Uganda

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Uganda is a country in East Africa. It is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the southwest by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. Famously called the Pearl of Africa by Winston Churchill, it is home to one of the most diverse and concentrated ranges of African fauna including the highly endangered mountain gorilla and the endangered common chimpanzee.

Population: 34,758,809 people
Area: 241,038 km2
Highest point: 5,110 m
Coastline: 0 km
Life expectancy: 53.98 years
GDP per capita: $1,400
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About Uganda

History

The people of Uganda were hunter-gatherers until 1,700 to 2,300 years ago. Bantu-speaking populations, who were probably from central and western Africa, migrated to the southern parts of the country. The Empire of Kitara in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries represents the earliest forms of formal organization, followed by the kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara, and in later centuries, Buganda and Ankole.

Arab traders moved inland from the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa in the 1830s. They were followed in the 1860s by British explorers searching for the source of the Nile. Protestant missionaries entered the country in 1877, followed by Catholic missionaries in 1879. The United Kingdom placed the area under the charter of the British East Africa Company in 1888, and ruled it as a protectorate from 1894. As several other territories and chiefdoms were integrated, the final protectorate called Uganda took shape in 1914. From 1900 to 1920, a sleeping sickness epidemic killed more than 250,000 people.

Uganda won independence from Britain in 1962, and the first elections were held on 1 March 1961. Benedicto Kiwanuka of the Democratic Party became the first Chief Minister. Uganda became a republic the following year, maintaining its Commonwealth membership. In succeeding years, supporters of a centralized state vied with those in favour of a loose federation and a strong role for tribally-based local kingdoms. Political manoeuvring climaxed in February 1966, when Prime Minister Milton Obote suspended the constitution and assumed all government powers, removing the positions of president and vice president. In September 1967, a new constitution proclaimed Uganda a republic, gave the president even greater powers, and abolished the traditional kingdoms.

On 25 January 1971, Obote's government was ousted in a military coup led by the commander of the armed forces, Idi Amin Dada. Amin declared himself 'president,' dissolved the parliament, and amended the constitution to give himself absolute power. Idi Amin's eight-year rule produced economic decline, social disintegration, and massive human rights violations. The Acholi and Langi ethnic groups were particular objects of Amin's political persecution because they had supported Obote and made up a large part of the army. In 1978, the International Commission of Jurists estimated that more than 100,000 Ugandans had been murdered during Amin's reign of terror; some authorities place the figure as high as 300,000.

In October 1978, Tanzanian armed forces repulsed an incursion of Amin's troops into Tanzanian territory. The Tanzanian army, backed by Ugandan exiles waged a war against Amin's troops and the Libyan soldiers sent to help him. On 11 April 1979, Kampala was captured, and Amin fled with his remaining forces. This led to the return of Obote, who was deposed once more in 1985 by General Tito Okello. Okello ruled for six months until he was deposed after the so-called "bush war" by the National Resistance Army (NRA) operating under the leadership of the current president, Yoweri Museveni, and various rebel groups, including the Federal Democratic Movement of Andrew Kayiira, and another belonging to John Nkwanga.

Museveni has been in power since 1986. In the mid to late 1990s, he was lauded by the West as part of a new generation of African leaders.

Recently, Uganda has been in the news for its controversial law that makes gay sex punishable by life in prison and also makes it a criminal offence not to report an offender.

Climate

Although generally equatorial, the climate is not uniform as the altitude modifies the climate. Southern Uganda is wetter with rain generally spread throughout the year. At Entebbe on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, most rain falls from March to June and the November/December period. Further to the north a dry season gradually emerges; at Gulu about 120km from the South Sudanese border, November to February is much drier than the rest of the year.

The northeastern region has the driest climate and is prone to droughts in some years. Rwenzori in the southwest on the border with DR Congo receives heavy rain all year round. The south of the country is heavily influenced by one of the world's biggest lakes, Lake Victoria, which contains many islands. It prevents temperatures from varying significantly and increases cloudiness and rainfall.

