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Amukeke: May the Real Iteso Stand Up

Amukeke - Iteso Cultural Food

Forget the look, there is nothing there. The story, the real story is in the taste! Boy oh boy, AMUKEKE! Sun-dried sweet potatoes, boiled to a fault and then mashed to whisper and infused with groundnut or sim-sim paste. Now, that is amukeke, a delicacy in Teso, a way to many an Itesot’s hearts!

To the visitors, the look these dried sweet potatoes later adopted is not appeasing. Not one bit. But dare we say, that the sweet and salty combination melting in one’s mouth will change this perception. Note however that no one, not even those who have done it for a while, dares to eat amukeke without some water or tea on the side. You could choke! See, it’s easy to get carried away by this mash, but you don’t want to be choking on this good without some water beside you.

In a bid to preserve their sweet potatoes, the people from the East and North-Eastern parts of Uganda, choose to sun dry it, like they do various foods. For a region that endures long drought spells, and then again plenty of rain, this just seemed like a wise thing to do. A safety net of sorts. Though mostly consumed during breakfast, it is easily a choice for brunch as well. It feels ‘snacky’ and yet just as full-filling.


  • Peel and slice fresh sweet potatoes
  • Put them to dry under the sun until they turn pale
  • Wash and put in a saucepan of water
  • Salt is optional
  • Boil till soft and mash
  • Add a groundnut or sim-sim paste and simmer
  • Or you could just serve and put the pastes on the side
    Serve with tea.

Amukeke: May the real Iteso stand up!

NB: No one, not even those who have done it for a while, dares to eat amukeke without some water or tea on the side. You could choke!

Behold, the Kitenge: African Traditional Wear

Kitenge African Fabric

Let’s dial back to the 80s and the 90s, shall we? 30 years and above, anyone? Remember how the African wax print (Ankara) locally known as kitenge, was won mostly by old people? It was the ultimate mama and papa look, it just was. Also, it was admired by staunch Catholics because the pictures on the fabric then were known for its supposed ‘baby Jesus and Mary’ print. But not today however, it in fact adorns many faces! See, the pursuit for a fresher, more contemporary, merger between the old the new have seen fashion enthusiasts fall deeply in love with it.

It trickling in across the continent when Nigeria’s Nollywood tore across our screens and with them came to the Ankara like never seen before. They reinvented it to suit their particular styles; office wear, casual or even glamorous occasions, the kitenge became the in thing. Notice how even the trendy men adore its blazers?

And don’t get me started on the ladies, I could write an entire book about the different kitenge showcase they adorn! People now want the fabric on almost everything. I have seen it beautifully employed as pocket squares on shirts, and hair bands for women.

Every fashion house in town worth its name does a couple of outfits using the fabric. In fact, it is the print mostly sought after. The business side of it, is booming. There are over twenty arcades downtown specialising in this fabric. It has opened doors for many designers who were hitherto unknown. And it has helped them express their creativity in numerous and exhilarating ways.

Going global

This begs the question: Why are we now so attracted to this fabric that was once disregarded by many? “I should say that visually, it is very stimulating. And even the technique used to make it; Batik, is interesting,” Solomon Tazibone, a renowned Stylist retorts.

Once western celebrities like Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Nicky Minaji and Michelle Obama adorned it, the world’s eyes were cast intently on Africa as a serious contender for fashion’s emerging markets. “Initially the styles made out of kitenge were boring,” Solomon observes. “And the young and trendy could not be attracted to them.” He says that very creative people have since come up.  “They started making silhouettes, nice dresses, and fitting shirts all in modern cuts. And then the trend spread like a burning fire,” he adds.

Besides that, he argues that the fabric has bold colours and it is comfortable on the body. It is also versatile being that it comes in different designs, patterns, colours, materials, styles and can be customized to fit anyone’s style. In fact, there are not as much ready to wear outfits on the market, because most people love theirs custom made. But also, it’s a good thing for the plus size ladies; they don’t hustle looking for what’s fancy and fitting anymore, the kitenge is flexible!

In fact, Shadia Nandhego, a designer at Rechovot fashion house, says that plus size ladies are her majority of clients. What’s more, and most important is that most people especially the young and trendy, wear the print to pay homage to their roots while looking unique in their own way. Africans are increasingly becoming proud of who they really are. Cultural awareness is on the rise. While some may not necessarily be so much into looking African and cultural, they at least want to have a statement piece somewhere in their wardrobe.

One feels cool and progressive that way. Even though one may not own a kitenge dress or shirt, they will at least have a piece of the fabric strategically tailored onto their t-shirt. The bold ones wear kitenge shoelaces. Phone jackets, laptop bags and neckties are some of the accessories which designers are making out of them.

The message behind the kitenge craze is loud and clear: we are African and we love our colours. Amazingly though cultural identity in fashion did not just start with kitenge. No. “It started with accessories like beads, local pearls, jewellery made from Kazuri stones in Kenya,” says Shadia. She tells me it is sort of a cultural revolution.

To that fact, she takes my mind to the creative changes that have been made to the traditional gomesi. Today, ladies step out on functions dressed in the half gomesi, which before could never have been heard of. There has also come the gomesi dress, whereby you don’t have to look for the kikoyi and the kisibiro (belt for the gomesi). All of these are tailored onto it. It is really interesting.

