NIGHT OWLS OF KAMPALA
Violence and political turmoil crippled Uganda’s tourism in the past but having banished its warlords and revived the economy, Uganda is attracting tourists again. The Pearl of Africa boasts an incredible array of landscapes ranging from snow-capped mountains and the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to the semi-desert northeast and the water spangled lake district. Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to a healthy breed of elephants, lions and hippos. Kampala, the capital of Uganda is East Africa’s vibrant entertainment focal point. The city stays busy when the sun goes down and a lot of transactions take place before sunrise.
A couple of years ago, I traveled to Kampala by bus and arrived in the middle of the night. Upon arrival, I took a cab to Nasser Road to print booklets for a client. Nasser Road, in downtown Kampala is a printing economic zone. Commercial buildings on both sides of the busy street contain numerous printing units operating 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
When I was negotiating with printing services providers at 1 am, it was business as usual elsewhere. Drivers were busy ferrying people from one point to another. Many bodaboda riders, bartenders, cashiers, artists, bouncers, hawkers, DJs and police officers were busy taking care of business. As usual, night spots across the city were packed beyond capacity.
When someone was printing my work at 2 am, a lot of people out there were moving from one club to another. For some reasons, Kampala party animals tend to make a series of short visits to different night clubs in one night. These club hoppers pay entrance fees, buy a round or two and exit the club in search of the next spot, acting like they haven’t found what they are looking for.
As I mentioned earlier, clubs in Kampala are usually overcrowded. While space in these clubs is scarce, it is common to see half of the club reserved for special customers. The VIP area may be as big as the rest of the club, but it is normally occupied by very few people who feel important. They buy expensive bottles and waiters deliver their orders in style. Every delivery is celebrated with fireworks drawing attention from ordinary citizens fighting for oxygen on the other side of the club. DJs have a tendency to mention names of the so called important people in the club and acknowledging their presence, making their heads even bigger. Management deploys troops of bouncers in black suits separating the VIP section from the rest.
When someone was binding my booklets at 3 am, college girls were flashing shots of tequila and some inflammable red and green liquids. Drink like a fish and smoke like a chimney is their slogan. They wear high heels and skimpy dresses revealing 90% of their bodies. They dance provocatively and mess with men old enough to be their fathers.The loud music includes dancehall, Afro pop and plenty of their very own Ugandan tunes. A few places play my favourite old school R n B and Hip Hop.
Popular night spots include Guvnor, Cayenne, Red 1, Just Kickin, The Wine Garage, Bubbles O’Leary’s and Fusion. I am sure there are many more I have not noticed and visited. Besides, new hang out joints sprout up everyday in this city that never sleep.