Fancy a Rolex?
The title sounds rather more generous than it actually is, as a 'rolex' is a popular form of Ugandan street food.
A Rolex comprises an omelette that has been rolled up in a roti (Indian flatbread) and then rolled into a convenient cylinder. The composition varies from vendor to vendor, but the most tasty also include some vegetables, and I particularly like mine with some sort of spicy relish to cut through the blandness of the egg and bread.
The rolex is an obvious nod to the sizeable Indian population of East and Central Africa, who arrived in the region as traders. Although Idi Amin infamously expelled Asians from Uganda in the 1970s, they play an important role in the economy of the Great Lakes region and have since been welcomed back, with much of their seized property being restituted.
Towers of 'Irish' potatoes!
Wherever you go in Uganda, you'll come across the curious term, 'Irish potatoes'.
When I first saw this on a menu, I assumed that it was just a particular way of preparing potatoes, but it turns out that the term is used generically for potatoes of all types in all their possible potato-ey incarnations.
I have no idea why they are called this - potatoes, after all, are originally from the Andes of South America - but I can only presume that this is a reference to the passion that Irish settlers had for their beloved staple carbohydrate.
The term is often abbreviated, so it can be a bit offputting to be offered a side order of 'Irish' with your meal!
Long distance runners are major celebrities
Most people outside East Africa would probably struggle to name a famous Ugandan - with the obvious exception of the murderous Idi Amin, who is memorable for all the wrong reasons ...
Stephen Kiprotich is the Ugandan that perhaps althletics fans would come up with, since his gold meal marathon win at the 2012 Olympic games in London. Not only did he win by nearly half a minute, but astonishingly, it was only his fourth marathon race EVER!
Kiprotich's victory evoked one of my favourite athletics memories ever from the 1972 Olympics in Munich, when John Akii-Bua won Uganda's first ever Olympic gold in a world record time, leaving the pre-race favourite, David Hemery of Britain, in his dust. Despite initially being feted (and promoted) by Idi Amin, poor Akii-Bua soon fell foul of this mercurial dictator and was later forced into exile in Kenya, where he spent time in a refugee camp before being rescued by Puma sports equipment firm, for whom he worked before returning to Uganda to work as an athletics coach. Long distance running is almost a religion in East Africa - and provides a rare opportunity for the most talented athletes to gain access to sporting scholarships and lucrative appearance fees on the international athletics circuit. Kenya and Ethiopia's sporting programmes are by far the best developed, and althletes such as Kiprotich from elsewhere in the Great Lakes region have to leave their home country for top flight training (in his case, in Kenya).
In researching this tip, I was sad to discover that Akii-Bua died in 1997, and was at least afforded a state funeral for his achievements.
With celebrity status come promotional opportunities - and although the contracts are likely to be laughable compared to the obscene amounts offered to Premier League soccer players or NBA stars, they're still significant in a country where a large percentage of the population hover around the poverty line. The contribution that sporting achievement on an international stage makes to bolstering national pride - particularly in developing world countries - is also hugely significant.
Snacking on the go
I love street food and find experimenting with local specialities to be one of the most rewarding aspects of travel, but there are times when even my cast iron peasant constitution is challenged by the variable hygiene of hawkers' wares.
This can be especially problematic if you're on a tight schedule and can't afford downtime to recuperate. For this reason, when travelling in places such as Central Africa, I tend to stick to food that is well cooked - such as grilled corn - or fruit that is peeled prior to eating, such as the bananas in the photo above.
To avoid contracting the sort of tropical disease that will be an unwelcome souvenir of your trip, take sensible precautions such as washing fruit with bottled water before eating and wash your hands regularly (particularly after shaking hands, although please handle this discretely to avoid offence): I usually carry a packet of baby wipes for this purpose. Also make sure that you've got your travel jabs up to date - as recommended by a travel medicine practitioner - before you leave so that you have some measure of immunity against the contagious diseases that you may be exposed to.
Charcoal grilled corn makes a good, cheap snack
(work in progress)
I'm a great fan of streetfood, but usually when you're travelling in Africa, hygiene can be a bit of an issue.
A notable exception are charcoal grilled cobs of sweetcorn, which are readily available throughout the region. They are the ultimate quick snack, being cheap, tasty and easy to eat and as they've been grilled, the risk of food contamination is negligible.
Uganda is ranked as the world's leading consumer of alcohol, 17,6 litres per capita. It is a very huge problem in this country and not easy to be resolved.
Waragi is a generic term for domestic distilled beverages and the base of waragi ditillate can be made from either cassava, bananas, millet or sugar cane. It is sort of gin and production could only be done with legal licences. Waragi was created to give the soldiers confidence to go into battle during the war. It is also called "enguli".
Besides the branded Uganda Waragi, the most popular are "Lira Lira" and "Kasese". Lira Lira is made from cassava flour and sugar cane, while Kasese is a potent banana gin.