Ladies love it because it’s easy to wear, unlike the original one which had much work to it. It even has a zipper at the back. All these according to Shadia are a testimony to the desire among people to preserve their cultural identity while remaining stylish and unique. The other thing about the kitenge is that it is readily available, even though it is not made here. Solomon tells me that silk and other synthetic fabrics take time to get here. With the kitenge, within two days a designer would have made for you an eye-catching and timeless masterpiece. And you can be sure not to find any other person wearing the same attire as yours.

Take a Seat in Karamojong Style in Uganda

Karimojong Stool

Since its inception, the chair has morphed into shapes, fascinating shapes. But as you sit on your comfy couch in your sitting room today after a long day at work, in Karamoja, people swiftly sit on wooden stools after, well, a long day in the field. It’s the way of life. And the Karamajong has an attachment to these wooden stools. To them the T-shaped masterpiece curved off tamarind trees, they are all they have.

No, they are not complaining, why would they? They are not. They are contented with them, because these wooden stools, old-fashioned as they are, perform diverse duties. Traditionally called Ameto, these wooden stools are viewed as historical tools in Karamoja. They are symbols of history. That’s why, like the rest of the world races to buy those fancy couches with cushions, the Karamojong don’t join the queue. With these wooden stools which can last as long as 15 years if kept well, they are covered. In them, they find comfort.

Talking to people in Karamoja, they will tell you heartfelt stories about these wooden stools. Each one of them has a story, a good story about the stools. Me? I use it as a pillow. For me, I use it when I am grazing my cattle. For us, we use these stools at parties. And many more stories. They could be wooden and hard in the eyes of other people, but not to the Karamojong. For them, they look at them as pillows to sleep on.

As the rest of the world rests their heads on cotton-made pillows to sleep, people in Karamoja rest their heads on these wooden stools. And all is fine with them. No one will complain about a backache or an ache in the neck. No one will complain of being an insomniac either. To them, it is a normal routine. The Karamajong are renowned cattle keepers.

As they herd their cattle for pasture, they use these wooden stools for resting on them. It’s a good sight to capture; as they sit on these stools and watch over their cattle, their hands across their stubble, wrapped in their traditional attire. It’s spectacular, the sight. Also, as they go milking; they put the stools on the ground, sit on them as they pull the cows’ udders for milk.

Even as they hold parties and different ceremonies around the region, these stools help them. They have no plastic chairs, like the rest of the world. These stools aid them to accommodate guests. To them, these stools are part of them. Yes, they could be wooden, but nothing beats history. Having it is a symbol of maturity and a ticket to mingling with elders as they discuss fundamental issues of the tribe.  As they sit on them, unbeknownst to the rest of the world, the Karamajong are seated on history.

Nhenda Hill of Fortunes, Eastern Uganda

Bukowe Hill

Busoga Kingdom has over 350 clans most of which claim to have originated from Bunyoro Kingdom. One such clan is the Igaga Clan, the biggest in the Kingdom under a single cultural leader, the Igaga. The first Igaga, Prince Byaruhaga, migrated from Bunyoro, crossed the Koki chiefdom of Kamuswaga, sailed on Lake Victoria, and landed in the current forest of Kityerera, around 1350. He moved to Bukowe Hill in Bugweri chiefdom, sighted the Nhenda Hill, and settled there. He produced children one of whom, Mutamba (Kawanguzi), migrated and founded the Busiki chiefdom.

Chief Byaruhanga established the first administrative unit in the Busoga Kingdom, the Busambira. With the headquarters located on the Nhenda hill, it became the dispersal area for the clan. To date, the hill is used by traditionalist and moderate religious people, for meditation and worship.

Nhenda Hill, just a 15 minutes drive from Iganga town, overlooks Busoga; from it, one can sight Jinja and Kagulu Hill far in North of Busoga. At its top, there are two water reservoirs believed to give fortune and answered prayers to people who bathe in them or who sprinkle themselves with the water. Mzee Kisubi Fredrick, the clan elder, asserts that “at one time the region was very dry, hot and dusty. I went on the hilltop and prayed for rain, and rain got me on the way back.”
The Igaga clan is proud that three-quarters of the nation’s Busoga political leaders are either of the Igaga clan or their distant offspring, a fortune given by Nhenda hill.

Some of the Igaga leaders are the National Speaker, Rt, Hon. Kadaga Rebecca, and the Deputy Prime minister of the Busoga Kingdom, Owek. Dr. Lubega, to mention but
a few. It is also claimed that the first agreement with the colonial masters in Uganda, around 1887, was made here and in 1932, the colonial government built a rest camp that exists up to today. Upon a visit to the hill, one will witness true Kisoga culture; one will watch ancient worship, taste traditional foods and learn about local medicines (all the plants on the hill are said to be medicinal).

Traditional music and dances for entertainment on the hill can be arranged upon prior booking. The hill is also rich in birdlife, flora, and fauna. It is very good for both holiday camping and picnics. From the source of the Nile, it is a one-hour drive to Nhenda via Iganga town. Kigulu Cultural Museum is close by and Nhenda is a 2-hour drive from Kagulu hill. Affordable accommodation can be sought at Mum resort. Alternatives like Hotel Continental and Mwana Highway hotels can be found in Iganga town.

