First impressions don’t last so here they are. The intention not to compare Uganda to other African countries that I have lived in [after all, Africa is a large continent made up of 54 states] didn’t last long. It is hard not to notice many similarities; friendly people, smiling faces, chaotic traffic, unruly motorcycle taxis, packed minibus taxis, red dust, tropical vegetation, colourful birds, air pollution, potholes and much more. One huge difference from West Africa is the level of humidity and the weather patterns. Humidity and temperatures are lower and the rains shorter and more evenly spread through the year which means agriculture is blessed with two growing seasons.
Kampala is at an elevation of 1,190 m (3,900 ft), which modifies the equatorial climate and can be felt when walking up any of the hills. It used to be claimed that is was built on seven hills, but it has subsequently spread to many more, which you can see clearly on this map. We are lucky enough to live on Nakasero Hill, which you will notice is very central. Nakasero Hill and Kololo Hill were, and still are, two prime real estate locations. Kampala is a far more sophisticated city than Freetown. There are several shopping malls (which include such delights as a bookshop, ice-cream and cinemas!), large South African stores, and majority of tarmac roads with working traffic lights! and a semblances of pavements (albeit with familiar gaping holes where drain covers are missing). There are more restaurants than I can remember the names of and a golf course which is verdant and has ‘greens’ rather than ‘browns’.
Kampala is not an historic city, only dating back to the mid 19th century. Its name derives from the impala which roamed here. The Buganda kingdom occupied the area before the arrival of Frederick Lugard (later Lord Lugard who was first Governor-General [1914-19] of newly created Nigeria – the name of which he coined – and who was born close to our Surrey home, in Dorking) as military administrator in 1890. He established a settlement first on Mengo Hill or ‘Old Kampala’ before moving to Nakasero Hill where he built a fort around 1902. We happened upon the remains of this fort on our first exploration of our neighbourhood, high on the crest of the hill.
I could find very little information about Nakasero Fort except on this excellent leaflet of historic Kampala buildings which shows all the surviving buildings of significance. The only other mention of Nakasero Fort was in the context of the construction of the ‘Hilton’ hotel [built to be a Hilton, but now this company has withdrawn; locals still refer to it as the Hilton] during which part of the old wall was destroyed, and, as seen above, part incorporated into the entrance for the new hotel. There is no signage to indicate the historic nature of the wall – what a missed opportunity!
We also explored Kololo Hill which is mostly large residences surrounded by high walls, but rare gaps afforded us distant views of Lake Victoria and Nakasero Hill. Not as scenically spectacular as Freetown, Kampala is our home for the next few years.