The Bahá’í Temple is the only standing temple in Africa for the Bahá’í faith, and because of its overwhelming stunning architecture, it is worth touring. It has well maintained gardens that cover more than 30 hectares on peak of Kikaya Hill in the capital Kampala. The tinted glass windows filter in tender light into this temple, and it is well adorned with Persian carpets plus glassy Italian-mosaic tiles which line the arched roof.
This lake belongs to the king of the Buganda kingdom and is located close to Mengo Hill. The lake which covers a five acre area on the outer edge of Kampala was established during the rule of Kabaka Mwanga back in the 1880s basically for his own enjoyment, since he loved swimming as well as fishing. More significantly, he wanted to connect this lake to Lake Victoria using a channel which would also act as an escape-corridor, unfortunately he was unable to achieve this. Today, this lake is habitat to various bird species, and is accepted as a significant conservation place.
Katareke Prison Ditch
The prison narrates the story of a brutal and vicious incident in Buganda’s history. It tells of a fearful, king who was very power hungry. He imprisoned all of his brothers plus sisters in 1888 except his exiled brother king Mwanga who he had taken over, and he later harshly killed them for fear that may be they would one day overthrow him! At present this prison is a silence and sheltered site, although the remaining earthworks are a glowing reminder of the terrible times when the destiny of the Buganda kingdom was unsteady.
Kings Palace (Bulange Mengo)
The Lubiri is the palace of Buganda kingdom’s King. It was constructed in 1885 and covers an area of 4 sq miles. Right Opposite of the palace is Bulange, parliament building of Buganda kingdom. Entrance to this place is free although you must tip the guide.
Naggalabi – Buddo Coronation Site
Only 20 minutes drive from the capital Kampala is the spectacular hilltop of Naggalabi Buddo which is the heart of Buganda’s history. It is at this place that Buganda Kingdom was born, at the daybreak back in the fourteenth century, and to date every Kabaka in this kingdom is crowned here. At Naggalabi – Buddo you can also tour the major sacred sites, as well as plainly trail the footsteps of the kingdom’s present and long-ago kings.
Namirembe and Rubaga Cathedrals
Commonly known as Rubaga Cathedral, St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral was constructed back in the 1880s. It is located on Rubaga Hill overlooking the capital Kampala. In 1903, Protestant missionaries built Namirembe Cathedral on Namirembe hill but this was restructured in 1919 following the cathedral being struck by lightening. The cathedral can house a congregation of approximately 3,000 individuals.
Namugongo Martyr’s Shrine
back in 1886 On 3 June, more than 30 Catholic plus Protestant Ugandan men were set on fire until they died following the orders of king Mwanga due to their denial to forsake their faith. A Church has been constructed at Namugongo in memory of the Martyrs right adjacent to this site, and pilgrimages are made here annually. Currently, 3rd June was marked as a public holiday in the country to remember these martyrs.
Ndere Center, Kampala
The Ndere cultural centre, located in the middle of stunning gardens, holds a lot of Uganda’s culture and is found in the center of Kampala. Other than the café plus the craft shop at this centre, there is a beautiful outdoor stage on which frequent performances are made by the entertaining Ndere Troupe which includes musicians, dancers plus singers and from different parts of Uganda.
Common events here include Cultural Night, World Music Night, Food Feasts, Kids’ Corner and Family Hour.
The Karambi tombs are the burial site for two important Toro kings that is: Kings Rukidi III as well as Kasagama. The tombs are situated on the Kasese Road, 5km from the town of Fort Portal.
Amabere Ga Nyinamwiru (the Breasts of Nyinamwiru)
The good-looking Nyinamwiru was, as the fairy tale goes, a daughter to a home King –king Bukuku. She was chased after by a large number of admirers such that his father the King decided to cut off her two breasts so as to reduce her great beauty, although this actually did not stop them. The “breasts” that are displayed today are a remarkable stalactite structure in the Nyakasura Caves which caves have numerous good looking natural rock-pillars. The Nyakasura cave, are situated 9 kilometers from the town of Fort Portal off Semliki Road, and are resting adjacent to a revitalizing waterfall.
Southern western Uganda has always been known as the place to go if you are looking for a gorilla trekking expedition because of national parks such as Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable. But there is something new to look forward to when you visit the region, and that is a tourism circuit that captures the culture and way of life of the locals.
The trail known as the Gorilla Highland offers tourists a 5 day adventure with activities such as canoeing, hill climbing and meals at the homes of the locals. So tourists get a taste of local Batwa cuisine, and culture.
There has been talk of the country’s need to diversify its tourism product and according to Sylvia kalembe the officer in charge of product development for Uganda tourism Board, this trail is one way of diversifying tourism in the region. It gives the tourist more to see and experience than the gorilla trekking they usually expect.
On the Culture trail for example, there is an energetic old man Tom Karemire, who hosts visitors at his home which is a typical Bakiga homestead. Tourists get the chance to use ordinary facilities like pit latrines and sleep in tents, enjoy bonfire barbeque and chicken at night and feast on fresh crayfish from the Lake.
The Kabale Arts Centre sums up the Bakiga way of life in a small museum which has historical and traditional highlights of how the Bakiga resisted the colonialists, how virgins were punished and controversial cultural practices and beliefs of how a woman was clan property. Modern developments such as sliding doors and elevators are also included in the depictions in the small museum.
There are also craft shops, schools, and community walks that tourists can explore.
Mbarara town which is close by has a cultural centre called Igongo Cultural Center in addition to having fine hotel rooms, has a well researched museum with a clear depiction on Ankole history. The cultural tourism product that the people in South Western and Western Uganda are investing in is the kind of diversified product Uganda needs.
There are of course a few improvements that need to be made to perfect the product. There is need for better roads to make the trails and cultural centres more accessible.
Also as much as the product is very exciting the prices are a bit on the high side, they need to be lowered to attract market for the product.
The guides too need to be educated on the product, so they have accurate knowledge to pass on the tourists.
Uganda has been concentrating on just a few tourism products and yet it has so much potential and so much it can do to enrich the tourist experience in the pearl of Africa. Hopefully this new cultural tourism circuit will be an eye opener for other regions in Uganda and then safaris in Uganda will be much more interesting.