The Dead Bunyoro Kings are not Dead

Mparo Royal Tombs

A story is told of a king, a very gutsy king. He remains the greatest king of the Bunyoro Kingdom. Omukama Kabalega, what a king. A man remembered for his incomparable attempts at protecting his people from the British colonialists who had then taken over the Buganda Kingdom.

So when he died in 1923, imagine what his burial ground looked like. Indeed, this is not a story about The Great Kabalega, this is a story about Mparo Royal Tombs, where the Bunyoro-Kitara royalty is laid to rest. A place where the South-Western Kingdom’s culture is preserved and the leaders celebrated in the most authentic of ways.

Mparo Royal Tombs

Baking with an intriguing insight into the culture and traditions of previous Kings of the Bunyoro Dynasty, a kingdom that birthed the Bantu tribes in Uganda, Mparo Royal Tombs is a place to visit. Sitting on an expansive land along Hoima-Masindi Road that used to host the palace of Kabalega, it remains as peaceful, beautiful, and serene as ever.

The tombs, a treasure to the kingdom’s people have designed, befitting cultural royalty. A look at Kabalega’s dome-shaped tomb made up of grass and reeds will affirm this. Boasting of a fairly complex design its decoration is a tale of a culture well-preserved. A step in will reveal regalia that tells of a man whose strength saw the kingdom resist the British rule in the late 1880s. Interestingly, some of these he used while still alive. His spears, drums, baskets, stools, and wooden troughs, you name it, and Mparo would have it.

It’s not just the Kabalega’s regalia that graces the tombs, other fallen kings are well represented too. Each tomb is shielded with barkcloth, a cultural cloth made from cultural trees. The thing about the tombs is that each tomb allows for a different experience. King Sir Winyi IV’s tomb, for example, has a calming effect to it. Towering trees provide all the tranquil there is and of course lots of fresh air. Important to note is that these trees are as old as time and like the kingdom, have stood the test of time.

Forget the type of royal graves you have seen, the Mparo Royal Tombs have found a way to bask in rich history and remain modest. The art, however, the artifacts really and the story behind each piece make Mparo worth the drive.

Well maintained and authentic, these tombs capture the feel of true African royalty. A foot into the dimly lit thatched tombs is nothing short of magical. The history therein oozes through the atmosphere and nothing but culture matters.  Besides the trees that stand guard outside, the tombs also allow for more royalty as showcased by a gently fenced off fenced graveyard where other royal members were buried. Not to forget the monument where Kabalega met Emin Pasha in 1871. Amazing!

Going Deeper

Hard to miss though would be the consistency with which the number nine is subtly featured. See, the Banyoro consider this a number of luck. Yes, nine! That quickly reminded me of the time I visited the kingdom’s royal regalia chamber at Karuziika.  Nafutal Balyemera, a caretaker, explained that almost everything at the palace is in numbers of nine. Some rituals are performed nine times or at times that coincide with nine.

The Banyoro associate this number with luck, prosperity, and positivity. “It is against this background that the king sounded the drum at exactly 3:00 pm, since it is the ninth hour of the day. In other words, the monarch was bidding luck to his kingdom,” Balyemera explains.

And indeed, on exploring the tomb further, you would notice nine traditional hoes holding the cowhide in place. Upon a raised platform in the room sits a legendary nine-legged royal stool covered with bark cloth and leopard skins. It is estimated to have been used for over two centuries now (over 200 years).

Forget the count for a minute and talk about the sin-free atmosphere Mparo maintains. The caretakers will quickly remind you that adultery is not allowed on the grounds. So before you set foot, you must repent, confess first, then repent, or the spirits will know what you did the previous night.

No doubt, marriage is taken quite seriously in the Bunyoro Kingdom. Did you know that even in death, the king remains married? Oh yes, and besides his remains should be his wife, who must cater to his every ‘needs’. It is believed that though dead, the kings that rest at Mparo tombs are never really gone. No Sir!

Should she die, the kingdom must find the king another wife. But also, get this, should a king marry, he marries her entire clan. And just like that, a bond is kick-started between him and this clan. Should be said wife die, a wife will be chosen for him from the same lineage. Yes, even if the king dies and his widows dies years later, the Bunyoro-Kitara people believe their king shouldn’t be left wifeless, not even in death.  Therefore, seek out Mparo not just for the artifacts, go and see how the dead kings of Bunyoro are ‘alive’.

Mwenge Bigere: A Tale of Brewing, Feet and Culture

Local Brew of Buganda

Mwenge Bigele! Get drunk on a ripe banana beverage, or just bask in the glory that is the Buganda culture. As its name suggests, the brewing process involves stepping.  Mwenge is alcohol, Bigere is feet. But first, let me tell you about Ssalongo Kasanvu Kakeeto.

We met at the Buganda Tourism Expo where he had gone to exhibit Mwenge Bigere. However, something stood out that would soon switch our conversation from the drink to a thing. Eryato, which is its Kiganda name, is a very fascinating artifact.