Activities

  • Go gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. You'll need to buy a permit which must be booked a long time ahead due to limited availability (only a few tourists are taken near the gorillas a day, in order not to disturb them). With a permit in hand, you are allowed one hour at very close hand to a group of the highly endangered mountain gorilla in their natural habitat. Uganda Wildlife Authority handles the sale of permits which cost USD500 each or you can book via a tour operator who will organise the permits and other aspects of your gorilla safari for you. The UWA tariff is due for renewal on 1st July 2013 and prices may well rise for permits (and other activities) after this date. Please note, tracking takes place from four different start points, to up to 11 different habituated gorilla families, so it's important to check the permit availability against your transport and accommodation plans.
  • Rafting on the Nile. Uganda is a world class rafting destination and several companies arrange trips down the Nile - from half a day to 2-day trips, from peaceful family trips to very adventurous grade 5 rafting. A rafting adventure with transport from Kampala, including food & drink, will cost about USD125.
  • Quad biking. Near the Spring of the Nile you can rent quad bikes (a 4-wheeled motorbike - also known as All Terrain Bike) for a speedy (and dusty) sightseeing trip with a local guide.
  • Do horse riding safari around the Nile and local villages.
  • Go on a Safari. For reputable tour operators to suit a variety of budgets, check out the Association of Uganda Tour Operators.
  • Go to Sipi, about 1 hour from Mbale. It's a beautiful little town on top of a hill, sporting fantastic views on and hikes to waterfalls. It is worth paying for a local guide - many members of the local community support their family this way and it is worth the fee just to stop everyone tailing you, trying to offer their own guiding services, if you set off without one. Great place to stay over night in Sipi is the Crow's nest with amazing views onto the waterfalls. Crows nest is alright but do not expect hotel quality service, and because of their slow service and bad food bringing our own food is recommended.

Food

Food from Uganda is a sensation.

You can sample the luwombo, which is meat or groundnut sauce steamed in banana leaves. It has a tantalising aroma, and is always served with "food", which in Ugandan parlance indicates any carbohydrate. The staple "food" varies from region to region, with the plantain matooke in the south, millet in the north, and potatoes in the west. Cassava, posho (made from ground maize), sweet potatoes and rice are other common "foods". The whole fried fish is succulent, though mostly available at the beach, and usually served with chips/French fries. Other common options around Kampala include the traditional matooke, binyebwa (groundnut sauce), chapati, and meat stew. For the less adventurous, toasted sandwiches or omelets can be found in many places.

If this does not appeal, it is best (and far more interesting) to stop at roadside stands or markets to purchase fresh produce—fruits and vegetables abound and are very affordable, to say nothing of the roasted chicken or goat on a stick. There are also a number of fast-food places, such as Nando’s, Steers, Domino’s Pizza, and Hungry Lion, all in the city centre.

A basic local dish starts at around UGX1,000, and goes up to UGX5,000 at a local buffet, or even UGX10,000 at a posh hotel. A slice of pineapple from a street vendor can cost as little as 300 shillings.

See the Fang Fang Hotel below for good Chinese food in Kampala. Other Chinese restaurants with good food include Fang Fang Restaurant (different and more expensive from the hotel), and Golden China restaurant, all located in the city centre, and Nanjing Hotel in Kololo Hill.

In Entebbe, try the Boma Guesthouse on Gowers Rd. (see below under Sleep). Local food in Entebbe can be found at the Golf Course Restaurant and at the Airport Motel among other places.

In Jinja, the Ling Ling offers some great Chinese food. On Main Street the Source Café has a great variety of food, and you can surf the web while you eat.

Drinks

Coffee is one of the best products from Uganda, but the British hooked the locals on tea, so finding a decent cup of native joe is nearly impossible, especially outside of Kampala. In Kampala, try the coffee house 1000 Cups on Buganda Road. The Source Cafe in Jinja sells Ugandan coffee at the airport, Banana Boat stores, and many hotels. The coffee is marketed under the name Kiira Kawa (River Coffee). Good African Coffee and Cafe Pap are good restaurants for food or coffee in the Kampala area. In Jinja, stop by the Source Cafe for an incredible cappuccino—they had the sweetest espresso machine! or when you are in the west at Hotel Mountains of the Moon in Fort Portal

Chai tea is available widely, and is best in the rural areas near the tea plantations. You will see signs posted on shops and kiosks where it can be purchased.

Lower-end South African wine can be had in some restaurants, but stick with the beer. Any of the four major brands are acceptable, though the Pilsner brand is the only one made without added corn sugar for those who care about such things.

Be advised to drink Bottled water, usually called mineral water in local restaurants. Water flowing from taps is not treated.

Shopping

The national currency is the Ugandan shilling, UGX (sometimes written as Ush or Shs). There are UGX50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5000, 2000 and 1000 bank notes and 500, 200, 100, and 50 shilling coins (10, 5, and 1 shilling coins exist but are rarely used).

