I still find it surprising the amount of saunas you see in Uganda and especially in and around Kampala. A sauna appears to be a place where the Kampalan middle class will go to straight from work before going home.
Any hotel of a decent size has a sauna and a steam room. The idea of being totally naked for a sauna would be quite offensive to most Ugandans so you will be provided with a sheet or two to wrap around yourself. There is always an area to chill on chairs or loungers with lots of free drinking water and lemon tea available and if you really want beer and food. Rather annoyingly in the chill out areas there is always a TV and a at least one or more blokes wrapped in a sheet using his mobile phone which he was unable to prize himself away from even for a sauna.
These places almost invariably have at least one but more usually two masseurs, which costs extra but is usually about as much as a sauna. The quality of the massage I’ve had in Uganda varies from very good to very rough, and don’t be surprised if you are offered a “special massage”.
I have usually found that a sauna will cost between 5,000 and 10,000 UGX the bigger
hotels Like Grand Imperial and Equatoria obviously charge more but usually have a deal where you can get a monthly membership which is handy if you are staying in the Kampala area for some time.
Some saunas I have used in Kampala are The KK in Ntinda, Green Hotel in Zana, Already Hotel, Old Kampala but my favourite being Comfort Hotel in Old Kampala. This place also has a good bar and probably because it is next to the ONATRACOM Bus depot it sells big bottles of Primus Beer It is right next to the New Taxi Park and also very close to the Baguma Restaurant a place that I think sells the biggest portions of local food in Kampala. Sadly on my last trip in Jan 2013 I found that Comfort Hotel in Old Kampala has now turned their sauna into a bar!
The very colourful flag of Uganda is one of the most striking national flags of the world. It is comprised of 2 stripes each of Black, Yellow and Red and Red with a crested crane in full colour on a white disk in the middle. Black represents the African people, Yellow stands for sunshine and the Red symbolizes the brotherhood of man. The 3 colours were the colours of the Uganda People's Congress party, who came to power in elections in April 1962. The flag was officially adopted on the day of Uganda’s Independence from Britain on 9 Oct 1962. The crested crane was a symbol used for Uganda during colonial rule. Despite the many bloody upheavals and changes in political power – the flag has never been changed.
Uganda sits right on top of the Equator. That makes it hot every day of the year. Every day. Because Uganda is mountainous the temperature can vary a little bit. The highlands o the South West experience a cooler average temperature of 16° C while the North East temperatures exceeding 30° C about 254 days per year! Except for the North East corner of the country, rainfall is well distributed. The southern region has 2 rainy seasons, beginning in early April and again in October. June to December is relatively dry. The North has some rain between April and October is dry from November to March.
Near Lake Victoria rainfall exceeds 2,100 millimetres a year! The mountain regions of the South East and South West receive more than 1,500 millimetres of rain.
Even in dry months you can get a day’s rain especially near the lake. Have a light rain jacket and umbrella for any journeys to Entebbe or Kampala.
Popular all over east Africa not just Uganda is the mildly narcotic stimulant miraa. It is ridiculously cheap in Kampala.
If you fancy a chew the best place to buy miraa is behind the Nakivubo stadium not far from the restaurant called Nakivubo Uhuruu. you will see all the way up the alleys alongside the restaurant women who in the main look like they are all Muslim, selling the "flowers of paradise".
A good handful, worth 1000ugs is usually enough to do the biz for me. The idea is to chew the leaves with little bits of Big G (bubble gum) which helps to keep the green mass together in your mouth and so stop little bits from falling down the back of your throat. You are not supposed to swallow the leaves just chew them for a few hours then you will feel speedy for the rest of the night. Smart!
This is a great local custom. If you order a cup of coffee in Uganda, they bring you a little pot of coffee that holds about 3 cups. The prices are reasonably low so this is a great idea that just keeps getting better. The coffee? Gorgeous. They grow it here. I didn’t see any of those high-priced coffee multi-national chains and I hope they never come here. This picture was taken at the Imperial Hotel veranda in Kampala.
In Uganda they speak a lot of languages. English, Swahili, Bantu, up to at least 36 at last count. So how do you say “Thank You”? The guy at the petrol garage told me to say “Way Body”. Not sure how it’s actually spelled or what language – but it works! When ever I said this I did get a giggle, but a satisfactory smile. Someone told me this is actually old fashioned, but it seems to please people. Go for it.
Doing boda-boda job isn't easy because this guys have to be on the roads day and night under all wheater conditions. Their average charge for a ride is about 200 to 500 shillings, which is about 10 to 25 cents only. To get one euro only, they have to make five to ten rides! I am not sure they can earn more than 100 euros per month after covering all expensies.
Most of them virtualy live on their motorbikes. This is one of my favourite pictures from Kampala.
There are lots of beggars in Kampala, occupaing busy streets around the market place and city centre. Most of them are quiet, almost invisible and in some way polite. Some of them, especially woman, abuse little children for begging sending them after whites who pass by and it looks really ugly. Somebody should do something about because this poor kids do not deserve to be treated like that.
In spite of cheap sim-cards, the cell phone isn't affordable for the most of Ugandans. Local operators do not provide phones for free or small money, as it is in Europe, the client have to buy it in one of numerous shops paying it very dear. All phones, mostly second hand, are imported from Dubai and costs double or triple than in Europe.
It is why telephone booths can be seen all around the town and its outskirts. Most of them are in a shape of small tables or ugly wooden stalls, but there are also nice looking yellow coloured mobile booths like this one on the picture.
As already mentioned in my intro, Ugandans look to me like lulled into a deep sleep. Is it so all the time, not really, because the moment they see mzungu they are waked up. Mzungu means whiteman in swahili but to them it has one meaning only, the MONEY.
I had impression that everybody around wanted to take advantage of me, no matter wheater asking it (small money as they say it) or selling something. If paying for taxi or buying something you have to ask for a change, if not they wont give it to you. When strolling around, a lot of people ask me to give them money for food, transportation or whatsoever. The more you give the more they ask you, seems like they just cannot stop asking for more.
Marabou stork is one of the ugliest bird I have ever seen. The fact is, I am not much found of the birds, except for the falcons and eagels, but this one called Marabou is so ugly. They can be seen all around the town and nobody likes them. Besides ugly look, they make iritating and ugly sound too.
Not exactly a local custom but surprisingly popular in Uganda is going for a sauna.
My favourite place in Kampala is the K. K. Health Cub in Ntinda. Not easy to find unless you know where you are going. If you are coming from Kampala take a taxi to Ntinda and alight when you see the sign. The sign for the place is not so obvious but the sign for "Nob View Hotel" is easier to see (as seen in the photo).
Ugandans are very friendly and courteous. Also life moves at a slower pace. A matatu/bus/shared taxi will depart towards its destination only after it is full. Clearly, patience is of utmost importance in Uganda, especially if you are on budget travel.
Almost everyone in Uganda speaks English. When you go up to a person for any work (eg. asking for directions), it is common to first greet the person by saying "Hello" and shaking hands with him. It is also common to ask how they are doing and waiting for their response. It is after all the pleasantries are completed that the topic of the conversation comes up. It is also common to keep shaking hands during the pleasantries.