A wooden boat-like article designed for brewing. Inside it, ripe bananas were mashed dutifully with bare feet till they morphed into overflowing sweet juice. The juice, then, would be fermented and turned into Tonto or Mwenge Bigere: the local brew. It’s one of the best brews ever invented by man. It’s strong, indigenous, sweet, and too hard a drink capable of flooring a grownup man.

These boats are still in existence in the rural areas even when the world moved on. Civilization is cutting through the rural areas like cancer, but these boats have remained. Nowadays, many families in the villages own them. This wasn’t the case in the yesteryears, especially among Buganda. It was exclusive to a few. The very rich to be exact. This begs the question, why? “This is because the process of making it was very demanding, both in terms of time and resources,” Kakeeto offered.

According to the Senior Administrator with Mutima Club, an association at the forefront of preserving Buganda’s cultures, it would start by felling down a mature hard-wood tree with a thick stem. Canarium Schwinfurthii, locally known as the Mpafu tree was of stronger preference as it never cracks even when over-exposed to sunshine.

Thusly, it stands the test of time. Using heavy-duty traditional tools especially axes and pangas, a craftsman with a reputation for paying attention to detail would shove a hole inside the tree, expertly, attentively yet artistically. The edges were/are sliced off and molded nicely. It is then smoothened on the surface. He would continue shoveling to create a hollow section with a wide base and narrow entrance. “That way, the stomp wouldn’t flow over when being mashed using the feet.” He says

Finally, a huge chunk is yanked out, leaving it (boat) somewhat hollow. It’s in that hole that the ripe bananas are later thrown and mashed with sorghum, a core ingredient of the beer. On the other hand, the outside skin would be repeatedly scrapped to give it a more appealing look. The outcome of this hard work was light and impressive boat edged by two handles known as Ensanda for easy mobility.

“Due to this complexity that comes with making it, only a few used to have it. In many instances, a village would have less than two.” As such, sharing was the way to go. This spirit of sharing created unbeaten solidarity among locals. In appreciation, the party who had borrowed would reward its owner with a reasonable portion of the final fruitage.

This attracted a great deal of respect. The ground upon which it was laid for mashing was always carpeted with banana leaves and stem. Partly, this practice was meant to lessen its wear and tear. At the end of the day, it would be kept on an elevated stand like a souvenir.  From time to time, its outer wall would be smeared with cow dung for preservation. On the other hand, its inside was preserved using sup from the very bananas mashed inside.


Granted both sexes were free to savor its rich taste, but it was abominable for the female to participate in certain phases of its making. Such included the mashing phase. According to Mwami Ssonko Emmanuel, Secretary Njonge Clan, the exclusivity to men was because women don’t have as much strength as men.

They agreed that mashing the bananas required so much strength. “Short of that, it is bound to go bad in less than a few days or even hours.” he worries.  That aside, many didn’t feel comfortable having women take charge of the process as they might do so while in their periods. Sexist as this was, they argued that they didn’t want to risk contaminating the drink.

Life on the Moroto Streets

Moroto Town

When most people visit Moroto, a small town built along with the vast ranges of Mountain Moroto, they can’t help but fall in love with it.

It is one of the few places in Africa that offers the best of both worlds: The rich authentic culture of yesterday’s Africa and, the pleasures that come with modernity; fancy hotels, cellphones, and ATMs, and internet cafes. It is difficult to access as it is over 500 kilometers from Kampala, but even more so to leave. Its population is 103,432.

Life on the Moroto streets

As you take a stroll on its spacious streets, most of which feature buildings built in post-colonial times, your ears will be confronted with a hectic mix of foreign languages.

It is mostly from locals who came for a visit only to return as permanent residents at the realization of the gem that is Karamoja. Despite this variation in originality though, the town seems to have less than few strangers. People constantly run into friends and acquaintances. It is like a family, everybody knows everybody. This explains why people are usually late for meetings. As they journey to their destinations for the day, they meet a batch of close ties they cannot help but exchange pleasantries with.

The courtesy is not exclusive to residents only. Through heartfelt smiles, they will happily welcome you to a home away from home.

Infrastructural development

Contrary to popular belief, the town is served with impressive tarmac. However, as you drive out of town, you start to encounter roads that are only wide enough for one car at a time. Driving is negotiated through series of elaborate hand gestures. Like these roads, everything in Moroto requires cooperation and is done communally, harvesting crops, protecting herds of cattle, getting married.

The latest development in the town is the construction of a UGX25Billion state-of-art complex of Moroto hospital. It is comprised of 10 departments, including an outpatient section, emergency wards for causalities and recovery.

According to the Hospital Director, Philbert Nyeko, the work which was concluded in October 2015 was funded by World Bank.

The establishment follows a recent elevation of the facility from a General Referral Hospital to Regional Referral Hospital status (on 1 July 2009). In its new state, the hospital which was built in the 1940s now has a capacity to handle 500 patients at once. This makes it a lifesaver in the Karamoja sub-region, a catchment area of 7 districts in the region which include: Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, Kaboong, Kotido, Abim, and Amudat.

Cattle keeping

There is a considerable fraction that still herds cattle. Their looks may not be desirable as they are not fat but like a mother would love her child, they live and die for their cattle, just like their ancestors. They can’t bear to see them suffer as they are not only a means of dowry, but also symbolic of wealth. They would rather have a kraal full of cows than living an “air-conditioned” life. Beyond that, the culture of keeping cows is what connects them to their priceless heritage and roots. That is something they can never trade for anything under the sun, not even in their next life.

