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Interesting Facts about Kampala

Kampala city skyline

Kampala as a city is full of surprises. It is a city that wouldn’t be able to sleep if it changed its name to Snooze, for there is so much activity going on that an increasing number of Kampalans blissfully complain about insomnia. Having a good time is a fact of life in Kampala. However, that’s just one of the many interesting facts about this fast growing city.

Here are a few others:

1. Started in 1890.

Kampala was started in 1890 when Captain Frederick Lugard, a British administrator, established his camp (Fort) on December 19, 1890. This fort became the first administrative center of the British colonial government in Uganda.

2. Impalas

Kampala comes from the word Impala, a type of antelope which used to graze on the slopes of Old Kampala Hill. The name “hill of the Impala” was given specifically to the hill on which Captain Frederick Lugard established his fort. Traditionally, this hill was the royal hunting ground for the kings of Buganda. The local Baganda translated the hill of impala into Kasozi Impala (pronounced ka Impala and eventually ka mpala).Slowly, the hill took on the name Kampala. It is from this one hill that the rest of the city developed.

3. Seven Hills

Kampala, just like Rome, was originally built on seven hills though now it has extended to cover a total of 22 hills. The original seven hills are Kasubi Hill, Mengo Hill, Kibuli Hill, Namirembe Hill, Rubaga Hill, Nsambya Hill, and Kampala Hill (Old Kampala).

4. Capital City

Kampala is the capital city of Uganda.

5. Population

The population of the city of Kampala is around 1.6 million which almost doubles during the day as people flock in for work and other activities. Kampala is home to over 40% of the total national urban population, which is about 4% of the total national population of Uganda.

6. Hilltops or summits

In ancient times, all hilltops in the modern Kampala were status symbols and were exclusively reserved for kings’ palaces and shrines of the major gods that protected Buganda kingdom from its external enemies. Everybody else was forbidden from consorting on the hilltops. That is why you find all the surviving kings’ palaces in Kampala on hilltops.

7. Altitude

Kampala is 1190 m (3900 ft) above sea level.

8. Independence

Kampala became the capital of Uganda on Independence Day 9th October, 1962 after taking that titular centrality from Entebbe.

9. First shopping mall

Kampala got its first-ever shopping mall, Pioneer Mall, in 1971.

10. Area cover

Kampala covers over 189 sq. km or 73 sq. mi.

11. Has more motorcycles (boda bodas) than vehicles!

Kampala has more motorcycles, commonly known as boda boda, than vehicles. So it is of no surprise that boda bodas are the fastest and most convenient ways to get around, and they are very cheap too. If you are ever running late and need to whip through Kampala city on double, then a boda boda might be your best bet in circumventing Kampala’s traffic jams. Just make sure you wear a safety helmet, which, thankfully, is often provided by boda boda riders belonging to different companies.

12. 250kg of banana “matooke”!

Kampalans are famous for their love of green highland bananas locally known as matooke. In any given year, an average Kampala resident eats well over 250kg of matooke! It is the major staple food here

13. UNESCO world heritage site

Kampala is home to one UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Kasubi Tombs. Which are characterized by large cone-shaped grass thatched buildings on one of Kampala’s many hills. The Tombs were originally built with reeds, timber, and grass. They have only one door and no window while covered in bark cloth, which makes the interior mysterious and alluring. The tombs were burnt down and reduced to ashes in 2010, destroying lots of royal regalia that had been around for over 128 years. Luckily, the remains of the former kings weren’t destroyed in the inferno because, according to Buganda custom, kings are buried more than 10 feet underground.

14. Baha’i temple

Kampala is home to one of the eight continental Baha’i houses of worship. This conspicuous building standing solemnly atop Kikaaya hill is the only Baha’i temple on the continent of Africa. There are only eight continental Baha’i temples (or houses of worship) in the world. The followers of Baha’i faith believe that no single religion has a monopoly on the truth, so they try to reunite the teachings of the recognized holy men.

15. 874 miles

Kampala is 874 miles by rail from the nearest coastline.

16. Makerere University

Few universities in Africa compare to Makerere University’s combination of history and pedigree. As one of East Africa’s oldest Universities, it has created some of the Africa’s most famous alumni like Julius Nyerere, Mahmood Mamdani, Apollo Milton Obote, and Mwai Kibaki.

 

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