Kiwatule Recreation Center
Soon to be a must for all to visit!
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First published: August 6, 2006
For the last more than five years that I have been living in Kampala, I have been hearing about Kiwatule Recreation Center. Many people always mention it as a venue of choice when it comes to parties, get togethers as well as launches of any kind.
I was always surprised at the big number of people I hear saying they are going to Kiwatule for a tour, until one recent Saturday when I succumbed to the pressure of a friend, Raphael, who had also been itching to visit the much acclaimed Kiwatule.
The Kiwatule Recreation Center I found made me regret why I had not visited the place every month of the time I have been living in Kampala. After touring the place, you will understand why to many people, Kiwatule Recreation Center remains the ultimate tourist site where one can interact with Uganda's tropical mother nature, traditional cultures and architecture as well as all that modernity has offered to entertain and relax someone.
One needs not to wait to win a lottery to visit Kiwatule. The transport to the center costs between 2,000 and 3,000 Uganda Shillings to and from Kampala city ($1 = 1,850 Shillings). You can either use taxis from the new taxi park for 1,000 shillings direct to Kiwatule or use taxis along Jinja-Kampala road or at Wandegeya stage for 500 shillings to Ntinda trading center and then another to Kiwatule trading center where you take a boda boda to the final destination for 500 shillings.
The recreation center is found at the boarder of Kampala and Wakiso districts making Kiwatule Recreation Center a strategic place for the recreation business. The two districts are the most populated in the country hence making Kiwatule enjoy rich catchments with people longing for enjoyment and to escape stressful routines of daily life.
On reaching the secluded recreation center, in addition to the signposts, we are welcomed by green shrubs indicating an arrival in a sparsely inhabited forest area. After entering the gate, we are surprised to find a parking yard manned by purple dressed security personnel, instead of recreation equipments and games. Maybe it is a trick by management to keep visitors guessing what awaits them on visiting Kiwatule.
However, the nearby reception cuts the surprise short. The cashier/front desk manager can pass for a professional customer care specialist due to the warm character with which she welcomes and treats visitors to the Kiwatule leisure center.
Charges at Kiwatule Recreation Center.
Being a weekend, adults were paying 2,000 shillings (approximately $1.10) as entrance fee, up from 1,000 during weekdays, and 1,000 for children from 500 shillings on weekdays.
The small house at Kiwatule Recreation Center.
After clearing the entrance fee, you are then led to the center through short bending corridors in a small house serving as the gate for the 'real' recreation center.
The green well kept gardens, dotted by beautifully built huts, confirm that you are at the 'Pearl of Africa'. The round built huts serve as offices, main and mini bars as well as meeting joints for the diverse interests of the public that visit this center.
It was while I was scrutinizing the multi coloured designed huts that my eyes glimpsed at the rail trails, as I found out on approaching the muraam and gravel sprawled surface, and the stationary multi-coloured train.
Even before I reached the train, the sight of the rails gave me an intense desire to discover the entertainment was associated with the train, since (I have to admit) like many Ugandans I had never traveled by train. I was soon at the train-parking yard, inquiring whether the gigantic carrier was functioning and if yes, how much it costs a visitor to pay for one trip to wherever they can take me.
One kilometer of a train ride is worth 15,000 shillings if you take it alone, I was told.
"Eh!" I stated thinking twice because of the amount.
However, James Nuwagaba the train captain came to my rescue when he advised me to wait for other people who can raise at least 15,000 shillings for the one kilometer or 11 minute ride around the recreation center. Thankfully, we happened to be many people at the center thinking alike. Not much time passed before some primary children, their teachers, and other visitors raised the required number of people for two rounds of the train ride.
Primary school kids touring Kiwatule Recreation Center.
The children paid 500 shillings each while the adults parted with 1,000 shillings per person and we still did not fill the train, which can accommodate more than 100 people at once.
After everyone had paid their fare, "Captain" Nuwagaba started the machine and everyone's face lit up with joy as we begun a journey to really nowhere in the gigantic machine. How in all heaven can the owner manage to have a train and well-maintained rails when Uganda's Railway Corporation rails are in asunder? … the reason they were recently divested to Kenyans.
The train ride turned out to be as exciting as anticipated, more so because of the mixing of different ages and different races. Children, adults, Ugandans, non-Ugandans, men and women mingled as we had the slow but bumpy train ride. The train has four compartments each with wooden seats and guards to protect the occupants from jumping out as the train makes trips around the 500 meters center.