When the time for killing these cattle comes, they do so in the fastest but least painful ways. This is what sets them apart from ordinary farmers.


As carrying a flashy phone is the custom in developed cities, in Karamoja, carrying a stool and walking stick is the in-thing for men. Atop their heads is usually a hat that flirters their height making them look slightly taller than reality. This is partly because height is everything in Karamoja, an explanation as to why the giraffe comes across as their totem. The message behind this is stand tall and be strong. The symbolism also highlights their ability to strike dead anyone who threatens their cows with a single bullet, like a giraffe would strike dead any beastly carnivore with a single blow.

Generally, the locals are friendly and would not hesitate to invite you to their humble homes for lunch, especially in the harvest season when the town comes alive. Considering their land is faced with drought for much of the year, this season which usually comes around July and November is a big deal. So big that it usually prompts a festival-like celebration, one in which locals party from dusk to dusk while grooving to favorite local songs like Edonga. It is a traditional dance that entails jumping like the earth beneath one’s feet is ablaze with hot charcoal.

Activities/Things to do

1.Karamoja Museum

Moroto is home to the Karamoja Museum, a wonderland that gives a deep insight into what the world was like before man was born. If looks are anything to go by, one would be forgiven for omitting a visit to this museum off their to-do list. On the outside, it looks just like an ordinary two-bedroomed rental house. What is more, it seems like forever since it received a fresh coat of paint. The little that is there is peeling off, making the building not very inviting. There is nothing fancy about the facility whose construction was spearheaded by the French Government. However, its inside is the exact opposite. It boasts of archeological findings that no amount of money can buy. Most of its fossil exhibits are over 3 million years old. They were mostly exhumed from mountains in the Karamoja region where they were buried as a result of volcanic activities. This includes teeth of the oldest known fossil monkey known in the world,19-20 million years back. Victoria pithecus macinneni is its name, it was roughly the size of a velvet monkey.

2.Hike Mountain Moroto

Over 60 years back, it gave Moroto its name, a Karamojong word that loosely translates as the rocky place. If you visit it, it will give you the most extraordinary views of the semi-arid District and its impressive collection of well-thatched manyattas. I am talking about Mountain Moroto, a landmark that has turned out to be the District’s hallmark.

It has its highest point, standing at an elevation of 3,083meters above sea level. It is one of the few mountains in Uganda that you can hike in a total of three hours. For starters, its gradient is gentle, this pauses a less straining hiking challenge. Secondly, is the weather is not punishingly cold. This will lessen your vulnerability to altitude sickness. The best part of the story is that hiking is free. All you have to do is seek permission from the surrounding community before attempting to hike it. The bad news is that the Mountain is not safe for tourism at the moment. The locals are hostile following NFA’s alleged sale off of the forest zone of their mountain to some timber dealing investor.

3.Visit Edurkoit tree

When you drive into Moroto’s relatively busy but peaceful streets, the first thing that grabs your attention is a Faidebia Albida, a majestic tree that has been around even before Uganda’s first President was born. Situated in the middle of the town’s main street, it is probably around 150 years but you will have a hard time believing it as it is still perfectly in shape and looks forever young. Its roots have sunk deep in the ground anchoring it firmly in the Karamoja soils. Compared to trees in forests found in Southern and Western Uganda, its stem is less thick yet firmer. In contrast, its branches and leaves are light enough to be easily swayed but not broken by the strong crosswinds that sweep through the District daily.

Locally known as Edurkoit, it stands at what used to be home to one of Karamoja’s forefathers, Lokom. At least that is what I got to know thanks to Longora John, a 65 year Local Leader in the District.

“He was a martial warrior under whose reign Karamoja triumphed and accumulated lots of wealth, especially cattle (as raided from neighboring tribes such as Pokot, Turkana, Kalenjin….). He means to the Karamojong what Shaka Zulu meant to South Africans and what Pharaoh meant to the Egyptians.” he enlightened me

In agreement with Longora, Hellen Pulkol, Deputy RDC of Moroto observes that under the tree’s shades, elders used to converge to find lasting solutions to whatsoever was troubling their tribe. It could be settling disputes among its people, celebrating the lives of unsung heroes who have contributed to the growth of their clans. It is also here that plans were made on how to successfully invade rival tribes for cattle. Simply put, the tree has a very special place in the hearts of the Karamajong people.

“That is why they are never cut for firewood regardless of how desperate the situation at hand is.” she delights

4.Visit Manyattas

Edurkoit, is not the only thing that has stood the test of time. The Manyattas have been preserved. Manyattas are traditional home settings of the Karamojong. They are mostly single-roomed structures, thatched with spear grass on the top and walled off by mud. They are eco-friendly and really cool on the inside, this makes them a sweet paradise in this region where temperatures shoot as high as 32 degrees.

In a move aimed at making them less penetrable to cattle raiders, they are fenced off using venomous species of acacia trees. They are spiky.


Over the years, Moroto has always emerged victorious, not by repelling modernity but by not subsuming them. The town abounds with eat-outs and an array of hotels that offer inter-continental foods. This makes it a perfect place to visit without compromising on one’s comfort, especially for the type of traveler who is deeply in love with modernity. One particular recommendation in this regard is City Friends Hotel, a Motel at the heart of the town.


