“The country’s dark past is still present”
Walter’s favourite rolex stand delivered a delicious typical street meal of warm chapatti, rolled with egg and tomato inside. Chapatti is a foundation of the Ugandan kitchen, thanks to the Indians, who first came in the late nineteenth century as labourers building the railway to Mombasa. Though expelled during Idi Amin’s rule, thankfully, many have returned, to serve up delicious, authentic dishes at the many Indian restaurants in Uganda.
I discovered the country’s dark past was still present at the end of a dirt path on the grounds of the King’s Palace. We descended into a bat-filled cave, where Idi Amin’s torture chambers still stand, three cement rooms, elevated on a platform.
The former president, who ruled from 1971–79, ensured the underground chambers were surrounded by electrified water, to execute enemies of the state. Walter explained that 200,000 prisoners were held in 10×10-ft rooms, crammed so tightly together, many died of asphyxiation. Others tried to escape, only to be electrocuted. There was an eeriness about the place.
We rode to a more peaceful spot, upon yet another of Kampala’s hills. Within 45 acres, sits Uganda’s Baha’i temple, the only one in Africa. Uganda’s Baha’i population has thrived since the end of Idi Amin’s reign, when they too were expelled.
“An escape from the frenetic city streets”
The day was a mixture of crowds and calm. The quiet hills offered an escape from the frenetic city streets, where we found Owino market, Africa’s largest second-hand clothing market. Mountains of colour were lorded over by scores of vendors selling clothing, shoes and electrical goods.
We finished up with a traditional Ugandan meal at a restaurant in Old Kampala. Different dishes were served on one plate, from fresh cassava and cassava bread, to pumpkin, beans, goat, and fish steamed in banana leaves. Vegetarians and carnivores are well catered for in the city.
Need to know:
Tours run for about three hours, but can go as long as six, with no extra charge. Walter tailors them to personal preferences, but we went with his most popular city tour, visiting the original seven hills of Kampala, as well as the others, which now total 23. On weekends, lounge lizards can opt for the after-dark tour of Kampala’s nightlife; the boda bodas are parked, and Walter commandeers a mini-van to cruise the city’s best bars and clubs. You can stay at the Serena Hotel Kampala.