Tag Archives: Kampala

Chaos in the City

It’s the end of the month and time for a guest post. (How time flies!) We have the honour to present Gaia’s first post.



It is six pm in Kampala and traffic flow is at its peak. Ten hours earlier, at eight am, the situation was the same. The slow movement of cars, mini-vans and even large trucks on the congested roads has become more than a slight irritation. As the long lines forming across the city become longer and longer, with what seem like each passing day, more and more are anguished by this sudden increase in the number of vehicles on the road.

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The major roads in Kampala were constructed in the 1980s and the population at the time was 480,000. There is still little difference in the roads and road networking but the population has increased by more than 300%. Almost 1.5 million people now reside in Kampala central, with many more commuting daily into the city from Greater Kampala. So is it any wonder that there is a traffic surge when the width and number of our roads have stayed the same?

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The despondent motorists sit, clutching the steering wheel and inhaling the thick black smoke that is spit out by the vehicles ahead of them and watch with more than a little envy as those on motorcycles (commonly known as boda bodas) whiz past with smug looks on their faces. Of course, these boda bodas must stop at the front of the line. They swarm around the first car, waiting for a gap in the traffic to zoom off to the front of the next queue of cars. Adding to this horde of people and metal are salesmen who take advantage of the standstill and try to sell various goods to the motorists.
During these peak times of traffic flow, some motorists seem to toss away the idea of civility and begin to behave in an almost belligerent manner. Creating three lanes, all going in the same direction, on a road that can capacitate only one lane in each direction would be a fine example of this. The major culprits of this crime are the matatu (a 14-seater van) drivers. One of the most upsetting things about this loutish behaviour is when an emergency vehicle, especially an ambulance, is unable to get through the masses of cars and simply has to wait like the others while the life of another person is in jeopardy.
Many new cars and motorcycles are registered everyday and if expansion of roads does not take place soon, could the traffic flow in Kampala come to a complete standstill? Perhaps the government will suggest implementing high tolls for motorists, but is this the right solution? A better way to approach it could be through improving the city’s public transport system or through expanding the roads. Making public transport safer would encourage more people to use the provided services and therefore reduce the number of vehicles on the road. Expansion would lead to smooth flow of traffic and reduce bottlenecks.

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It’s not all bad news though! The Uganda National Roads Authority is definitely on the right track to improving the situation. The expansion of the Northern Bypass in Kampala is one such example and there are many other projects in the pipeline for the UNRA: But for now: sit tight, put on that radio and imagine that the car horns bleeping around you are an accompaniment to the music!



28 Feb 2014

Performance by Ndere Troupe – A visual treat indeed!

Dance has always been a passion for me. However, my first encounter with dance did not go well. 🙂 When I was just three years, I was put in a dance class run by my school as an after class activity. To my surprise I still have a vague memory of that class packed with 25–30 children of different age groups, trying to copy what the instructor was doing. I got so disillusioned after the first class that I adamantly refused to go to the class any more. Then at the age of eight I had the opportunity to join a professionally run dance school (apparently my parents recognised the interest I I have in dance) and from then onwards dance has always been a part of my life. Never miss a chance to perform or watch various dance genres.
Dance has always been an important part of celebrations, ceremony and entertainment. It’s difficult to say when dance has become a part of human culture. The Egyptian tomb paintings depicting dancing figures from 3300 BCE and 9000 year old Bhimbekta rock shelters paintings in India indicate the prevalence of dance even in prehistoric times. Dance figurines were a permanent feature of ancient temple architecture.
Dances are usually performed as a mode of expression, as part of healing rituals or as an offering to God. Dance forms are also used as a tool to communicate with people about social evils, prohibiting the progress of the society. Ballet, bharatnatyam, hip hop, rumba belly dance, calypso, gigue, lap dance… there are sooo many varieties of dance we enjoy today.
The entertaining performance of traditional Ugandan dance and music by Ndere Troupe is what initiated these thoughts on various dance forms. I’d watched traditional Ugandan dances many a time. But getting to enjoy the playing of musical instruments, singing and dancing in a serene ambience in the amphitheatre at the Ndere Centre was an entirely unique experience. To quote from Ndere Troupe’s website, “In Africa written words didn’t exist, thus Africa’s cultural history, literature, knowledge and wisdom were recorded and passed on to succeeding generations through the medium of performing arts music, dance, storytelling and poetry.”


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The programme started with playing of various instruments and singing.

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Kiganda dance from Buganda was originally only to be performed by the people of Obutiko clan and only in the palace.

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Dance of Bunyoro tribe. Bunyoro tribe belongs to the Toro region in Western Uganda. This is a courtship dance. Men and women sit around a fire reciting poems. Then men start dancing in front of each girl and the luckiest one gets chosen.

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Banyankole are the people who belong to the Ankole tribe, one of the four traditional tribes of Uganda. They are from South Western Uganda. This region is also famous for the Ankole cows with their distinctive curved horns.

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Dancers of Alur tribe hail from north western Uganda. One of the main instruments they play is called an Adungu.

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These are the dancers of the Acholi tribe. They belong to the Luo Nilotic ethnic group from northern Uganda.

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The percussion ensemble from Burundi , another east African country, was quite amazing. They came in balancing the heavy log drums on their heads drumming and singing. These drums are made from the trunks of a tree which grows only in Burundi.

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Intore (the dance of heroes) is the most famous traditional dance form of Rwanda, another east African country.

It was a visual treat indeed. This post will not be complete unless I mention the tasty Ugandan meal which we all enjoyed after the performance.


10 Feb 2014

My Pawpaw Man


Fruits and Vegetables here in Kampala, Uganda, really excite me. They are so fresh and good and come straight from the farms. I do prefer to shop at the vegetable market in Nakassero mainly frequented by expats. However, it is a bit of a pain going to Nakassero market unless one is chauffeured around as getting hold of a parking space in that area is as difficult as getting hold of an ostrich egg.


On my visits to Nakassero market I always came across a man who sits on the floor by the corner of a shop with a small heap of pawpaws/ papayas in front of him, calling out to customers. To his disappointment my response was always negative as the smell of papaya was one of the few things I couldn’t stand. Every time I go to the market he’ll be there trying to sell pawpaws to me. Then finally one day I was so amazed to see how determined and good he was in his marketing skills, I budged. Marketing managers take note, there are a few lessons you can learn from him.

He was so happy to sell a huge pawpaw to me that he gave me another one as a ‘bonus’. 🙂 (Bonus in Ugandan parlance is a giveaway, a free gift!)


Once I got home I tried a few pieces of the pawpaw on the insistence of my house help, Rose. Though I can’t say I became an ardent fan of the pawpaw, I don’t mind some but not to the extent of using a papaya face pack. I’m happy that I’m a convert when you consider the health benefits of Papaya. Thank you, my Pawpaw Man… “Weebale Ssebo!”


13 Jan 2014