If you love night walks, you will love this town. Several streets are peaceful, well light and cozy. On the side of partying, there are not so many options as far as drink outs are concerned. However, the few that are there are worth a try though simple and still traditional. So much like country pubs. Most of these are found along the main street. typically, they are all about beers and sodas. Unlike Kampala, the joints here keep their volume in check. This allows easy chats without shouting at the top of one’s voice.

More Information


To the North, bordered by Kabong District, Kenya to the east, Amudat District to the south, and Nakapiripirit District to the south-west. It sits at an elevation of 1,380meters above sea level.

Travel Tip

If traveling using private means, be sure to opt for a four-wheel drive. The last 100+ kilometers leading to the District is made of earth roads. It gets really messy in rainy seasons, April-June.

For the Budget traveler, there is only one bus that travels directly to Moroto on a daily. Its Gateway Bus, found in Buganda Bus Park. It departs at 4 am and usually reaches 12 hours later, enroute between Mbale and Soroti. It costs between UGX30,000-45,000 depending on the time of the year.

In case of any health emergencies, one can reach Moroto Regional Referral Hospital on 0786469559. It is a fully-fledged Government hospital and offers services for free.

The Acholi Pot Dance: A Pride and Elegant Pot Affair

Acholi Pot Dance

A dance with pots. Herein the ladies rave with several pots lined up vertically atop their heads. But that’s a basic description; there is more. Hands out, waist in, and neck held high, this is a dance of pride!

It is a showcase of skill and then some more pride. The long yet elegant strides, waist jiggle here and there, the giggle, it is quite something, this dance. The Acholi pot dance is one to watch.

See, it almost never starts right away. First comes the tease, as if a reminder to the audience that the ladies come from the land of Acholi. A beautiful Ugandan people based in the Northern part of the country. It’s a dive into almost all the Acholi dances as if to tell of the many skills abreast. But experts will argue this is because it has evolved.

The Gist

In fact, whilst speaking to a local daily, Stephen Rwangyenzi, the founder and executive director of Ntinda-based, Ndere Troupe, says that there are areas where they have made deliberate changes and simple additions to attract the audience to the dance. “The carrying of pots in the Laraka-raka dance and telling of stories around the dances was my addition to make the dances attractive,” he begins. “But I endeavor to perform the first part authentically and then make the additions later.”

It should just be a tune and the straight into the pot dance, but a lot has changed. In most cases, it begins with the Laraka-raka dance, a different dance, a more vigorous one. Also called Lamokowang, this dance’s signature call comes from the cries of a wire-stricken calabash. But this for another day; back to the dance of pots. Quickly yet gently, the ladies will withdraw to the back as the men make way and fade off into just providing the sound for this showcase. Soon the elegant damsels each return with a pot in hand. First is one, just the one. Then they dance, boast even, as if to say, “…look, I can dance and carry a pot at the same time.”

But they dance, they making some sort of line and occasionally break away to explore the different angles of the stage. As if to get the audience wondering what is next, they giggle and sometimes share a laugh among themselves. They break into twos or threes and tease the audience. Look at their pots and smile, then gyrate their waists a little bit and walk around some more. This is a warm-up!

At this point, first-time watchers are wondering what the pot in hand is for. They slowly bring it to the center, around their abdomen, and shake their waists. It’s a tease, they know it’s working, so they smile. Then slowly, smiles getting brighter by the second, the pots are uniformly put on each girl’s head. That’s the moment it makes sense. The men have all faded at this point and the womenfolk, looking like gazelles, begin to boast. Woo them; dance to their tunes, literally!

The Tease

The Acholi girl mostly boasts glowing skin and long legs. She is the master of her waist. The art of waist wiggling, therefore, comes easy. So even as the pot goes to the head, she must find a balance, a way to still wiggle and keep the pot atop. Note, however, as the pot goes on the head, the true dancer is one who also makes subtle jumps, yet still manages to keep the pot in place without holding it.

Then one by one they start running off the stage, and back to where more pots await. They must return with two pots each and this times move even firster as the instruments get louder. Looking like queens, they keep going, testing and pushing themselves further. One-pot will soon become two and three and four and five and more, all piled atop each other.

Get this: it is done while musically walking around with their newfound ‘crowns’. Sometimes the music goes lower, slower maybe and then firster and this girl leave the crowd fascinated and also curious as how one can walk around carrying not one but several pots.

At this point, the sound of the calabash has been replaced with a more melodic instrument, sometimes the Adungu from West Nile is borrowed. Also called the African guitar, the Adungu provides for a melodic atmosphere, more relaxed and elegant. A flute could be used sometimes! See, everything must feel Ugandan once the Acholi take to the pot dance. And the girl will walk, sway, suave, boast to the tune of this music, all the while carrying their pots.

The more skilled the girl, the more pots she carries, and the more vigorously she dances. Quickly she can be seen returning to have the men put another pot on the already long crown of pots. At one point, their helpers have to get on higher ground, or a table to add a pot on their heads. But these girls love the tease. They like to keep the audience wondering how many more they can take.

