Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Kampala, Garden City

Today, I went to a suburb of Kampala that I rarely visit. Kololo hill.

Embassyville. The houses well enclosed, protected, embassy residencies. The roads smooth, well tarmaced, with few cars. The fences high and isolating. Few people on the roads. Those walking (like me), more than likely to be labourers. I blend in. Nicely.

It is literally an enclave of isolation in the middle of the city. Affluent, and very, very beautiful.

Part of its beauty is the fact that the hill is high over the rest of the city. The city spreads out on all sides. It is like one is in the clouds just above Kampala. The roar of traffic does not reach there. The diesel fumes, the dust, all that is left behind, yet it is right within the city.

When almost at the top, I looked down. The slums of Kamwokya to one side. Individual houses minute, children’s blocks too close together, stretching across the valley. The hills that bound the horizon. Bahai temple in the distance.

The hills are clothed in green. The green of trees, the green of grass, the living green of a garden city.

What was most striking to me was the valley between Kololo hill and Nakasero hill. I think of Kampala as a city in valleys. Multiple valleys. Most of the ones I see are dotted and scarred by buildings, everywhere. A jumbled, jungle of human dwellings.

Not so that valley.

The buildings there are trendy, huge, few. The green is of trees that are house height. Mature trees. And they are many. This valley is clothed in green, from Kololo, through the Golf course in the valley, to Nakasero hill. A vibrant, deep, living green that reminds one of the tropical rainforest history of Kampala. It was the Kabaka’s hunting grounds, long ago. And one has the sense that, not so long ago, there was a forest here. Jungle which has now been tamed.

A Garden City, is Kampala. The green of the bush, grass and trees riotous at the moment. There is a whisper of the garden in the quiet which seems to clothe the valley. The very trees talk of growing and pushing. Reclaiming their ground from greedy man’s clutches and controlling hand.

For a while I looked out at this spectacle. I knew I had to write about it. To try and capture the sense of beauty, and awe that it touched in me. But I became uncomfortable. I may blend in into the neighbourhood as a kibarua, a day labourer, but not if I stood in quiet contemplation for long.

Reluctantly, I walked downhill, past Kiseminti. It was like I was crossing a bridge, from an island of quiet to the hustle and bustle of the city. I had to duck into the park near the British High Commission. Just to have a taste of the solitude which I had just been in.

Kampala is beautiful. Very beautiful. A garden city if there ever was one. The plants and leaves, flowers and trees growing with abandon, only needing a little trimming here and there to shape and tame the wild beauty.

To me, it is the Queen of Garden City, is Kampala.


1 comment:

apples said...

I kinda got lost up there a couple weeks ago and as usual it was a good thing - I got to see a lot more than I planned on.

I wish I would blend in too, but I have to go out in night to do that - which is fine really, the warm nights in Kampala, a capital city where you can still see the moon and the stars - it's beautiful.

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