Cultural Attractions

The Museum

Established in 1908, the Uganda National Museum is the oldest in East Africa and perhaps the best in the region. It has a range of ethnographic collection covering agriculture, hunting, war and religion. There are also archaeological and natural history displays, and a collection of interesting traditional musical instruments. It’s found in the Kampala city suburb of Kamwokya on Kiira road. The traditions library is one of the many cherished treasure that the country boasts of.

The Uganda National Cultural Centre

Popularly known to many as “The National Theatre”, the Uganda National Cultural Centre is the birthplace for the country’s performing arts. The UNCC was constructed in the 40’s and until the 80’s it was the only place where performers would get on stage to do their thing. 

The Kasubi Tombs

This royal burial site is very significant to the Buganda cultural history. In 1882, Kabaka Muteesa relocated his palace to Nabulagala hill and renamed it Kasubi Hill after his birth place some 50km away. When he died in 1884, Kasubi Hill was abandoned in accordance with Buganda custom upon the death of a King who was then buried there.  Mwanga who succeeded him established a new capital at Mengo Hill which is still the kingdom’s capital to this day. But when he died in 1910, in a break from tradition, Kasubi rather than Mengo was the burial place of Mwanga and after him more kings. The tombs of Daudi Chwa II who ruled from 1879 to 1939 (after his father Kabaka Mwanga was forced into exile and is the youngest Kabaka ever in the kingdom’s history at the age of four years) and Edward Muteesa II who died in 1969 in exile in London but whose body was returned to Uganda in 1971 are at Kasubi. Constructed in the original palace of Muteesa, it contains several huts of Buganda traditional architecture built from poles, reed, thatch and bark. The tombs have an enviable collection of relics from a royal past such as artifacts which range from traditional music instruments, weapons, shields and spears. They are maintained traditionally by the various wives of the Kings who were polygamous, but today by descendants of the long dead Queens. Many of the wives of the various Kings, their sisters and relations are also buried here but not in the main palace. The tombs are a UNESCO heritage world site and are found in central Uganda in Kampala at Kasubi a city surbub, and are open to visitors. 

The Wamala Tombs 

Wamala is little known compared to Kasubi and not as well tended but is an equally fascinating place for a spot of culture. It is the resting place of Kabaka Muteesa I’s father and Ssuuna his predecessor.  The tomb is housed in an attractive, traditional, thatched and domed building. Opposite the main building stands the tomb of Nnamasole (Queen mother), King Ssuuna’s mother who is reputed to have been an extraordinarily beautiful woman whom the King was so fond and possessive of.  Displayed is an array of royal artifacts which include spears, shields, drums and other musical instruments. It’s found in the outskirts of Uganda’s capital Kampala in Nansana.

 

Religious Buildings

There are several prominent religious structures of interest. Notable among these are the huge domed Roman catholic Rubaga Cathedral on Rubaga Hill which is the head quarter of the catholic church in Uganda, the twin-towered Anglican Namirembe Cathedral on Namirembe Hill, the elaborate and enormous Hindu Temples in the city centre, the beautiful Baha’i Temple outside the city, the gleaming white Kibuli Mosque dominating Kibuli Hill and the exquisite Gaddafi Mosque named after late Libyan President Colonel Muammar Gaddafi because his benevolent funding built the mosque. All of these buildings are captivating but Baha’i Temple is distinct because it’s the only one of its kind in the whole of Africa and consequently, the continent’s religious home for all Baha’i faithful. It’s located on Kikaaya Hill 6 km from Kampala City on Gayaza road. At Baha’i Temple just like at the other religious buildings, not only will its beauty be appreciated but an understanding of this obscure faith is enabled.

 

Namugongo Catholic Martyrs Shrine

Namugongo was a major execution site for followers of the Christian faith in pre-colonial Buganda and death was by hacking and or burning. Before emergence of foreigners, Buganda and other societies practiced African religion and steeped in myth, superstition, witchcraft and the supernatural. But with the coming of foreigners, other religions were introduced and converts soon grew. The first foreigners were the Arabs who were Islam and Mwanga converted to the new faith. Next came the Europeans of the Christian faith- Roman Catholics and Protestants, shortly after each other but also got new followers. Mwanga zealous to protect his new faith rounded up a number of his subjects- men and women, young and old, among whom were a good number of his pages, and marched them half naked to Namugongo where he asked them to renounce their faith in exchange for clemency. One final opportunity to renounce their new faith was given on the morning of 3rd June whether this opportunity was taken remains unknown for there are no records. However, for the 26, majority of who were catholic obstinately refused. The end was a gruesome one, preceded by the on spot hacking and burning of Charles Lwanga (popular known to the Baganda as Kalooli Lwanga) the leader of the Catholics. And the remaining were burnt later in the day, tightly bound and thrown into a pyre alive. Among these was the young fourteen year Kizito. It’s worth noting that among the converts killed was also the son of the Kabaka’s right hand terror initiator known as Mukaajanga. Mukaajanga in vain tried to persuade his son out of this suicide mission knowing what lay ahead for these stubborn followers of Christ. The shrine was built in their memory and yearly Christians from all over the world make a pilgrimage to the site and those from East Africa - Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania trek .It’s found in Namugongo a few minutes drive from Kampala. 

 

Ntusi and Bigo Bya Mugenyi Earthworks 

Ntusi is the site of what was the most ancient large human settlement which even predates the Bachwezi known as the first people. Although evidence of iron smelting, ivory and wood carving and large amounts of pottery have been found, one of the most unusual findings at Ntusi is a small fired clay cylinder covered in knobs- thought to have been used for ritual divination, and the Ntusi Mounds which are two immense mounds locally known as the male and female mound. Excavations have shown them to be deposites of over 300 years. There are several scraped depressions scattered around the village, the largest being the 20m deep Bwogero depression which lies 150m from the male mound.  

Bigo Bya Mugenyi is the largest and most archaeologically important. Bigo Bya Mugenyi literally tanslates to mean “ Fort of the Stranger” but according to tradition, the earthworks were excavated to protect the Chwezi Empire from incursion from the foreign Luo from Sudan. Most of the earthworks are deep and excavated from solid rock. Found in Fort Portal,  Ntusi is a walkable distance from the District Head quarters whereas Bigo is much further and can be got to in a 4X4, although a bicycle is the best way to get there.  Ntusi and Bigo are worth visiting for their historical and archaeological importance.