There are many illegal distillers of waragi in the countryside, especially in the eastern part of Uganda. Illegal waragi is very strong and has a high amount of methanol which create multiple organ dysfunction and could be mortal for the consumers.
I have visited the village called Kaliro, about 40km north of Kampala, acompaigned by the local friend because otherwise it could be very risky to travel alone in that area. There are number of distilleries in that village producing waragi from bananas. It taste pretty good but is much stronger then UK gin.
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Marabou all around
At first I was curious and attracted by seeing such an big bird in the nest on the tree which is opposite to Imperial hotel, right in the heart of Kampala. But than in the next days I realized that marabou is some kind of domestic bird, alike stork in the central part of Europe. Marabou is from stork family, however much bigger bird than European storks and with very long and strong beak which inspires respect. It is called the undertaker bird due to its shape from behind.
Marabou live near human habitations because they have become dependent of human garbage. Marabou is frequent a scavanger and its natural home is savannah or game reserves where usually scavenging dead animal corps or attacking smaller animals or birds, flamingoe including.
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Primary school kids are probably very much alike all over the world, joyfull and playfull whenever stepping out of the classes. Spending much of times out in a fresh air and teaching about the environment, nature and life should be the best school programe for them. This kids from different schools and places came on a day trip to Entebbe, the same day when I was visiting Animal Orphanage. It was pleasant meeting them there.
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The kids from my neighbourhood
Maybe kids aren't more curious than adults are but kids showing it openly and without a hesitations. I was the only white who stayed in Naalya and later on some adults told me that I was the first white ever whom some kids have seen in live.
Swahili isn't widely speaking in Uganda, as it is in Kenya or Tanzania, but most people using swahili term of "mzungu" when mentioning whites. I was in Kenya before visiting Uganda and word mzungu wasn't strange to me at all.
At first kids were shy and reserved but very inquisitive. Smile could break all barriers and soon we become pals, I was welcomed and felt accepted. Not much of them do speak english and the communication wasn't very easy but we managed to overcome it with the help of mimics.
Although poor and in lack of almost everything, this kids have shown pride and never have ask anything from me. One day I bought a football ball in the town and gave it to this kids as a gift and in that very moment they probably were the happiest kids in the world. I had even to play soccer with them and some adults joined us too.
The next day I got a letter from the local priest with the invitation to join to the congregation since now I am a part of the community. I was very moved and have preserved that letter as a dear memory.
Ugandans might be poor but they have big open hearts, very friendly people indeed.
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Before my visiting there I had very wrong perception about Uganda! There are so many predjudices regarding Africa and its landscapes, I was almost convinced it is dry country and mostly covered by the desert areas. Uganda, surprisingly, is extremelly green country and has a very rich soil. It has very huge potentials in the agriculture, especially in cultivating fruits and vegetables.
This game is very popular among locals but unfortunatelly I didn't catch the name of it. It is game played by men exclusevely, never saw any women to play it. Guys usually play it around the market place and are followed by a crowd who support one or other player. Players are very skillfull and playing this game very fast. They told me it's the best way to shorten the time.
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Don't be surprised if girl is approaching to you when alone out on the streets, offering to show you around. Majority of them are ordinary girls, mostly students at the local univesity, whos idea is to get free lunch or small pocket money. They are usually very polite and kind and never crossing the line of good behaving. If company was enjoyable they could ask or admit to join you in some pub or nightclub.
There are, however, other kind of girls gathering in the certain clubs all over the city, Rock Garden and Al's are the most notorious. Most of the girls, one could meet there, are pro's although they don't have the same approach as street hookers or nightclub's birds in Europe.
Besides local girls, in such a places operating girls from Ruanda who, as I was awarned, are more or less all HIV positive. AIDS is huge problem in Uganda because of very low standard of the protections. Keep it in mind if willing to have more fun with both local girls and boys.
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Police arrogancy - Act two
This car, although droven by its owner, were violently pushed from the middle of the street and crashed into another car parked aside the street. The owner complained to the people around that was blamed by the police for causing this accident, although it was evident that he had nothing to do with it!
When the police officer saw me with my camera was asked if I took any photo? My camera was almost confiscated and I was said to leave the spot immediatelly.
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Police arrogancy - Act one
The first armoured police vehicle smashed this pick-up truck. According to the round standing eye witnesses and their comments, the police car drove fast and in a very arrogant way although it is a market place full of people and parked cars. I couldn't understand what they were talking about but the police officers were extremelly harsh blaming all passengers and parked cars which "disturbed" their demonstration of violence behaving towards the own citizens.
Police arrogancy - hope it was news of a day
I didn't follow tv program in Uganda, cannot say wheter this accident was news of a day on a local network, however, have read newspapers the next day. Belive it or not, there was short article on a front page with no details about the accident and, without any picture.
Why I am telling this? While I was taking this pictures a guy dressed in a normal suit approached to me asking to see what I did snaped. I pretended not to speak english answering him in my Croatian language. He insisted to see what did I snaped about the accident but I switched memory cards (have two type of cards in my Sony R1) displayed pictures I took the other day.
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