Entebbe: Gateway to the Heart of Africa
Entebbe earned its name from the Lugandan word 'ntebe' (chair). In pre-colonial times, the town hosted the office (seat) of the chief in Buganda who adjudicated in legal matters of the inhabitants.
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First published: May 2, 2008
Many people know Entebbe as a small town 40km south of Kampala city. It is also known to host some of the oldest colonial era structures in Uganda. The town's name gained a bit of notoriety when Israeli commandos raided Uganda to rescue Israeli citizens locked up at Entebbe International Airport in 1976. Read more...
Entebbe earned its name from the Luganda word "ntebe" (chair). In pre-colonial times, the town hosted the office (seat) of the chief in Buganda who adjudicated in legal matters of the inhabitants. Sir Gerald Portal, one of the earliest British colonial commissioners in Uganda, later used Entebbe to conduct his administrative business. This elevated Entebbe's status further and it became a hub of activity, both politically and economically. It continued in that respect for many decades until other municipalities outgrew it and Kampala overtook it to become Uganda's capital.
Nonetheless, Entebbe has grown into a busy town in the past few decades to compete favorably with many other Ugandan towns in business terms. Located on the shores of Lake Victoria, the peninsula, with a current population of 90,000, Entebbe is home to different kinds of people and nationalities. Though small, it is metropolitan in outlook and its inhabitants are friendly and welcoming. You can spot an 'Entebbean' a mile off. They are often polite people, with many families holding strong religious backgrounds (whatever faith they might subscribe to). If you stay long enough in Entebbe, you can recognize most families, due to the small size of the town. This helps in making lifelong friends. Common meeting places are usually churches, mosques, bars and other social/public meetings places.
Colonial era architecture is very common in Entebbe.
Entebbe is home to many Government of Uganda offices and ministries. They include the Ministry of Works and that of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. Many private organisations' head offices are also found in the town. The town is home to several industries such as Greenfield Fish Industries Ltd (a sizeable fish supplier and exporter), Rosebud Flower Company (owned by Kampala tycoon Gordon Wavamunno) and others.
Entebbe is also well known as a tourist destination for both local and international visitors. People throng the town in search of tourist attractions such as the only zoo in Uganda and entertainment. Such crowds bring life to the small town every weekend. For those who love relaxing at beaches, this is the best place to visit. Every weekend, thousands of people flock the erstwhile quiet town. If you want to understand how social Ugandans can get, visit any beach in Entebbe, any weekend of the year.
The Muzinga Park monument is the most historical tourist attraction in Entebbe. Found right opposite Entebbe Municipal Council building, this monument was left behind by Tanzanian troops after they ousted the late Ugandan President, Idi Amin Dada. When they tried to blow up the municipal building, they were discouraged by gunfire from the soon to-be-defeated Ugandan troops and abandoned the plan. They abandoned their cannon and it stands to date. It has been turned into a tourist attraction, with statues of two soldiers built next to it as a way of remembering what happened that day. Around the cannon and statues was built a park with chairs where people can sit and enjoy the scenery.
Municipal council offices
Down the road, the mayor's gardens are another attraction that cannot be ignored. Located on the highway from Kampala next to the Shell service station, these gardens are a favorite spot for just wedded couples to pose for photos on their memorable day. It is also an ideal spot for lovers who would like to have a quiet moment to themselves.
National Botanical Gardens
If you like to hold picnics and small birthday parties, then the best place to do that is Entebbe Botanical Gardens. Neighboring Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel, these gardens were established back in 1898 for demonstration purposes but have over the years, turned into a place to relax. This place is ideal for family outings; there is enough space for all, without worrying about sitting or parking space. You can take walks around, and at the same time watch the different bird species that have made the gardens a home for decades.
Muzinga Park Memorial Monument
Care has to be taken with monkeys that hang around, especially when you are eating. Their favourite trick is to snatch a banana or a pack of juice from you if you are not careful enough. This, however, should not deter you from offering them a few biscuits if they behave. It is never a bad idea to make new friends.
