical power, yet, he is highly respected by the people. A Ugandan will never say “dead” about any kind who passed away, instead, he or she use the word “change”. It is also said that the king is “55 years young”, not “old”. You cannot say “Good morning” to the king; rather it is traditional to say “Did you sleep well?” Obviously, if the king enters any room, all those who are present must stand up.
The gallery of the parliament has the pictures of several latest kings – since it became possible to make photos and paintings (they learned the painting techniques quite recently too).
Every king has his history. One of the most famous kings is Chwa: he was the first to visit England and he returned with the whole list of reforms. First of all, he allowed the women to eat the male food. Before, women could eat only vegetarian food, or, best case scenario, chicken and fish (but never meat). Chwa was surprised by the fact that in England male and female eat the same food and brought this tradition back home. Moreover, he introduced football in Uganda. Chwa’s son studied in the British college too, but died too early. Being in Britain he asked too many questions: why having the status of protectorate Uganda is treated as a colony? He was exiled back home and, it is said, he was poisoned then. After that, Ugandan kings never send their eldest sons to Britain, only the third (and following sons): the eldest son is too important as a successor.
When the king becomes old, he starts to offer his son as a future king to the council of the elders and the enders consider the candidate. The sisters of the king are called princesses. Also, in Uganda, the princesses’ husbands are never said to be “married” to the princess, only “close” to her. The last curious fact from this excursion: one third of the Ugandan parliament is women, as it is considered that they bring harmony and peace.
The straight road without a single corner connects the parliament with the king’s palace, which we visited on the next day.
The entrance fee is 10000 per person, the guidance included. The palace is relatively new: it was built only in 1855 and did not serve as a palace long, till 1966 only. It was then that the prime-minister Milton Obote organized coup d’état and attacked the palace which was the residence of the head of Uganda, Kabaka Mutesa II. Headed by general Idi Amin, the troops of Obote entered the palace, yet, while the guards were fighting with them, the king managed to flee to the nearest church. The car was waiting for him there so that he could flee to Burundi and fly to England from there.
Obote and Idi Amin shared the power and the palace turned into the army barracks. In 1970s Idi Amin ordered to found a prison here where they held mass tortures and murders of Ugandan intellectuals and dissidents. For this, they had five improvised prison cells based at former palace storage. They were separated from the rest of the territory by ditch under electric voltage. It was enough to make people leave their cells to kill them. Another option they used was throwing people to crocodiles in the nearby lakes.
Visiting the palace, you may still see the handprints and inscriptions of the prisoners and their relatives (made later).
The information about the names of those who died here is very little, but the number is about 200000 people. Little wonder that today’s king does not live here: the place has too much of blood on it. If we understood the guide correctly, current residence of the king is near Jinja where we were heading next after Kampala. Former palace barracks are still populated by people.
There is still a cannon at the territory of the palace and the rests of the king’s Rolls-Royce – the gift from the Queen of England (in total, she presented six cars to the king).
How to get to Jinja.
The palace guide turned out to be very sweet, and we even exchanged presents. Yet, it was time to move further, to Jinja. In the morning of the same day we had left our stuff in the same nice Ethiopian restaurant, since it was in the city center; it was easy to pick it up and find the bus to Jinja at old taxi stand [GPS:0,31240;32,57671].
For 6000 and a couple of hours we got to our next Ugandan destination.
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