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As Kampala was the first African city Iʼd visited I knew I only half-knew what to expect (Iʼm in danger of turning in Donald Rumsfeld here -
half unknown, half knowns anyone?)
The noise, the hustle-and-bustle, the vivid colours, strange sights and smells, the contrast between rich and poor, and between old and new. Even the occasional
limbless beggar in the streets came as no surprise. Shock, yes; surprise, no.
I expected there to be some traffic jams, but not the virtual grid-lock we encountered at times. On the other hand the total lack of aggression shown by drivers towards each other
(in the reverse of the old Frost Report sketch, they drove like pedestrians) took some getting used to.
What I did not expect, apart from the Marabou Storks sitting on the lamp posts, was the absence of groups of disaffected young men hanging around
with nothing better to do than cause a nuisance.
The Ugandans seem very keen to embrace Western capitalism. I only hope they can find a way do do it without
pricing all the mobile phone card sellers, boda-boda drivers, and all other micro-scale entrepreneurs out of the market leaving them with no prospects.
The Uganda Museum is a nice old fashioned museum full of display cases containing a random selection of items.
Blessedly free of the kind of theme park "interpretive displays" that leave the visitor totally baffled as to what is a genuine artefact
and what is reconstruction, it contains a section on the Olympic Games and a Model T Ford, as well as the more usual mining, geology, history, anthropology, etc.
Garden City is Kampalaʼs newest and largest shopping mall. There is nothing particularly remarkable or unusual about it,
as shopping malls go (except, perhaps, the roof-top bar/café - donʼt get many of those in the UK).
What did surprise me was how comforting it felt to be back in familiar surroundings, away from all the exciting, but challenging,
experiences to be found in the rest of the city.
One of two large craft markets in Kampala (the other one being behind the national theatre near the Garden City complex),
Buganda Road Craft Market is run as a womenʼs co-operative giving the stall holders a degree of financial independence, and an opening into the retail sector.
Nearby is the 1000 Cups café, popular with the whites if only because it is one of the few places that specialises in coffee.
"African time" rules here, however, and it is not a place to visit if you are in a hurry.