The tall girls look even taller and the shorter girls find that they must carry more pots if they are going to outcompete the other girls. Also, know what to do when it looks like a pot my drop. In fact, it is not rare that you see once staggering about trying to keep the pots in order. “When it is about to fall, I reduce the speed and then pretend like I am spreading my hands out,” Clara Achen, a folk dancer with the Gulu-based Dhako dance group says. “Then I breathe slowly, try not to mover my head until it is stable.”

Clara maintains that it takes time to learn this skill, and for the naturally talented, it could take them just a month to get very good. “But other people, especially the ones who have never carried anything on their head can take even years,” she adds as a matter of fact. “So they carry maybe one or two while others carry even 10.”

The Story Here

Note though, that though widely danced by the Acholi, researchers argue that the pot dance originated from Teso. They also argue that since it is popular among the Langi, a tribe sandwiched between the Acholi and Iteso, this makes sense. Asked if this was true, Gabriel Komagum, a traditional dance trainer and student of Music Dance and Drama himself, says he doubts that but then thinks anything is possible.

“I don’t think so, but since the Iteso is just about a little over 100kms away from the north, anything is possible,” he says. He however goes on to explain how the dance found its baring among the Acholi people, a tribe from which he hails. “First of all, this is a courtship dance,” he states. “As they danced, the men would look for the young lady who could carry the most pots on her head.”

One thing is for sure, this dance is a symbol of culture; a showcase of love, skill and pride. In fact, the choice of the pot; a two-mouthed pot, has been known to be used for other rituals like, the welcoming of twins into a family. Many call it the ballet of Uganda. And indeed, like ballet, it exudes elegance and balance!

Top 7 Driving Tips for Uganda Visitors

Driving in Uganda

Uganda, the “Pearl of Africa” as it is often referred with all its beauty is one heck of an incredible safari destination to explore at any time of the year. The different tourist destinations are straight out of a postcard with some of the most jaw-dropping views any one can ask for hence making them worth exploring during self drive in Uganda.

This country is Paradise and it is a wonderful idea for any traveler for enjoy a fantastic road trip. The 8-9-hour drive to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the 6-7-hour drive to Kibale Forest National Park or the 7-hour drive to Murchison Falls national Park are some of the most rewarding drives in the country because endless views are expected.

However, being a foreign destination for many travelers, it is always important to be acquainted with this country’s roads and certain rules and regulations before hitting the road. It is undeniable that driving in Uganda might seem easy and fun but there are a number of things you have to know and be mindful of. Therefore, here are the top 7 driving tips for any Uganda visitor;

Drive on the left-hand side

In Uganda, driving is on the left-hand side of the road, and all cars (including rental cars) are right-hand drive vehicles.

This is sometimes overwhelming and difficult following at first, but while driving and following traffic during your road trip, it wont take long to get used to it. However, more caution and care should be taken when driving on the road alone, to be sure you aren’t driving on the wrong side of the road.  Overtaking/pass is on the right.

Avoid driving at night/after sundown

Driving at night is not a good idea, although it is not a total no-no. One of the reasons we highly advise against driving after sundown/or at night is due to the high risk of hold up as well as robberies. However, if you ever find yourself driving at night, it is advisable to be more cautious and vigilant.

Car Doors and Windows should be locked

Car Doors and windows should be locked, especially while driving through Urban Centers and major Cities. However, it is safe to leave a small gap at the window top for fresh air (while driving, and not packed) and surprisingly also prevents the window from breaking.

Avoid leaving valuables in the Car

Leaving valuables in the car is sometimes inevitable but should be avoided if possible. Even when you do, make sure that it is out of sight from outside because nothing of value will attempt a thief. For Campers, ensure that all access points as well as storage sections are properly locked, and if you can put a padlock on your storage cabinets that have exterior access.

Speed limits in Uganda

Maintain the recommended speed limits while driving on Ugandan roads to avoid traffic fines/penalties and for this reason, the limit on National highways is 100 kilometers per hour. On urban roads/Trading centers you are advised to maintain a speed of 50 kilometers per hour while on secondary (rural) roads maintain 80 kilometers per hour.

It is always important to check the different road signs and follow the speed limits at all times, but if it is raining, misty or even when the road in congested, drivers are advised to reduce the speed even below the indicated speed limit.

Avoid picking up hitchhikers

No matter how innocent, appealing or lost they look, avoid stopping to pick up hitchhikers because majority of them are thieves looking to take advantage of your kindness. However, if you feel concerned about the person’s plight, it is advisable to instead make a stop at the next Town and make a report to someone there.

Avoid stopping at accident scenes

This might sound inhumane but it is one of the top driving tips we give to Ugandan visitors. You might be prompted to do it but it is better to continue driving and instead made a call or stop at the nearby Café/shop to ask for assistance or report the accident. There have been cases of thieves and hijackers staging accidents to take advantage of unsuspecting drivers.

Journey into the Ankole Cultural Heritage

Ankole Cultural Heritage

Ankole is a region rich in cultural heritage. Unique dishes, language, folklore, you can name them, it’s all there.

