This spring, I’ll be spending approximately a month each in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. While I used to live in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are new to me! I’m very excited about the trip, and will be channelling my excitement into some introductory blog-posts about each country. So, this post is a quick introduction to the “must-know” factoids about Uganda.
Note: This post is not a travel guide to Uganda, and doesn’t include logistical advice on travel — instead, this is a run-down of some common knowledge and household names you should really know if you’re going to spend any time in Uganda… don’t want to be the ignorant tourist!
Must-Know Basic Facts about Uganda
When travelling to Uganda, there are a few basic facts which would be quite embarrassing to be caught in ignorance of, so let’s go over those first!
- capital and largest city: Kampala
- president: Yoweri Museveni (who came to power in 1986, and is Uganda’s longest-ruling president)
- currency: Ugandan shilling (UGX)
- official languages: Swahili and English (although the most-spoken language is actually Luganda)
Uganda: An Introduction via Maps
Maps are a great way to visualize the basic information you’re expected to know about a country before you visit — major cities, borders, land features, general sense of “where exactly am I?” So, let’s check out some maps.
Uganda in East Africa
Here is Uganda in East Africa. Notice that it’s on the equator, but most of the country is to the north. While it’s landlocked from the sea, it does have quite a lot of water access from lakes.
A Basic Map: Uganda’s Major Cities, Geographic Features, and Land Borders
Next, check out this map of Uganda with some major cities and geographic landmarks shown. Here are a few you should take specific note of:
- Kampala = Uganda’s capital and largest city
- Entebbe = city with Uganda’s international airport
- Jinja and Masaka = two Ugandan cities well-known with visitors
- Lake Victoria = Uganda’s largest lake
In addition, take note of the land borders. Uganda borders South Sudan, The DRC, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Kenya. Also, notice that one branch of the Nile begins in Uganda.
A Tourists’s Map: Uganda’s Roads and National Parks
Here’s a bit of a more detailed map for visitors, showing national parks and major roads (remember: major doesn’t mean paved).
Size Comparison Map: How Big is Uganda?
For any Americans reading, a size comparison can be a really helpful tool in understanding how big a country is. Here is Uganda overlaid with the eastern United States.
Some Ugandans are household names internationally, some are not. Regardless, here are some incredibly accomplished and well-known Ugandans, who are definitely household names in Uganda.
- Yoweri Museveni (b. 1944): Uganda’s current president (and longest-standing leader), took the presidency in 1986
- Milton Obote (b. 1925): Uganda’s first prime minister (1962-1966) and president (1966-1971), re-claimed the presidency after Idi Amin (1980-1985)
- Idi Amin (b. 1925, d. 2003): Ruled Uganda from 1971 to 1979, known as the “Butcher of Uganda,” was a brutal ruler and his reign saw much bloodshed
- Rebecca Kadaga (b. 1956): lawyer and politician, Uganda’s first female Speaker of the Parliament (2011-2021), currently serves as the Deputy Prime Minister
- Okot p’Bitek (b. 1931, d. 1982): Ugandan author and poet, famous for his parallel works “Song of Lawino” and “Song of Ocol,” known for his writing in the Acholi language
- Monica Arac de Nyeko (b. 1979): Ugandan author, her short story “Jambula Tree” made her the first Ugandan winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing
- Moses Isegawa (b. 1963): Ugandan author, best-known for his book, Abyssinian Chronicles
- Loukman Ali (b. 1990): Uganda filmmaker and graphic artist, his film “The Girl in the Yellow Jumper” is the first Ugandan film on Netflix
- Eddy Kenzo (b. 1989): Ugandan musician, winner of various international awards, well-known for his viral videos with Masaka Kids Afrikana