Woke up feeling a slight bit better, and headed up to the executive lounge to get some breakfast and try and figure out what I was going to do next. Current plan was to head out at 5am the next morning to somewhere on the Turkish flight, but that would mean leaving the hotel no later than 2:30 in the morning. Being a bit sick I really wasn’t looking forward to getting four or five hours of sleep, so looked for other plans.
Saw that Ethiopian also had a flight out the next day, but around 6pm to Addis. It would connect to the Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt, and from there I had a ton of options. Called United, confirmed the Ethiopian flight had business available, and booked (as a placeholder) Entebbe to Addis the next day at 6pm in business, then Addis-Jeddah-Frankfurt in Lufthansa first with a connection to Kiev in Lufthansa business. That would be a good placeholder until I decided for sure where I wanted to go from Frankfurt.
View from the Executive Lounge while I was having breakfast and doing a bit of planning:
So, this would leave me with a solid 30 hours to explore Kampala a bit. Still was feeling pretty rough, so took a short nap and then headed down to the hotel concierge to see what kind of trouble I could get into. He confirmed they had drivers available for hire for only $14 an hour, fuel included. Wow, for a hotel driver that was a bargain! There was a limit on the number of kilometers, but driving around the city he assured me there was no way I would go over. I told him I’d be ready to go, and headed up to my room to research where I wanted to go. Made a list of sites, mapped them out in what looked like a logical order on google maps, and off we go.
First, stopped in the lobby at the ATM for some local currency (decided 70,000 Uganda Shillings – or about $25 – should be plenty), and noticed the hotel had a wall of fame of the Presidents of Uganda since independence:
Met up with my driver whose name was Ahmed. He looked at my list, suggested a few changes to the order, and off we went. First site I wanted to see was the parliament. Walked around a little bit, but taking pics was an absolute no-no, but Ahmed knew how to solve that. After our walk, we drove around the block a few times so I could try and snap a few shots from the car. I liked this guy already!
Our next stop was one of the palaces of the Kabaka of Buganda. Buganda is a sub-Kingdom of Uganda, and home of the Ganda people. Buganda has its own palaces and parliament within Uganda, although the Kabaka (or King) is largely ceremonial these days. However, the King does “speak for the people” to a degree, so members of national political bodies tend to listen to him.
It wasn’t obvious if you could go inside the gates to see the palace, but someone walked up to us and asked if we wanted to go in. Sure, no problem, you can take pictures, etc…all for 20,000 Uganda Shillings (about $7) which includes a guided tour as well as a guided tour of the Buganda parliament about a mile away. Wow…score. The palace:
During the reign of Idi Amin, he had overrun and occupied the palaces for a bit. He was also quite a collector of cars, the remains of several now litter the palace grounds. The remains of (one of) his Rolls Royces. Notice the hubcap:
Of course, there’s also the unpleasant side of Idi Amin’s rule. He is known to have tortured and killed (and rumoured to have eaten) several thousand Ugandans during his rule. Behind the palace was this underground holding cell, which would hold up to 100 prisoners. Note the green line on the bottom of the wall? Once it was packed with prisoners it would be filled with water up to this line, and then electricity would be passed through the water. Maybe for a few seconds if he just wanted to torture people, or for longer if he wanted a mass killing. Chilling.
Unfortunately it was not possible to go inside the palace itself, so after exploring the grounds we got back in the car and drove the approximately one mile down the “Royal Mile” to the Buganda Parliament. Outside the parliament:
At the entrance we representations of the symbols of some of the Kingdom of Buganda’s 52 clans. The clans all have very specific duties in society (for example, the mushroom clan traditionally guards the Kabaka) and clan membership is passed down from the father. It’s prohibited to marry someone from either your clan or your mother’s clan, so there’s quite a bit of mixing. Notice the clan in the middle…our guide referred to this as the “shit clan” and said members of this clan often lie and claim to be from another clan. I don’t know that I’d want to be a member of the rat clan either…
The parliament of Buganda. On the far end is the pedestal where the Kabaka’s throne is placed when he’s there. The benches along the side are for the members. As we were standing in here, the guide gave a great history of Buganda and explained how the parliement works, as well as its relationship to the national government. As he was explaining this to me, two other Ugandan men walked in, came up to us, and started to listen. He then explained that when the Kabaka is here, new members are expected to bring their wives to parliament to introduce them to the Kabaka, since all the women technically “belong” to the Kabaka.
One of the men who’d been listening in spoke up: “you know now that 30% of the members are ladies…do you know what they do when they join the parliament?” I couldn’t resist being a bit snarky and said “I’m pretty sure THEY don’t introduce their wives to the Kabaka.” Totally caught him off guard…but after a moment of awkward silence he broke out in a deep laugh and grabbed my hand and shook it, laughing as he walked out. My poor guide looked stunned, and told me…”um, that was the speaker of the parliament!” Hahahah!
After thanking the guide we got back in the car for the drive to the Kasubi Tombs. This is the resting place of the Kabakas, and all Kabakas since independence from the UK are buried here. Unfortunately, there was a huge fire back in 2010 and the main building burned down, but it is being rebuilt (with a state of the art fire suppression system) now. The rest of the site is still quite accessible, however.
Smaller huts around the main hut, mainly for the wives of the deceased Kabakas as some workers who take care of the site. The hut on the far left is the wine hut, where local wine is made. Our guide said this is her favourite of the huts…hahah!
Behind the main area are the graves of the immediate family members of the Kabakas. The most recent one was less than a month old:
After the Kasubi Tombs, we headed back off to visit the national mosque, also known as the Gaddafi National Mosque, since it had been built and financed by Libya. Shoes off, and inside, where the Imam himself gave a brief tour. We were invited to sit on the floor where he explained not only about the mosque, but about some of the basics of Islam. It was fascinating, but I was a bit embarrassed by a few of the other people there (we were six in total) who sat with the soles of their feet pointed right at the Imam, and one other Germany guy who was there in shorts. Ugh! The inside of the mosque:
Climbed up the minaret, which was a good workout and a few hundred steps, but we were rewarded with an amazing view:
While we were up there, it was time for the evening call to prayer, which was amazing. Asked the Imam if it was alright to stay up there during that, and he said “absolutely – Allah belongs to all faiths.” Wow, if only more world religious leaders had such a tolerant and accepting view!
The mosque from outside:
After the mosque, it was back to the hotel for some dinner. My big dilemma from here was where to go from Frankfurt. I could fly to just about anywhere in Europe, but with a maximum stay of about 16 hours, or I could head straight home. It was tempting to spend a night somewhere, I was thinking Kiev, Berlin, Helsinki, Vilnius, Riga, but in the end decided it wasn’t worth a few hundred dollars in taxes, hotel, meals, etc, and since I was still sick and worn out I decided to head straight home…which was made even easier when Lufthansa opened up the Frankfurt to Chicago flight in first with miles! Sold!
Off to bed so I could enjoy my last morning in Uganda…