Originally known as ‘Kaaro-karungi’ loosely translated as ‘beautiful village.’ the area is inhabited by the Banyankole – a Bantu group. They inhabit the present districts of Mbarara, Kiruhura, Isingiro, Ibanda, Bushenyi, Sheema, Rubirizi, Buhweju, Mitooma and Ntungamo in western Uganda.

Today, Ankole’s cultural heritage is fast fading. What remains is in tales and a few traditional ceremonies. But not all is lost. Igongo Cultural Museum, the biggest in Western Uganda, is preserving the Nkole culture through various artifacts.

Located 15 minutes away from Mbarara Town at Biharwe Trading Centre, the museum has become a leading tourist destination. With many legendary artifacts safely tucked away in transparent glass rooms, one is ushered into the rich Ankole heritage.

The name Igongo is itself of historical importance. It is derived from Igongo hill found in Rwenjeru village in Mbarara District. It is said that during the reign of King Ntare – which was between 1587 to 1615 – floods in Ankole Kingdom claimed thousands of people and livestock. King Ntare was compelled to seek divine intervention.

The diviner ordered that a white spotless cow (ente njeru) be slaughtered and the rituals were performed at Igongo hill. Miraculously, it is said, the water reduced and collected to form present day Lake Mburo. Pleased, the king named one of those.

A sculpture showing a traditional Ankole bride wearing beads

His sons Kasasira (the forgiver). Kasasira also later ruled Ankole from 1615 – 1643. Since then, Igongo hill became an important aspect of Ankole culture. It’s no wonder the museum is named after it. The museum has different sections of historical importance including: Social stratification Here one learns that Ankole society was/is stratified into Bahima (pastoralists) and the Bairu (agriculturalists).

A caste-like system of the Bahima over the Bairu existed. There was a general belief that a hoe is what made a mwiru (singular Bairu) what he is. Similarly, the Bahima were identified with cattle. This kind of belief was not very accurate because merely acquiring cows would not transform one from a Mwiru into a Muhima. Nor would the loss of cows transform a Muhima into a Mwiru – this is very common currently as some Bahima have taken on digging and Bairu own cattle. Because of the different way of life, even their homes looked different.

Marriage There is a lot to learn about marriage in Ankole – from the function to the beliefs that marriage is a sacred affair. The bride was expected to be a virgin until the night she is deflowered by her husband. If the parents of the girl were aware that their daughter was not a virgin, they would formally communicate to the husband by giving the girl – among the other gifts – a perforated coin or another hollow object, in most times a cloth. A bride was also meant to dress differently from the everyday way of dressing and jewelry.

There was and still is a function called okuhingira (giveaway) which is the day a woman/bride is officially handed over to the boy’s family. Among the gifts a bride would take would be Omugamba. The Omugamba would contain various calabashes that a bride would use in her new home. It is still the case today. War Often, the kingdom of Ankole was at war with the neighbouring states. Sometimes there would be raiding expeditions to Buhweju Kingdom and Karagwe in Tanzania. The Banyankole weapons comprised of spears, arrows and shields. The Royal Regalia The royal regalia of Ankole consisted of a spear and drums.

The main instrument of power was the royal drum called Bagyendanwa. This drum was believed to have been made by Wamala, the last Muchwezi ruler. It was only beaten at the installation of a new King and had its special hut. It was considered taboo to shut the hut. A fire was always kept burning for Bagyendanwa and this fire could only be extinguished in the event of the death of the King.

The drum had its own cows and some other attendant drums namely; kabembura, Nyakashija, eigura, kooma and Njeru ya Buremba. Communication You will learn that the Banyankole had several forms f communication for different functions. If one brewed local beer, they would inform others by hanging a coil made from banana leaves at the road to their homestead. Whoever saw it would know there is beer in that home. To call for a meeting, the messenger would blow a trumpet locally known as enzamba or a drum.

Handwork was an important aspect of Ankole. It was through handwork such as carpentry, iron smelting, pottery, weaving, as well as making leather products that people got the different items for use in day to day life. For instance the milk pots (ebyanzi), emikarabanda (wooden sandals) were carved out of wood. Spears, knives, needles for weaving were all from iron smelting. Baskets, stretchers for carrying brides and sick people were woven.

Cultural Villages

Outside the Museum is the cultural village. This exhibits the ways of life of the two different Ankole castes – the Bairu and Bahiima. You are ushered into how they lived, stored food and the general arrangement of the interior of their house. A Muhima house, for instance, has a designated corner called Orugege. Here milk pots, calabashes to churn yoghurt and ghee as well as entsimbo – the special calabash for storing ghee, would be kept under strict hygienic conditions. In a mwiru house, there had to be obugamba – a rack made from tree stems where food and firewood would be kept. It was usually above the cooking stones.

Not only does Ankole have a rich culture, the region also has unique dishes one will not find anywhere else. One of the most important food is Eshabwe. This is made from cow ghee which is mixed with rock salt and water. It is often served with karo (millet bread) and matooke (bananas).

Another important Ankole food is Karo (millet bread). This is got from mingling millet flour. It is served in special baskets known as endiiro. This was formerly the staple food of the Banyankole until matooke infiltrated the region.

Enkuru is a special sauce got from cow skins (oruhu). After drying the skin, you peel the inside and the meat-looking pieces you get are dried and later boiled and mixed with ghee and hot water. It can also be served with eshabwe.

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