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50 reasons why I love Uganda

Oct 6 • 43927 views • 61 Comments on 50 reasons why I love Uganda Adventure, Africa, African bus journeys, African food, birds, Conservation, gorillas, Kampala, Lake Victoria, Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, River Nile, Society and culture, Source of the Nile, Travel, Travel tips and advice, Uganda, Uganda Conservation Foundation, wildlife

As one of the shiny new fighter jets flies over my house, no doubt practising for this Tuesday’s independence day fly-past, I’m mulling over the week-end papers, full of stories about Uganda@50 and what the last 50 years of independence have meant to Uganda. Is the country better or worse off as an independent nation? What does the future hold? Will the celebrations be hijacked by anti-government protesters? Will there be tears before bedtime?

I’m no expert on Ugandan politics (although the muzungu is very proud of her politics degree from SOAS) – so let’s leave the analysis to the pundits and have some fun.

So, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of independence, I thought I’d share with you my top 50 reasons why I Love Uganda.

I Love Uganda logo

I Love Uganda! ’tis true

1. Airtime. Everywhere you go, every shop, bar or streetcorner can sell you mobile phone credit, for as little as 200 shillings (a few cents or pennies).

2. Boda boda. There are 100,000 of these motorbike taxis in Kampala. Huge fun but use with extreme caution. Don’t expect them to hang around if you have an accident.

Boda bodas Uganda

Boda bodas Uganda

3. Birds, birds birds. I LOVE BIRDS! And Uganda has over 1000 species: pretty, beautiful, stunning, huge, noisy, elegant, comical, graceful, they’re all here.

4. Bus Journeys. Hmmm am I crazy? Frankly, any bus journey could be your last but one of my favourite memories is taking a bus from Kasese down to Butogota. 10,000 shillings for a free Safari as we drove down through Maramagambo Forest sighting elephants. Ahh.

5. Cappuccino. I love Ugandan coffee, just don’t serve me Star coffee powder!

6. Chimps at Ngamba Island. I fell in love with the hilarious chimps.

7. Dancing. Africans invented dance! Try keeping me off the dancefloor.

8. Dogs – ‘the boys’ Baldrick and Percy. These recycled street dogs light up my day. Always happy to see me, following me around until I give them what they want – food and a chance to escape the compound and chase a goat.

9. Driving in Kampala. Yes the traffic is a nightmare, yes the potholes wreck your car, but there’s something quite liberating about driving through this city at times. Careering over the wrong side of the road to dodge potholes can be fun, let’s be honest!

10. Dung Beetles rock!

Dung beetles

11. Elephants brought me to Uganda. (Yeah I know, most people would just get on a plane!)

Bull elephant along the Kazinga Channel, Queen Elizabeth National Park - why I love Uganda

Bull elephant feeding along the Kazinga Channel. Can you spot the hippo hiding in front of him?

12. Food menus. Guaranteed entertainment. A menu is simply a guide to what may possibly be available at one given point in time. It does not reflect what is actually in the kitchen.

13. Fruit and vegetables. Huge, fresh, tasty and cheap.

14. Gorillas. I enjoyed the trek through the rainforest as much as meeting Bwindi’s Gentle Giants.

15. Grasshoppers taste greasy and smoky (best dry fried in chilli I’m told).

The muzungu's first taste of grasshoppers - why I love Uganda

The muzungu’s first taste of grasshoppers

16. Greetings! I love the time and care Ugandans take to greet each other properly.

17. The Grey Crowned Crane – or Crested Crane – is Uganda’s iconic national symbol. The Crested Crane may well be extinct in Uganda within just 20 years, if degradation of the wetlands is not stopped. NatureUganda is leading the campaign to Save the Crane.

18. Jane Bussman is a British comedy writer campaigning to have Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA, caught. She’s on the ball and she’s hilarious.

19. Jinja, Source of the Nile, interesting colonial architecture, a market that is less congested than Kampala’s – and location for some memorable weekends at Nile River Camp.

20. Kampala Hash House Harriers have taken me to every bar, club – and slum! – across Kampala. The ‘drinking club with a running problem’ meets every Monday night.

21. Kibale Forest is where my friend Julia calls home, ideally at the top of a tree!

22. Lake Victoria. The world’s second largest freshwater lake – and the largest on the African continent – is where we taught our dogs to swim. Even as my feet crunched onto the tiny snails on the lake bed, I seem to have so far avoided Bilharzia! Can dogs catch it too?