Eleven minutes seemed to have been only five and in what seemed a blink of the eye, the ride was over. What remained of individual passengers was either to pay again and go for another ride, or go and taste other recreation activities at the center.
I chose to belong to the latter category. After the train ride, I took an unguided tour around the center and it's during this tour that I found out other recreation activities that have made Kiwatule Recreation Center a favourite of people of all ages and cultures.
In different places at the center, activities such as bicycle riding by mostly children, swimming in the well-kept swimming pools, give a picture of what part of Eden should have been like. One of the swimming pools is designed with a rare dexterity with irregular angles and formations with small to large sculptures of water and forest animals like frogs, crocodiles, fish, leopards and an elephant hovering over much of the pool.
But what was most thrilling was my discovery of the cultural village at the far south of the center. Traditionally multi-designed grass thatched houses here present the perfect imagination of what ancient Africa should have been. Though the village is still under construction, what is already there is worth spending time viewing and learning. Already, 13 huts are complete each or a set of them representing a homestead of a tribe in Uganda with tools used for the famous activities in a particular tribe.
According to the cultural village manager, Gideon Luwaga, the cultural village is intended to give the visitors of Kiwatule Recreation Center an opportunity to learn about Uganda's cultures in one place.
Some of the tribes, which have huts containing cultural items and history, are Banyoro, Bakonzo, Bakiga, Banyankore, Bahima, Karamajong and Madi. Uganda has about 52 tribes. Looked at from the outside, all the huts look alike and until you enter inside you cannot tell the difference.
A Kiganda hut.
As might be expected, the most illustrated tribe at the village is the Baganda. The hut for the Baganda has items such as bark cloth, ancient hoes, traditional lighters, bellow for blowing air during smith and others such as necklaces and traditional beads.
Noticeable also is a representation of the early days hut with partitions for master bedroom, other rooms, a section for domestic and animal keeping among other things.
The art used to partition and to roof the huts creates the difference with what you might have ever seen somewhere else.
"While the Banyoro used reeds only to partition their huts, you can see that Bahima added cow dung on top of the reeds to making walls in the hut hence making the walls more durable," explains Luwaga, the manager of Kiwatule's cultural village.
Perhaps the most elaborate illustration about the Baganda, when completed, will be the origin of Baganda told by statues of Kintu, Nambi and Walumbe- you must remember that famous Buganda folktale legend about the first man (or is it family) on earth.
According to Luwaga, Kintu was the first Muganda and Nambi was Kintu's wife. Before Kintu married Nambi he one time felt lonely and decided to visit his friend Gulu.
During the visit, Kintu was given Nambi to become his wife with whom to kill boredom. However, Walumbe (death) Nambi's brother followed them without permission from the father, Gulu (heaven). Knowing what terror Walumbe was, Gulu sent Kayikuzi, one of his sons to come and take Walumbe back to Gulu, but when Walumbe saw the brother (Kayikuzi) he ran away and disappeared somewhere in caves in present day Mityana district and up to date, Walumbe (death) is on earth causing death.
That is how educative the cultural village is and you may understand why it remains a favourite for school children as they get to see physically what they learn about Ugandan cultures, even if it is in sculpture representation.
It is obvious that the owner is investing a lot of money in cultural research, items gathering and architectural design for people like you and me to come and see, and learn. The menu of what is available at Kiwatule is not only rich in leisure and amusement activities but also serves as a place where many Ugandans can reflect on themselves and learn about their ancestry and about each others' cultures.
It is then that I remembered this place is owned by Bidandi Sali, the veteran politician, former minister and close ally of President Museveni before they fell out in 2003 when Bidandi opposed the so called "third term project". Now Bidandi is putting his mastery in politics to use in what Ugandans like most next to politics- leisure and entertainment.
Luwaga says that when the Cultural Village is completed, many more traditional stories will be illustrated in what will surely make the five year recreation center a must go area for many Ugandans and all people who visit Uganda.
Raphael enjoying himself at Kiwatule Recreation Center.
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First published: August 6, 2006
John Isingoma is a member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. A social scientist by training, Isingoma is the Executive Secretary at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd and after years training and practice in the media has become a dedicated writer and researcher.