On Sunday we woke up, and Juliet gave us huge plates of spaghetti with sliced cucumbers, avocado, and watermelon on the side for breakfast. Then Eden and I went to the church next door with some of the GLA missionaries. We’ve been hearing the church worship team practicing all week because their sound system is amped up for the whole neighborhood to hear.
The church service lasted over 4 hours! We were greeted very warmly and asked to sit in the front row; nearly all the adults (and one little boy) in the congregation present at the time came over to shake our hand. The kids were absolutely adorable! The service started with worship songs and prayer followed by a sermon, more singing, and introduction of visitors where we and all the other visitors had to go up front and introduce ourselves. Afterwards, all the visitors were invited to a table to drink fresh fruit juice, talk with the pastors, and sign the church visitor book. Everyone was extremely friendly!
The singing was so energetic and emotional! They clapped, waved their hands, and danced. One guy was jumping as high as he could like he was trying to dunk a basketball and others were hopping around in a circle on one foot. It was so much fun! During serious moments, some people would kneel on the floor and pray. Most of the songs were in Lugandan, but I recognized a couple of the melodies, and a couple others were in English.
We came back and made juice with Juliet. She sliced fresh avocado and passion fruit and blended them by hand. It was the most delicious, creamiest juice I’ve ever had! It easily would’ve sold for $7 a glass at any farmer’s market in the US.
Next, Eden, Juliet, and I decided to venture into town to try to find the Gaddafi Mosque because you can climb the minaret and see fantastic views of the city. It started to rain as we were walking. Since it’s currently the rainy season, it rains almost everyday. Usually in the afternoon, it will get cloudy, downpour for 10 minutes, and then the sun will come out again. Everyone scrambled for cover under shop overhangs. The petrol stations were filled with people and boda drivers parked under the roof waiting for the rain to stop. The rain runs in torrents down the streets—some roads have ditches on the side, but many times there’s nowhere for the water to go. However, Ugandans say that this year, the rains are not as much as they should be and crops might suffer. Since aquaponics only requires 10% of the water used in conventional agriculture, aquaponics could play an important role in Uganda’s future.
We took a matatu to town (the central part of Kampala with the largest markets). I have never seen so many jostling people in my life! And Sunday is the day that’s least crowded! I was afraid to take out my phone to take pictures—the sidewalks were overflowing. Bodas, matatas, cars, trucks, and buses crammed the streets. Sellers spread their wares on blankets anywhere they could find an open spot. Apparently they’re not supposed to sell on the sidewalk, but during election years no one enforces the rule because the politicians don’t want to anger voters. A little while after elections, they’ll crack down and kick the sellers off the sidewalks.
The sellers constantly called out hawking their wares, and occasionally one would grab your arm to try to show you his goods. Dress shoes, water bottles, phone cases and batteries (probably stolen), passion fruit, and even toilet paper—everything is sold on these streets! There’s also a dedicated market with stalls selling all kinds of clothes. Two of Kampala’s major bus stations are also located here along with the old and new taxi park. Many matatas start their routes in these parks—they are jammed full! I don’t know how you would find which one is driving the route you’re looking for.
We finally found the mosque—it was beautiful. It was built from 2003-2006 mainly funded by Gaddafi. Called the Uganda National Mosque (or the Gaddafi Mosque), it’s the largest mosque in Sub-Saharan Africa seating over 15,000 people. We were given hijabs and required to take our shoes off before entering. The carpets were so plush! The interior is influenced by African, European, and Arabic architecture. Wooden panels covering the columns were imported from the Congo, the painted glass windows came from Italy, and the chandeliers were made in Egypt. The women were separated from the men in a smaller, upper section. It was a huge, gorgeous building.
Then we climbed the minaret (all 272 steps) for 360° gorgeous views. Built on the highest point in Kampala, the tower lets you see all seven hills that comprise the city—sometimes you can even see Lake Victoria. One hill is built up with five star hotels while slums cover the adjacent hill—a juxtaposition found all over Kampala.
Walking back, we saw a police truck and a crowd gather. At first Juiet thought the police might be caning a man, but it was quite the opposite. They were taking an extremely thin, sick homeless man to a hospital. He had become chilled in the afternoon rain, so the police wrapped him in a shiny thermal blanket. It seemed like everyone passing by had to stop, look, and figure out what was going on. Some thought he was Somali. Apparently many Somalis try to escape their country and live on the streets in Uganda.
We stopped at a fruit and vegetable market to buy pineapples and vegetables for dinner then took a matatu home. It was a long, full, exciting day. I still can’t believe that every morning I get to wake up and experience more of Uganda.