A fisherman passes the beach at Munyonyo, Lake Victoria - why I love Uganda

A fisherman passes the beach at Munyonyo, Lake Victoria

23. Lions. Breathtaking – and a lot bigger in real life!

24. Mongooses experience in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

25. Mount Elgon. An unexpected wilderness experience, we climbed through seven habitats in four days and passed only two other groups of people. Would I do it again? Yes. Would I climb Margherita in the Rwenzori’s? One day maybe, but not without getting a LOT fitter first …

26. Muchomo roasted meat. No ‘gizzards’ (entrails) for me. I’m an occasional “chicken on a stick” woman.

27. Mighty Murchison Falls. Isn’t it annoying when you’ve heard the hype, and feel disappointed when you get there? GUARANTEE: You cannot be disappointed when you get to the top of the Falls!

28. Music booming out from the church on Sunday morning can drive you to distraction. I love Ugandan music – but no idea what I’m singing along to!

29. Namuwongo. Once maligned as a no-go area of Kampala (I found out after living there for a year), I love Namuwongo. Squashed between the industrial area and smarter Muyenga, it’s where I first fell in love with Uganda.

30. Owino market has everything you could ever want to buy, but it’s hard work.

31. Power cuts can drive you crazy. But the romance of candlelight has its moments 😉

32. River Nile. “Bring it on!” I screamed on my first Grade 5 white water rafting expedition. Second time around, I invited a friend to take my place; third time rafting, and I bailed out as the biggest rapids approached! Feeling nervous, learning to trust your guide, screaming with laughter as you successfully (or not!) negotiate the rapids, you’ll certainly never forget a day on the Nile.

33. Rollex or ‘rolled eggs’ – an omelette rolled up in a chapati – is my favourite street food. Bigger than a snack, although no self respecting Ugandan could possibly call a Rollex a meal (since that should be served on a plate at a table). Rollex taste best at midnight in Kabalagala on the way home from a bar 😉

34. Safari. Every Safari is different. To say that you have “done X Park” when you visited for a day or two just doesn’t make sense. I can’t get enough game drives!

Rothschild's Giraffe, Murchison Falls National Park

Rothschild’s Giraffe, Murchison Falls National Park

35. Sense of humour. Ugandans can charm the pants off you. Difficult situations tend to be dealt with humour, so refreshing after living in London where people resort to shouting and swearing.

36. Simpson. My ‘Ugandan brother‘ has been with me through thick and thin (in fact he became very thin when he was a student, going without food so he could afford the fare to university). He’s my hero! His graduation is 20th of October, and I have a front seat. I’m so proud of him. But wait – next up he’s going to be a pop star!

37. Smoking. Oh yes. Cigarettes are cheap and we spend most of our time outside. No stuffy rules to worry us!

38. Snakes. Would I like to find one in my shower? No, but they do fascinate me.

39. Sunrise and Sunset. A reason to get up early and a reason to have a drink in your hand 😉

40. Tilapia. Best eaten whole, with your hands, on the lake edge at Ggaba.

41. Totems. Having the Ugandan name ‘Nagawa’ – thanks to my friend Rashid – has been a huge icebreaker. It’s given me hours of fun. I’m therefore a member of the Nkima red tailed monkey clan.

42. Uganda Conservation Foundation. Anti-poaching and human wildlife conflict – a.k.a. anything to do with elephants – is the mission of UCF, whom I volunteered with for nearly three years.

43. Uganda Museum. Dusty and under resourced, the Museum is still a gem. I’ve fallen for its charms.

display of spears at the Uganda Museum

The Uganda Museum contains historical and cultural artefacts – and even the country’s first printing press!

44. Uganda souvenir photo map. This great fun project keeps my creative heart thumping. I’ve just created a new Uganda souvenir photo  map gallery page on Facebook.

45. Uganda Waragi is a triple distilled ‘war gin.’ Handbag size bottles available ladies 😉

46. Uglish. Otherwise known as Ugandan English, this language gives us – expats and Ugandans alike – endless laughs. I tried to keep a straight face when Janero told me he had “pregnanted his girlfriend.”

47. UWEC Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (once Entebbe Zoo) has a cafe overlooking the beach. Everything seems to be sold out by the time I get there – but the view’s worth it. You can see virtually all of Uganda’s big mammals at UWEC.

48. Vultures are ugly but our health depends on them. Fascinating!

49. Weather. Even when it rains, the sun comes out a few minutes later.

50. Writing Diary of a Muzungu has kept me distracted (when Ugandan TV couldn’t) and kept me sane (kind of!) when life hasn’t gone to plan. Thank you so much to everyone who reads this. You make the late nights and the missed week-ends all worthwhile.

50 reasons why I love Uganda – and I could have found more! So  tell me what would be in your top 50 things you love about Uganda?

– I know my Ugandan friends will scream MATOKE! (steamed green banana – compulsory eating!)