Some bigger hotels and restaurants do accept US dollars as payment, and safaris and rafting activities (e.g. Red Chillis in Kampala) are often priced in USD. These activities can be paid in UGX, but a poor exchange rate is often offered. Also, there is often an extra fee (typically around 4%) on the use of credit card. This means that it can be useful to bring USD to cover these activities. The obvious trade-off is that one must carry a large amount of USD around.

ATMs accept debit and credit cards throughout the country. VISA-branded cards are accepted by all ATMs, while MasterCard/Maestro/Cirrus cards are accepted at Stanbic Bank and Standard Chartered Bank ATMs. Different ATMs allow for different maximum withdrawals of UGX400,000-2,000,000, though the usual amount is UGX700,000. Many ATMs are located at Entebbe Airport; given that it is impossible to buy Ugandan shillings outside of Uganda and in countries bordering Uganda, withdrawing shillings from the airport ATMs is the easiest option.

ATMs may close due to lack of money or system problems. It is safer to bring VISA cards in case of ATMs issues. MasterCard is not accepted in ATMs, but they can be accepted in major banks for a fee. In Kampala, watch out for pickpockets who follow tourists from one bank's ATM to another when cards are not accepted.

Credit cards are accepted at very few businesses, usually the larger hotels and supermarkets. As for your American Express card: leave it at home. AMEX cannot be used except at major hotels and with airlines.

Cashing travellers cheques can be difficult, so don't bother bringing them into Uganda.

Costs

Food and goods are cheap. On a shoestring you can get by on less than shs25,000 a day, excluding park visits and other expensive activities.

Make sure you bargain for everything you buy around town except in the bigger stores and malls. Never pay face value when buying from the local vendors around town. Hotels can be costly, so if you are a student it would be a good idea to look for a hostel in Kampala.

Most people have to buy a visa when they arrive at the airport; in May 2010 this cost USD50 (single-entry 3 month). Bills must be newer than 2003!

Tipping is not part of Ugandan culture and not expected, but that doesn't mean it will not be appreciated.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Uganda on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Uganda

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Kampala is the capital city of Uganda. It is in the South Central part of the country close to the shores of Lake Victoria. The Kasubi Tombs, the site of the burial grounds for four kabakas (kings of Buganda), is a UNESCO World Heritage Site partially damaged by fire in 2010.

Interesting places:

  • Kibuli Mosque
  • Makerere University
  • Kabaka\'s Palace
  • Gaddafi National Mosque
  • Buganda Parliament
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Entebbe is a city built on the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda.

Interesting places:

  • Entebbe Botanical Garden
  • Ugandan Wildlife Education Centre
  • Entebbe Golf Club
  • Kitubulu Forest and Beach
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Jinja is a city in Uganda.

Interesting places:

  • Bujagali Falls
  • Jinja Temple
  • Source of the Nile River
  • Jinja Golf Club
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Interesting places:

  • Kibale National Park
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Interesting places:

  • Rwenzori Mountains National Park
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Interesting places:

  • Murchison Falls National Park
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Interesting places:

  • Lugazi Community Pentecostal Church
  • Mariba Forest
  • Lugazi Central Market
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panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

Points of Interest in Uganda

Uganda has a variety of landscapes which most tourists find interesting. The North is relatively flat and dry savannah while the East is mountainous and lush and the centre of Uganda hosts large forests.

The national parks are beautiful and, on the whole, un-crowded. See the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) website for details of gorilla tracking, safaris, chimpanzee tracking and more. Prices in several parks seem to be set at USD20 (1 day), USD35 (2 days). An ISIC student card cuts you 25% off the entrance fees these days.

Entebbe Botanical Garden - Entebbe

Kibuli Mosque - Kampala

Bujagali Falls - Jinja

Murchison Falls National Park - Paraa

Rwenzori Mountains National Park - Kasese

Mount Elgon National Park - Mbale

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park - Kisoro

Semuliki National Park - Fort Portal

Lake Mburo National Park - Mbarara

Queen Elizabeth National Park - Rubirizi

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park - Bwindi

Lugazi Community Pentecostal Church - Lugazi

Kibale National Park - Kibale

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary - Masindi

Kidepo Valley National Park - Kaabong

Ugandan Wildlife Education Centre - Entebbe

Jinja Temple - Jinja

Entebbe Golf Club - Entebbe

Makerere University - Kampala

Source of the Nile River - Jinja

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

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