Attractions In Kampala - Uganda's Capital City

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Kampala Kasubi Tombs of Buganda.

In 1882 Kabaka Mutesa relocated his Kibuga (palace) to Nabulagala Hill, briefly the capital of his father Suuna II some 30 years earlier, and renamed it Kasubi Hill after his birthplace some 50km further east. Mutesa constructed a large hilltop palace called Muziba Azala Mpanga (roughly translating as “a king is born of a king), where he died in 1884 following a prolonged illness. As was the custom, Kasubi Hill was abandoned after the king’s death. His successor Mwanga established a new capital at mengo Hill-but rather less conventionally Mutesa was the first Kabaka to be buried with his jawbone intact, in a casket built by the Anglican missionary Alexander Mackay. In further break with tradition, Kasubi rather than Mengo was chosen as the burial place of Kabaka Mwanga in 1910, seven years after his death in exile. It also houses the tombs of his successor Daudi Chwa II, who ruled from 1897 to 1939, and of Edward Mutesa II, whose body was returned to Uganda in 1971, two years after his death in exile.
The tombs are housed within the original palace built by Mutesa, a fantastic domed structure of poles, reeds and thatch, which-aside from the additional concrete base and sliding glass doors in 1938-has changed little in appearance over the intervening 130 years. The former palace contains a fascinating collection of royal artifacts, ranging from traditional musical instruments, weapons, shields and fetishes to exotic gifts donated by Queen Victoria- as well as a stuffed leopard once kept as a pet by Mutesa I. the giant rings in the roof of the hut each represent one of the 52 clans of Buganda. The four royal tombs, obscured behind a red bark cloth veil, are off-limits to the public, and visitors must remove their shoes before entering the palace.
The tombs are maintained by the wives of the various Kings-or more accurately by female descendants of their long-deceased wives- some of whom live on the property, while others do a one-month shift there twice every year. Many of the Kings’ wives, sisters and other female relations are also buried at Kasubi, not in the main palace but in the series of smaller buildings that flank the driveway. The complex is entered via a large traditional reception but known as a bujjabukula. This is tended by the chief gateman, known as Mulamba (a hereditary title), who customarily dresses in a brilliant yellow bark cloth robe, as do his assistants.
An excellent booklet on the tombs is sometimes on sale at the site, and well worth buying for its background information on Buganda cultures.
To get there from the city centre, follow Namirembe/ Nateete Road east for about 1km until you reach the pinkish Kampala Regency Hotel, immediately before which you need to turn right into Hoima Road. After nearly 2km you will cross over Nakulabye roundabout and 2km further on you will reach Kasubi market at the junction with Kimera road, from where the tombs-signposted to the left-lie about 500m uphill along Masiro Road.

The Bahai Temple

Opened on 15 January 1962, the Bahai Temple on Kikaya Hill 6km from Kampala on Gayaza Road is the only place of worship of its kind in Africa. It is the spiritual home to the continent’ Bahai, adherents to a rather obscure faith found by the Persian mystic Bahaullah in the 1850s. Born in Tehran in 1812, Bahaullah was the privilege son of a wealthy government minister but he declined to follow his father into the ministerial service, instead devoted his life to philanthropy.
IN 1844, Bahaullah abandoned his Islamic roots to join the Babi cult, whose short-lived popularity led to the execution of its founder and several other leading figures by the religious establishment- after escaped by the Bahaullah only because of the high social status of his family. Bahaullah was nevertheless imprisoned, with his feet in stocks and 50kg metal chain around his neck in Tehran’s notoriously unsanitary and gloomy Black Pit. It was whilst imprisoned that Bahaullah received the Godly vision that led to the foundation of Bahai. Upon his release, Bahaullah dedicated the remaining 40 years of his life to writing the books, tracts and letters that collectively outlined the Bahai framework for the spiritual, moral, economic, political and philosophical reconstruction of human society.

Bahai teaches that heaven and hell are not places, but states of being defined by the presence or absence of spirituality. It is an inclusive faith, informed by all other religions-Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Buddhist and Islamic holy texts are displayed in the temple-which it regards to be stepping stones to a broader, less doctrinal spiritual and meditative awareness. It is also admirably egalitarian: it regards all humankind to be of equal worth, and any member of the congregation is free to lead prayers and meditations. Although not a didactic religion, Bahai does evidently equate spiritual well-being with asceticism: the consumption of alcohol and intoxicating drugs is discovered in Bahai writings, and forbidden in the temple grounds, along with loud music, picking flowers and “immoral behaviour”.
The Bahai Temple in Kampala, visible for miles around and open to all, is set in neatly manicured gardens extending over some 30ha atop Kikaya Hill. The Lower part of the building consists of white nontagon roughly 15m in Diameter, with one door on each of its nine shaded faces.. This is topped by an immense green dome , made with glazed mosaic Italian tiles, and a turret that towers 40m above the ground. The interior, which can seat up to 800 people, is illuminated by ambient light filtered through coloured glass windows, and decorated with lush Persian carpets. Otherwise, it is plainly decorated; in keeping with the Bahai belief that it would belittle the glory of God to place pictures or statues inside his temple. A solitary line of Arabic text repeated on the wall at regular intervals approximately translates to the familiar Christian text Glory of Glories.

National Museum of Uganda

This is the oldest in East Africa, and perhaps the best, rooted in an ethnographic collection first exhibited in 1905 in a small Greek Temple near Laggard’s Fort on Old Kampala Hill. Formally established in 1908, the museum was initially known by the local Baganda as Enyumba ya Mayembe (House of Fetishes) and its exhibits were believed to bestow supernatural powers on the colonial administration. In 1954, the museum relocated to its present site on Kira Road. For those with an interest in pre-colonial African history, there are stimulating displays on the Nakayima Tree, Ntusi and Bigo bya Mugenyi, as well as other aspects of Ugandan History. Of more general interest is a fantastic collection of traditional musical instruments from all over the continent, and the ethnographic gallery, which houses a variety of exhibits relating to traditional Ugandan lifestyles.
On foot or in a private vehicle, follow Kampala/ Bombo Road north out of the city centre, turning right at the traffic lights at Wandegeya into Hajji Kasule Road, crossing straight across another roundabout after 400m into Kiira Road. The museum is clearly signposted to the right, 600m past this roundabout. Minibuses between the new taxi park and Kamwokya will drop passengers roughly opposite the museum entrance, and can be picked up at Taxi ranks along Kampala/Bombo road north of the junction with Burton Road. The Uganda Society Library in the main museum building has a comprehensive collection of published works relating to Uganda.

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