Beautifully situated on the banks of Lake Victoria, the Speke Resort, where eLearning Africa 2014 is to be held, offers many opportunities for relaxation and adventure – especially if you want to discover the magnificent lake, the largest in Africa, and the source of the river Nile.
For those who wish instead to venture out into Kampala, our host city, there is also plenty to see. Spread over seven hills, Kampala offers many attractions for the urban explorer: here is our pick of just six things to do in the bustling Ugandan capital.
by Mark Keith Muhumuza
The Uganda Museum
To trace Uganda’s colonial, social and political history, The Uganda Museum is the ideal location. The museum building is not that imposing; on the outside, it looks rather run-down. Constructed in 1908, it contains a physical history of the Ugandan people, their cultures, modes of transport and animals – both domestic and wild. It is in the outskirts of Kampala, near Uganda’s largest hospital, Mulago.
The Baha’i Temple
This temple dominates a hill known as Kikaaya, about 5 kilometers from Kampala city centre. It was opened to the public in 1962 and is the only temple in Africa for the Baha’i faith. It is also referred to as The Mother Temple of Africa. On each continent, there is at least one temple constructed as a central place for reflection and worship.
The temple occupies almost an entire hill, with expansive gardens, lavish vegetation and flowers. Entrance is free for all visitors, who can have picnics, listen to music and watch the sunset. The temple has nine doors and was constructed using materials from more than four countries.
The Independence Monument
Uganda gained independence from Britain on 9th October 1962. As part of the remembrance, the Independence Monument was constructed. Carved by a Kenyan sculptor, Gregory Muloba, it shows a mother unwrapping a child and raising it to the skies. The symbolism is that the British – represented by the woman – had played their role, and Uganda – the child – was being handed the baton to run the country. The monument is situated in between The Kampala Serena Hotel and The Sheraton Kampala Hotel. There is no fee paid to access the monument.
Uganda has various languages and tribal groupings. The largest among them is the Baganda people, part of the Bantu language group in central Uganda. In Kampala you’ll be in the Buganda Kingdom, currently ruled by Kabaka (King) Ronald Mwenda Mutebi II. By tradition, his predecessors were buried in a specific place, which is now known as the Kasubi Tombs and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since 1884, four kings have been buried at the tombs. UNESCO describes the site as an “eloquent witness to the living cultural traditions of the Baganda”, adding that the “site represents a place where communication links with the spiritual world are maintained”. After a fire in 2010, reconstruction at the site is still on-going, but visitors can still explore the history of the Kingdom. It is about 5 kilometers from the city centre, along the Kampala-Hoima road.
Col. Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan President who was toppled in the revolution in 2012, was a “friend” to Uganda. One of his gifts to this country was the imposing Uganda National Mosque. It was completed in 2006, and named the Gaddafi National Mosque. However, after the toppling of the dictator, the mosque was renamed the National Mosque Uganda. It is situated on the Kampala Hill, and once in the 50-foot high minaret, one has a bird’s-eye view of Kampala city. Entrance for non-Muslims is UGX10,000 (US$3.8) per person, while for Muslims it is mostly free.
The Uganda Martyrs’ Shrine
Between May 1885 and June 1886, 22 Ugandans were killed on the orders of the King of Buganda, Mwanga. Thirteen of them were burnt alive. At the time, Christianity was beginning to make inroads into the country, which meant a loss of authority for the King. On the spot where they were killed, both Catholics and Anglicans have shrines in commemoration of their deaths. The most distinct feature is the Basilica Church of the Uganda Martyrs, which is dome-like structure, with the sign of a cross at the top. Additionally, there is also the Uganda Martyrs Lake, which contains water that is said to have healing and cleansing power. Every 3rd June – a public holiday in Uganda – thousands throng the area for mass and prayers. Pilgrims walk thousands of kilometers to pay tribute to those that died because of their faith.
The shrine is located 13.5 kilometers outside of Kampala city centre, in a place known as Namugongo.