Uganda Wildlife Education Center
Just a kilometer from the botanical gardens is the Uganda Wildlife Education Center, formerly known as Entebbe Zoo. Many Ugandans have visited this place numerous times, while others have never taken any interest in it. It is the place to visit while in Entebbe, especially if you have a family that you want to take out on a tour. No excuses should be given for not visiting the center, because the entrance fees are pocket friendly for all and the place can comfortably accommodate over 500 visitors at a time.
The welcoming view at Uganda Wildlife Educational Centre
Schoolchildren often visit the place on educational trips while other tourists visit to marvel at the sight of animals they see only while seated in front of a television set. Before you visit them in the Ugandan wild, it is a good idea to get up close and personal with Uganda's wild inhabitants at the Uganda Wildlife Educational Center.
Imperial Resort Beach
This is one of the oldest beaches in Entebbe. Resort, as it is fondly called locally, is well known for its beautiful ambience, coupled with palm trees that grace the whole place. It is visited more often on big Ugandan holidays such as Christmas and Easter among others. It is a popular spot for Indians and Muslims on their special days too. Right next to it is the five-star Imperial Resort Hotel. Exquisite in design and oozing excellence, the hotel is a happening place for tourists and international pilots making stopovers for the night.
Now, if any one visits Entebbe and does not come across Lido Beach, they cannot truly claim to have visited Entebbe. Located on the stretch between Entebbe International Airport and Kitooro trading centre, Lido Beach is the most visited beach in Entebbe. Ugandans from all walks of life, some from as far as Jinja and Masaka, come and enjoy the pleasures that Lido has to offer them. Many admit to visiting the place for its famous tilapia fish.
The place is also a second home for Kampala's motor bikers. These Ugandan 'cowboys' grace the roads of Entebbe with their huge bikes, turning the town into Texas for a day or two. The bikers bring their skimpily dressed girls along for the tour of Lido beach and the town. The beach is also a favorite destination for musicians launching their works.
Opened last year, Peniel beach is located right next to Lido Beach and is owned by the mayor of Entebbe municipality, Steven Kabuye. This place is the perfect spot for a wedding reception. It has the capacity to host three wedding receptions at the same time. Despite the competition next door, Peniel has managed to pull crowds, especially on public holidays. They also host office parties.
This place is found next to Peniel Beach, so you can imagine the stiff competition along this stretch of road in Entebbe. Old airplanes dot the area, giving the impression that you are already at the airport while you are standing at a beach. It is a very unusual setting Check it out.
Other must-visit-places in Entebbe
Beaches aside, a visit to the peninsula is incomplete without a visit to the famous Kitooro trading center, about a kilometer from the airport. The name Kitooro was coined in the early 1980s, following an influx of Batooro into the area. They settled here and outnumbered all other ethnic groups, hence the name of the trading centre. This does not mean that only Batooro live in Kitooro. Other ethnic groups have since settled here and all live in harmony. Kitooro is endowed with several pubs, commonly known as bufunda, where residents socialise and chat about politics over platters of roast chicken and pints of beer. Entebbe's main market is found here, with Tuesdays being kabubbu (busiest) days. On such days, you can get the best discounts on food, clothes, cutlery, etc.
Back of Ezzi bldg.
One kilometer away from Kitooro is Entebbe town proper. It is home to the famous Four Turkeys nightspot. It has little to do with any turkeys. Located opposite the local Stanbic Bank branch, this pub is a favorite spot for the expatriate community that live in Entebbe. This group comprises of United Nations peacekeepers, pilots and those working in different non-governmental organizations in the area. Nocturnal visitors to the Four Turkeys include ladies of the night on a quest to earn a quick buck from the expats. It stays open until the last customer leaves.
Arguably, the best discotheque in Entebbe, Knight Riders is a favorite spot for the white and blue-collar workers in Entebbe and Kampala, as well as university students. This is where they unwind after a week of hard work. At Knight Riders, you can stomp the ground to the latest local and international dancehall anthems as well as oldies.
So then, are you ready to check out all that Entebbe has to offer?
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First published: May 2, 2008
Olive Eyotaru Yemima is a graduate of Mass Communication. She first worked with Ultimate Media in 2005 as an intern and returned in 2007 as a features writer.
A Ugandan talented creative writer, Eyotaru now writes for both the local and international media and continues to shine in the media every day that passes.