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61 Responses to 50 reasons why I love Uganda

  1. jamie says:

    I have. been in uganda all my life damn didnt it had such beautiful sights …

  2. […] 50 reasons why I love Uganda From – Today, 8:26 AM As one of the shiny new fighter jets flies over my house, no doubt practising for this Tuesday's independence day fly-past, I'm mulling over the week-end papers, full of […]… […]

  3. TASH says:

    How about the plantain? Gonja!

    The politics thats almost comical?

    The millet porriage/bread and eshabwe from Ankole?

    • the muzungu says:

      Roasted Gonja – yes! hot and sweet plantain, YUM, one of my favourite snacks too! Especially when you pick them from the roadside – my favourite place is the marketing centre before Mabira 🙂
      Ugandan politics? OMG, do I really want to go there??! Certainly high entertainment value!
      Now you got me tho … what is eshabwe?
      The Muzungu (also known as Runyankore, allegedly because of the size of the KABINA!)

  4. Stephen Masaba says:

    You forgot to add ” imbalu” bagisu traditional circumcision dance from eastern uganda and our favorite sauce “malewa” – bamboo shoots

  5. Guide2Uganda (@Guide2Uganda) says:

    We love your post! Thanks for spreading the good news about our beautiful country! Looking forward to seeing everyone #VisitUganda

  6. […] The Muzungu: boda bodas feature in my 50 reasons why I love Uganda […]

  7. […] love Namuwongo, it’s where I first fell in love with Uganda but I’m sure many Ugandans would shudder hearing that. Like many other Kampala slums, […]

  8. […] Diary of a Muzungu readers may remember my love-hate relationship with the Kingfisher that has been waking me up at […]

  9. The Muzungu’s Best of 2012! says:

    […] A wave of patriotism flooded Uganda in 2012 as the country celebrated 50 years of independence. Needless to say it also brought up a lot of discontent, mostly aimed at the current regime’s 26 years in power. My contribution to the party? 50 reasons why I love Uganda. […]

  10. Uganda Trips says:

    You forgot to mention the feel of bungee jumping at the source of the Nile. Its a good way to scare away the euphorbia for heights and is the only thing you can do and feel scared to death in the begin and yet enjoy at the end. !!!!!!

    • the muzungu says:

      I haven’t been bungeejumping yet, so perhaps that’s why I didn’t include it? White water rafting can give you a similar feel tho can’t it? Terror followed by elation!

  11. Paul says:

    I think u r funny and comical yourself! just as you describe the ugandan politics! just to mention, the triple distilled ‘war gin’ known as Uganda Waragi is a favorite among drunkards here in Kigali. Thanks for the blog

    • the muzungu says:

      Hello Paul, thanks for the appreciation! How is Kigali today? It seems a bit TOO organised to me – in comparison to Kampala!
      I see that WAR GIN obviously travels well – I always take a few small bottles home to friends when I’m in the UK 🙂

  12. […] Oct 6 › 50 reasons why I love Uganda » […]

  13. Kakoma says:

    Hahahahaha, this is quite a list..complete with a photo after eating nsenene. Great read

  14. Dhiraj says:

    Was fascinating to see the comments of a Muzungu. I left Uganda 42 years ago in 1972 following the expulsion and have not been back since then.

    • the muzungu says:

      Hi Dhiraj, “thanks for the appreciation.” I wonder how you would find the country today? I’ve never written about the Indian community in Uganda, nor the expulsions of 1972. It would be fascinating to hear your story. If you ever plan a return visit, do get in touch!

  15. Diisi says:

    Muzungu thanks for your list of 50. Apparently you missed fresh roasted maize. What about roasted pork?

    • the muzungu says:

      Hi Diisi, thanks for the appreciation! Hmmm, I like roasted maize, but often I find it is too hard and I’m worried about breaking my teeth! In the UK, we usually boil it and serve it with butter. As for pork, “silya enyama” I don’t eat meat – although since coming to Uganda I do eat chicken. Now that I DO like 🙂

  16. Yuheng says:

    Hi Charlotte, I have just moved to Kampala this week – and reading your blog has definitely given me some ideas as to how to spend the year- thanks!! Am even tempted by the hash house harriers… although perhaps need to acclimatise first…!

    • the muzungu says:

      Hi Yuheng, tx for commenting! I have loads of ideas on days out, activities and adventure in and around Kampala & Uganda generally. Feel free to inbox me any time… Or maybe I will see you at the Hash one Monday night? We run from 6 PM every Monday and have the occasional Saturday / w/e run too. We choose a different venue every week, so contact me or Google KH3 / Kampala Hash House Harriers for more info. Enjoy Kampala!

