A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SEVEN ORIGINAL HILLS.
In honor of Independence Day. I thought I’d do a post on my beautiful, chaotic, charismatic city Kampala. Months ago, I went on one of those sightseeing tours taking a very enjoyable ride in and around Kampala exploring what were and are the original hills that make up Kampala. These are; Nakasero, Mengo, Rubaga, Namirembe, Old Kampala, Makerere and Kololo hills. All the information below was obtained on the tour and I’ve tried my best to recollect it as it was,
Kampala is said to have got its name from what the locals at the time referred to as ‘kasozi k’empala’ which translates to’ hill of impalas’. It’s said this is the spot the Kabaka at the time, I don’t know which, used to go hunting primarily for Impala which were rampant at the time. It is also were the British used to camp out, most notably Fredrick Lugard who named the Camp Impala, which the locals translated to Kampala, and with that the name was born.
Nakasero derives its name from the ‘kasozi kebisero’, hill of baskets. It is home to Nakasero market established in 1895, the oldest market in kampala.It was first established in the Lubiri,Mengo but due to inaccessibility was moved to Makerere then finally settled in Nakasero in 1915.
Mengo derives its name from ‘Olubengo’ meaning grinding stones. The hill was lush with them at the time, which I find interesting as I haven’t seen one in decades, This hill is home to Kabaka’s lake, the largest manmade lake in Uganda commissioned by Kabaka Mwanga and built by the 52 clans of Buganda in the 1800’s.Its also home to the Lubiri, the Buganda palace. Just outside the gate, to the left is a small green roof that houses a fire that burns 24/7 365 days a year, signifying the Kabaka being alive, the fire is tended to by the Nyange (cattle egret) clan, the chosen one from the clan is responsible for lighting the fire at Coronation, tending to it during the Kabaka’s reign and once the Kabaka dies, well, so did he! At least that’s how it was in olden times; I like to think it’s different in this century.
Back when the Lubiri(palace) was situated here, this is where the Kabaka welcomed all the different missionaries and Arabs looking to introduce their religions and gospel, the ‘kasozi k’olubaga’ it was the hill of making. It is also where the Kabaka learned to read and write. It is home to Rubaga Cathedral that has welcomed 3 popes in its time and has been around since 1914.Rubaga hill is also the spot Winston Churchill stood and declared Uganda the pearl of Africa.
Originating from the Luganda word ‘Mirembe’ that means peace, this hill is where the Kabaka settled disputes. It is home to Namirembe Cathedral.
Here sits the national mosque, Gadaffi mosque, the 2nd largest mosque in Africa. Next to it is Fort Lugard, The Imperial British East African Company headquarters during colonial time. This was also the first museum in Uganda.
Formerly Bwaise hill, legend has it, Kabaka Suuna fell in love with a woman outside the palace and decided to sneak out one night to see her, unfortunately he failed to make it back to the palace before day break when his subjects where all up and about. As he made his way, he remarked;”Gano makerere!” referring to the time of day. My only take away from this story is the fact that this hill is named after an epic walk of shame!
The hill is home to Makerere university, established in 1922, named the Uganda Technical Institute, it was the first of its kind, later being renamed Makerere university in 1970.In the distance I could see Mulago hill which gets its name from a herb Kabaka Suuna used to ward away evil spirits.
Kololo hill is known as the embassy hill of Uganda, It got its name from the Acholi chief, Rwot Awich. Along with Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro, the two are remembered for their fierce opposition and rejection of colonialism and fought hard against the British. When Rwot Awich was finally captured, he was imprisoned on the hill which was densely forested at the time, faced with solitary confinement, it is said he was heard screaming;”An atye kany kololo” meaning I’m here alone! And with that the hill became Kololo.
So there you have it, a brief history of the land, Kampala in all her glory. I’d love to hear about your city, town or country’s history, share those gems.