Old kampala Hill
The nucleus of Kampala town: old Kampala
Old Kampala hill which rises gently to the immediate west of the city centre ten minutes walk from the new tax park, was the original for and capital founded by captain Fredrick lugard in 1890. The hill is named after the numerous impalas that once lived here and lends its name to the rest of the city. At this hill is where the city was first established before spreading to other areas due to rural urban migration.
Enclosed within the oval old Kampala road the hill is dotted with a few colonial era buildings of Asian design now generally rather run down though some have been strikingly renovated. Old Kampala is most notable today as the focal point of Kampala’s Islamic community and imposing new mosque. It was initiated by Idi Amin dada in the 1970s but the project stalled after the overthrow of the dictator and was only completed in 2006 with funds provided by the late Libyan leader colonel Muarmar Gadaffi. When work on the mosque restarted after a 25 years delay Amin’s concrete monolith was demolished to make way for today’s magnificent copper domed structure.
The mosque is the biggest in Uganda and the second largest in Sub Saharan Africa. A tour of the site is therefore highly recommended, visit the main hall and ascend the minaret. Ladies are required to wear Muslim clothes or will be provide with skirts and scarves by the guide to cover up before entering the hall.
The mosque comprises of two floors and thus two halls. The ground floor or main hall where everyday prayers are said and the upper floor which is open for event or big days in the Muslim community. The upper floor is more rewarding and is divided into the inside which is for the men and the balcony for women. The hall is an imposing space which carpeted but otherwise not furnished is dominated by a forest of massive columns that support the roof and copper dome. European, Arab and African influences meld with Italian stained windows, Ugandan timber and an Arabian mosaic on the underside on the dome above a massive and magnificent metal chandelier.
Inside the minaret, 360 steps spiral upwards to provide a superbly giddy 360 degrees view over the city. Part of the complex but accessed from old Kampala road is a period building with a vaguely Arcadian frontage. This is an approximation of a historic building which was unfortunately demolished to make way for the mosque parking. Though widely known as old fort it was built some years after luggard’s occupation in 1908 and was actually Kampala’s first museum. Aside from being the National mosque of Uganda, the old Kampala mosque is also the headquarters of the Muslim faith with the offices of the Uganda Muslim supreme council. Other amenities on ground include a conference hall, a radio station and offices. Perhaps one of the greatest religious architectural pieces you will find in Uganda earning itself a must visit status.
The upper prayer hall is the richest and biggest one, and is the best of the visit. This upper prayer hall is also divided in two parts, with the ground level reserved for men and an upper balcony reserved for women.