  17. the muzungu says:

    Happy Independence Day Uganda!
    This post continues to be one of my most popular ones.
    51st reason I love Uganda: watching Ugandans jump all over “The Journey” monument on the Kololo Airstrip at the 2013 Marathon. It’s your monument after all, isn’t it? 🙂
    Reason I love Uganda no. 52: to time with this year’s 52nd anniversary celebrations: I’m nominating Kampala City Festival. I attended for the first time this year (Sunday 5th October) – what a brilliant event! Possibly 1 million Ugandans were on the street partying. Woo you guys can DANCE! The Muzungu started shaking her kabina, to the deafening screams of some very appreciated teenage girls! Hilarious.
    Check out the Kampala City Festival photo album on my Diary of a Muzungu Facebook page

  18. […] Blogging is my arena in which to make mistakes, to win new clients and make new friends, to learn new skills, to tell the world WHAT AN AMAZING PLACE UGANDA IS. […]

  19. […] days drinking Snakebite in the ‘Nelson Mandela bar’ to SOAS, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Uganda, Mandela remains an inspiration to […]

  20. Miranda from The Pineapple Farm says:

    Wow, Uganda sounds like a very interesting place. A country with an abundance of delicious fruits where you can see chimps, gorillas and elephants is my kind of country!

  21. lizziema says:

    I love Uganda too! Can’t wait to get back for another visit dear Mzungu

  22. Ann rich says:

    Hi there thank you for your interesting blog I go every year live in the slums with my African adopted family thinking of living there. they stole my heart, love helping and being with them. Feel so humbled I am a pensioner. But help all the time send parcels when possible. My dream is to open a house for abandonned babies before I die. Thank u keep up the good work. Xblessings

    • the muzungu says:

      Dear Ann, Thanks very much for your positive comments.
      My friends who work in adoption advise me to tread very carefully indeed. There is a lot of need, but many unscrupulous organisations – and many so-called orphans are not orphans at all but have extended family willing to take on and nurture these children as their own.
      For more information, please have a look at the Facebook page Alternative Care Uganda
      Another excellent organisation that I’m quite familiar with is Child’s I Childs I Foundation

  23. Maritah says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this piece.
    It gave me great laughs and a yearning to explore my beautiful country.

  24. […] Regular Diary of a Muzungu readers may remember my love-hate relationship with the Kingfisher that woke me up at 5.30 am PRECISELY every day for almost 4 years. I frequently curse him but I thought I’d lost him at one point – as I explain in the Kingfisher and I. […]

  25. Mangok Aliap Chawul says:

    Litle fact about Ug, you never loved Ug while there but u will definitly feel like it world best place you have ever been in once you are out of Uganda.

    • the muzungu says:

      Well that’s an interesting perspective.
      I’m guessing that you mean if you’re Ugandan, you miss the country if you travel?
      I rarely get homesick for the UK. It’s only when I travel back there that I realise I miss it!

  26. […] brilliant East Africa Tourist Visa and Interstate Pass mean that travel between Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda has become cheaper for tourists and expats. Cue: a lot more travel around the […]

  27. […] readers of Diary of a Muzungu will know how much I enjoy venturing off the beaten track and sharing my favourite Uganda travel experiences. Here is my Guide to eating fish, Lake Victoria, Kampala – a few day out ideas you won’t […]

  28. Mary Babirye says:

    I loved reading your diary! Respectful but with a great sense of humor in expressing the sometimes bizarre Ugandan culture and practice. You make me miss home sooooo much…..

  29. Moses Ankunda says:

    Hillarious blogs. This is our UG, where anything and everything happens at their own pace. We love you Mzungu & I also thank you for the experience you shared on Radio Sanyu 2 days ago. You had hooked yourself a Ugandan hunk, Sorry for his rastafarian ways….i cant finish this comment as i will end up in stitches 🙂

    • the muzungu says:

      Hello Moses, Uganda certainly is unique! U for Uganda, U for UNIQUE! Referring to my rasta dating blog, like I always say, I have big respect for the genuine Rastafarians. It’s these fake ones that annoy me… (my gripe is with opportunists and conmen!)
      Glad you enjoyed the radio show with Fat Boy and Nina. What a laugh. Hoping to get a recording of it which I will share on my Diary of a Muzungu Facebook page.

  30. […] the 50th anniversary of Uganda’s independence from British rule. I celebrated this with a blog “50 reasons why I love Uganda” – I could easily have found another 50 […]

  31. […] to the menu by Executive Chef Eduardo Frausto Cornish –  included gatogo (or ‘katogo’ in Uganda), kahunga (ugali) and Uganda’s famous rollex (“rolled eggs”) of an omelette served in a […]

  32. […] you’ve read my “50 reasons why I love Uganda” you’ll know that creating a one-minute video to encapsulate all of that would be […]

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