MAY 19 EDITIONTourismTravelogue

24 HOURS AT THE PEARL OF AFRICA

By: Charles Ojugbana

The traditional welcome greeting on arrival at Entebbe airport in Uganda may not be “Jambo”, but “Karibu”. The Entebbe airport renovation has taken a few years and completion is still some distance away. The dusty pot-holed untarred road that greets visitors upon leaving the terminal building is a poignant reminder of the Idi Amin’s era of the 70’s and the Isreali organized “Entebbe Raid” that freed passengers of the hijacked Isreali airline in 1972. Also tucked away in Uganda’s history is the turbulence that had bedeviled its national body politic. Recall that it was Milton Obote who actually put the East African country popularly referred to as the “Pearl of Africa” on the scene as the first Ugandan President after British Colonial rule.

Rescued passengers during the 1972 Entebbe raid

Then, came the ruthless but flamboyant military strongman, Idi Amin Dada, under whose tight-fisted rule, Uganda groaned for years. Fast forward to the present. For many keen political opposition member. President Yoweri Museveni represents a chapter from the regrettable Idi Amin era. Although, a civilian President, Museven has, like most African leaders stayed long enough in power to imbibe the typical attributes of a sit-tight ruler what brooks very little dissent. Perhaps, the best placed person to lay credence to this assertion is Pop star turned politician -Boobi Wine, a man many believe stands the brightest chance to succeed the incumbent. This belief is not lost on Boobi Wine who has undergone serial intimidation and brutality in the hands of security agents since embarking on a quest to provide a youthful breath of fresh air into the Ugandan political system.

Ugandan musician, Bobi Wine

The creative talents of Boobi Wine exemplifies only one tiny aspect of the many natural gifts that Uganda possesses. Conveniently nestled at the geographical heart of Africa, the country shares the splendor of the great Lake Victoria with some more affluent neighbors, such as Kenya and Rwanda.

Uganda is blessed with a very rich wild life, as well as many scenic hills and tropical vegetation. The stream of foreign tourists who come to enjoy her wild life has not ebbed. Uganda has continued to chalk modest gains in the tourism and investment sectors. It is not surprising that the capital city of Kampala has the presence of major global hotel brands such as the Marriot, Sheraton and Golden Tulip. At the popular Acacia Mall, one will find a modest, but highly efficient shopping facility with basement and upper-deck car packing. The mall which is frequented by tourist has several food courts such as KFC, as well as popular retail shops like Shoprite and Mr Price. For movie goers, there is the modern Century Cinema.

Kampala’s vibrant allure has grown in recent times with the near completion of the Chinese -built dual-carriage Super Highway linking the capital city with Entebbe. Thankfully, the journey which used to take over an hour has now been reduced to a mere 30 minutes trip. That smooth ride gets rudely punctuated by an ever-present snarl of traffic as soon as one arrives the immediate outskirts of Kampala. So notorious is the traffic gridlock in Kampala that even foreign visitors have come to accept that life in Uganda’s Capital city is incomplete without falling in love with “Boda Boda” a nickname for the popular m  orcycle transportation which guarantees swift and fast travel within the city even at peak hours.

Ugandan’s love the good life and, a weekend in Kampala is hollow without a visit to Kololo Road. It is only on this one km stretch of undulating road that you will find a special kind of traffic jam, even at the wee hours of a Saturday or Sunday. Party- goers and fun- seekers create an endless bumper- to-bumper vehicular gridlock on the famous red-light district that houses the best of Bistros Pubs and night clubs. Although each hangout has its own unique niche, the music that belts out of the various sound systems satisfies all tastes from Rhumba to Zouk, Pop to contemporary music. The music of local idols such as Sheeba and Olile compete favorably with foreign stars like Diamond, Platinum Davido, Wiz-Kid and new -on-the-scene female crooner,Teni. At the Pearl of Africa fun actually never ceases. It is new every morning.

Night time traffic in Kampala
The Boda Boda riders on a Ugandan street

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