Uganda: The Friendly, Welcoming African Nation

The headwaters of the Nile in Uganda at Jinja.
The headwaters of the Nile in Uganda at Jinja. Federica Petrelli photos.

Uganda – Genuineness at its best

Kids at play in Uganda.
Kids at play in Uganda.

By Federica Petrilli

There is no better thing than taking advantage of the various festivities to book a trip to discover new cultures and ethnicity.

This time I chose Uganda as a destination: land of chimpanzees, wild greenery and home of the famous Nile.

My journey started from the capital, Kampala.

Landing at the airport in the city of Entebbe, I can easily change money without even needing to show my passport and, with an hour of taxi and 80,000 shillings (the equivalent of about 20 euros), I arrive in Kampala.

I am so lucky to be hosted by Egyptian friends known before during some of my worldwide trips.

Beautiful Capitol

The beauty of the capital lies in its spontaneous and natural way of living: immersed in green hills, with bougainvillea adorning its streets, and a big amount of people in all corners: someone sits on the (few) sidewalks, someone lies on the grass under the shade of a tree, while others sell fresh eggs with a bucket on their shoulders.

But what you’ll see the most is the so-called boda boda: these local motorcycle drivers are really everywhere, in any corner of the city; sometimes they sprout suddenly like mushrooms and you only hear a voice from nothing asking you “where do you want to go?”. Helmets are optional.

View of Kampala city, Uganda.
View of Kampala city, Uganda.
Minibus parking in Kampala, Uganda.
Minibus parking in Kampala, Uganda.

The first stopover that I didn’t want to absolutely miss in the city center is the Taxi Park: minibus station. Hundreds of buses all stuck together, waiting to pick up passengers on board and leave.

“Wow”: the first thing I exclaimed seeing all that mass of people and minibusses in a single square. Voices and shouts about the various destinations of the buses as if we were at the market: “Entebbe!”, “Jinja”, “Kigali”, etc. But everything worked so perfectly that I was shocked. Hats off!

As a lover of local markets and the colors and smells they represent, I couldn’t help but feel the atmosphere of the Nakasero Market, where I literally walk between fruit, vegetable, and huge, green bananas!

I have never seen so many bananas all together in my life: I then discovered that Uganda is the first African country to produce them and that the banana plant is used to make fruit juices, beers, wine, flour and, also, cosmetics.

Visiting a market in Uganda.
Visiting a market in Uganda.

Not far from there, there is the Owino Market: perhaps the largest market I’ve ever visited, where I easily lose myself among the stalls, ending up discovering the world behind the processing of dried fruit and legumes.

I was so fascinated by the tons and tons of peanuts that were being prepared on a single day.

On Sunday I move a little farther north, specifically to Jinja: a village with an exotic name and home to one of the most famous rivers, the Nile.

Immersed in an infinite green valley, in fact, it lies the source of the second-longest river in the world.

Making gnuts at Owino Market, Kampala
Making gnuts at Owino Market, Kampala

My days in Jinja are colored by long walks in the middle of nature, between the magical singing of the bluebirds and the funny looks of monkeys, which seem to listen to you when you try to talk to them.

The connection with the uncontaminated nature, the animals and the spontaneity of the people give me so much tranquility and completeness that make me feel home. Not surprisingly, I also give names to monkeys. I swear I never wanted to leave!

The point of arrival of my journey is the town of Entebbe.

Crossing with a Fisherman

Entebbe is located right on Lake Victoria, of which I was able to experience the crossing the next day from the hotel where I resided to the airport, aboard a fisherman’s boat.

Wonderful lodge in Entebbe looking over Lake Victoria
Wonderful lodge in Entebbe looking over Lake Victoria

Simply unique! Not a touristic ride: it’s just you and the nature around you. Perfect.

As for Entebbe itself, well, I did not see much of it: having booked a small hotel far from the center, in the middle of local villages and directly on the lake, I preferred to give space to what Uganda was offering me better: the art for me more exciting, the nature itself.

Needless to visit the botanical garden, what I had around was simply the best I could ask for: children jumping from one place to another with the Tarzan style rope, women cooking eggs in the middle of the road and men sleeping in the shade of a baobab accompanied by the gentle rustling of trees in the wind.

Abandoned railroad line and natural landscape in Jinja Village, Uganda.
Abandoned railroad line and natural landscape in Jinja Village, Uganda.

I believe that the best part of each and every country are the people. Probably this is one of the first time I feel people are so genuine, with big smiles and shining eyes.

There are not many tourists, therefore, authenticity is still one of their big advantages.

A big invitation to visit authentic Uganda!

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