Entertainment in Kampala
Entertainment is integral to Ugandan life. People in cities seem to live for fun. They work and get money then they make a beeline for the entertainment spots. After the war in 1986, freedoms that had been suppressed by the old dictatorial regimes were reclaimed and Ugandans felt it was time to live for entertainment.
Kampala is so taken with music at the moment. This could be for a season as we have shown in the past that we go with anything that seems to be good at a time. Music has taken over the forms of entertainment as the number one option. Weekends are the biggest days for entertainment and for the average Kampala denizen, the weekend starts very early on Friday. By 7.00pm beer is flowing freely in bars including makeshift roadside bars. Kampala loves to dance and most nightclubs are open from Tuesday to Saturday. University students form the biggest number of clubbers because many of them are tasting freedom from their parents for the first time.
Clubs offer special student packages. Such clubs include Club Silk’s Ladies’ Nite on Wednesday, Angenoir Discotheque’s Ange Mystique and Club Silk’s Silk Lounge. Although motor sport was a big competitor of music, its appeal is waning due to mismanagement of the sport. But people still travel long distances to watch the cars. It is not really about the cars and the sweat of the drivers; some fans go back home without the slightest idea about who won the event. It is about the beer and the girls they swing on their arms. The fans dress up in skimpy attire and shrug off any inhibition. For the visitor to Kampala, there are many places to visit. Club Silk, situated in the Industrial Area on the 1st Street, is a must if you are into dancing. They have a full week of theme nights and the party never stops.
The proprietors there have their fingers on the pulse of Kampala’s nightlife and they know when to introduce new items in their repertoire. Just down the road from Silk is Club Angenoir on 3rd Street. It is patronised by all classes and it has natured a whole generation of Ugandans who know no other dance club. One can also catch a groove at The Viper Room if they are more into old-school music. Some venues are famous for their food. Kampala is well equipped and the many roadside markets sell the most wonderful range of fruit and vegetables. They also sell interesting things like beef and chicken on sticks and plenty of Nile perch. Plantains, known as matooke, are a staple food in Kampala.
The city is a melting pot of cultures and one can be sure to get a real international taste when they go out to eat in Kampala. For Italian food, one can visit Mamba Point. You can also catch fancy pizzas at Pizzeria Mammamia on the terrace of Speke Hotel. The Clay Oven at Hotel Equatoria, the Kuri Thai and Khana Khazana in Kamwokya, specialise in North Indian dishes. Others serving Indian dishes are The Khyber Pass and the Masala Chaat House. The National Theatre (NT) is under the management of the Uganda National Cultural Centre and it has a great history. Local groups perform at the theatre every weekend mainly in English. Vernacular productions are held in downtown theatres such as Bat Valley Theatre, Pride Theatre and Cooper Theatre.
Groups that perform at the NT usually charge an entry fee of around USh10,000 – USh15,000. Usually, the productions run for a month unless there is demand for more shows. A Comedy Night has also sprang up. Every Thursday night, the Theatre Factory, a brainchild of Phillip Luswata, one of Uganda’s top comedians, stages shows for a growing clientele. The shows start at 9.00pm and many might stay away because of the prospects of travelling at home late at night. The show features short skits designed to provoke social critical thinking. The raw material is usually current issues. The local expatriate community is also always dreaming up events, from costume balls, goat races, Irish dancing, dog shows and more.
There are two main cinema theatres in Kampala: Cine Afrique and Cineplex Cinema. They bring new movies on Friday to target the weekend revellers. Cineplex is the bigger of the two with two screens at the ultra plush Garden City complex and the other two at Wilson Road. There are a number of video and DVD rental shops in Kampala. Wandegeya, near Makerere University, has a number of video rental shops targeting students. Kampala has six television stations: Uganda Television (UTV), WBS TV, Top TV, Lighthouse Television, Multichoice and East Africa TV. When it comes to money games, the polished connoisseur might find it hard to get a wide range of choices.
There was a time when Kampala was full of casinos and the business was growing but owing to tax problems and the failure of management to keep afloat in a volatile industry, most of them closed, leaving only Kampala Casino. It is situated at Pan Africa House on the 2nd Floor Plot 2 Kimathi Avenue. Entry fee is USh10,000. Ugandans have been described as very promiscuous.
There are a number of ‘hotels’, which are in actual fact brothels mushrooming in the city. Married men have been caught at midday having sex with prostitutes in these dingy places. The local tabloids, the Luganda language Bukedde and The Red Pepper are making a killing. Daily, Kampala wakes up to yet another scandal or another nude picture on the cover of The Red Pepper. Of late there has been a mushrooming effect of pubs that hold nude dancing, locally known as Kimansulo. These dances are popular mainly because there are always prostitutes around and the men usually wind up with them after being put in the mood with the skin show.
Nude dancing has grown too big for the authorities to handle and there was a time when it was said that the mayor of Kampala, John Sebaana Kizito, wanted to license the dance and then tax the bars hosting them. Like a good politician, he denied ever saying that when the moralists turned he heat on him. Even with the assertions by the authorities that nude dancing is illegal, there is no stopping the growth of these dances. Driving in Uganda is enjoyable and really the best way to enjoy the breathtaking landscapes, and the fauna and flora. Finding your way around the country is no problem at all.
You can obtain country, regional, and street maps of major cities and towns. Uganda Motorists Association also provides excellent maps detailing all the major roads and distances between major centres. Uganda boasts some of the longest tarmacked roads in East Africa – about 6,230 kms (3870miles). The 22,100kms (13,730miles) of the secondary and dirt roads are very drivable, although they become muddy and slippery during the rainy seasons (March-April and October-November). Only four-wheel vehicles can be trusted to make the journey with some ease. These are 14 seater mini-buses locally called “Kamunye”.
They are marked with a blue-checkered band and the letter “T” on both front doors. They dominate the entire transport system in Kampala and countrywide. They normally operate from the two main taxi terminals; the old and new taxi parks. They are non-scheduled and depart when filled up. Fares in and around Kampala city are Sh300-500 for a one-way trip but the operators hike the fares at peak hours regardless of distance. Motorcycle taxis locally known as “Bodaboda” have gained importance in rural and urban travel. They are mostly common in areas where taxis do not operate. Their fares are Sh500-1000. Cabs in Uganda are generally called Special Hire Taxis, special in short. In towns they are marked with black or white-checkered bands with letter S on both front doors. In Kampala the fares are Sh3000-5000 depending on the distance, negotiating skill and waiting time.
On the whole, security in Kampala is good. Most of the entertainment spots employ security firms to guard their clients. The nightclubs all employ big bouncers at the door and within to keep order. There are no incidences of robbery in nightclubs.