Fondly known as the green city in the sun, Kampala commercial and administrative capital of Uganda. Spread over more than twenty hills, it is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa.
Its architecture is a mixture of the modern, the colonial and the Indian. Its roads are its two million inhabitants.
Sitting at an altitude of 1,180m above sea level, it enjoys pleasant weather, with annual temperatures averaging 17 degrees Celsius (minimum) and 27 degrees Celsius (maximum).
To the south is Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest fresh water lake and the source of the longest river in the world, the River Nile.
The history of Kampala, like that of many other cities in the world, is wrapped in both folklore and historical facts.
According to folklore, swamps and hills dominated much of the area where it presently stands.
This made it an ideal habitat for Impala and other members of the antelope family. The animals grazed on the slopes of the hills and came down to the swamps for water. The palace of the Kabaka (king) of Buganda, located on the landscape rich in Impala herds. The king thus turned it into his hunting grounds.
Folklore merged with history when the British Empire builders arrived at the end of the 19th century.
“Impala” was the English name for that particular antelope family. So the British referred to the area as the “hill of the Impala”, which the Baganda translated into Luganda as “kasozi k’empala” and eventually “kampala”. Kasozi means hill.
So whenever the kabaka left the palace to go hunting his favorite game, royal courtiers would say “the kabaka has gone to Kampala to hunt”, thus the name was born.
The tag “the hill of the Impala”, however, specifically referred to the hill on which colonial victory, Captain Fredrick Lugard, of the Imperial British East African Company, established base in 1890.
Now known as Old K'la, this hill would be the administrative headquarters of the company (and Uganda) until 1894 when the administrative headquarters of the British Protectorate were transferred to Entebbe.
In 1962 upon attainment of independence, it regained its status as the capital of Uganda. From a small hamlet occupying 19 square kilometers, it had spread to seven hills by the time of independence, earning the tag “city of seven hills”.
The original seven hills are: Mengo, Rubaga, Namirembe, Makerere, Kololo, Nakasero, and Kampala (Old K'la).
Today, greater Kampala stands on at least 21 hills. We take you through the prominent hills that form the modern day capital and their signature to the city’s political and socio-economic life, starting with the original seven.
The main campus of Makerere University, one of East and Central Africa's premier institutes of higher learning, can be found in the Makerere Hill area of the City. Kampala is also home to the headquarters of the East African Development Bank, located on Nakasero Hill.
Like many cities, Kampala is said to be built on seven hills, although this isn't quite accurate.
- The first hill in historical importance is Kasubi Hill, which is where the Kasubi Tombs of the previous Kabakas are housed.
- The second is Mengo Hill where the present Lubiri (Kabaka's Palace) is and the Headquarters of the Buganda Court of Justice and of the Lukiiko, Buganda's Parliament.
- The third is Kibuli Hill, which is home to the Kibuli Mosque. Islam was brought to Uganda before the Christian missionaries came.
- The fourth is Namirembe Hill, home to the Namirembe Anglican Cathedral. The Protestants were the first of the Christian Missions to arrive.
- The fifth is Rubaga Hill, where the Rubaga Catholic Cathedral is, and was the headquarters of the White Fathers.
- The sixth Nsambya, was the Headquarters of the Mill Hill Mission. It now houses Nsambya Hospital.
- The seventh, the little hill of Kampala, the hill of the Impala is where the ruins of Lugard's Fort were. However, the ruins were recently destroyed (2003), when the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) started on reconstruction of a 15,000-seater mosque on land that included the fort. The mosque was begun by Idi Amin but was never completed. The fort was then re-located to a nearby area (a new and similar one constructed), a move that has since been a source of controversy between The Historic Buildings Conservation Trust (HBCT) of Uganda and the UMSC. The UMSC was given the gazetted land as a gift by President Idi Amin in 1972 during its inauguration. This hill is where Kampala got its name.
The City spread to Nakasero Hill where the administrative centre and the wealthiest residential area is.