The Royal Mile in Kampala might not be one of the more popular sites on the list of Highlights of a Kampala city tour but I think it’s awesome.
Let me explain…
Better walked than driven, the Royal Mile in Kampala (locally called Kabaka Anjagala) connects the Mengo Lubiri (the King’s Palace) to Bulange, the parliament of perhaps Uganda’s largest ethnic group, Buganda; and this area alone offers by far the best summary of the great Buganda Kingdom.
Loosely translating, Kabaka Anjagala would mean “the King loves me”, but surprisingly, this is not what is meant when one makes reference to the moniker ascribed to the Royal Mile in Kampala.
A long time ago the Kabaka’s (the Buganda king’s) subjects would walk this mile and whenever they were stopped along the way, they would shrug off and iterate how they had no time to waste and how busy they were for any tasks other than those of their master, the king. So in the literal sense, Kabaka Anjagala means, “the king has summoned me and for that reason, I should get going”.
Exactly a mile in length, mimicking the Royal Mile in Edinburgh; the Kabaka’s (king’s) gate looks symmetrically into the main entrance to the parliament. In the middle is a roundabout with a sculptural arch in the form of a long drum (locally called “Engalabi”) with gates on either side.
As is its name, the gates to the “Natawetwa” roundabout (a word that loosely translates to mean “he who cannot be made to bend or coil”, also one of the King’s many titles) are only opened for the king to drive straight through along the Royal Mile in Kampala between the Lubiri and Bulange, while the common man must make his way around it.
It is an interesting mile along which are 52 trees that represent the clans of Buganda.
On one end of the Royal Mile in Kampala is the Lubiri palace which was built in 1922 guards a dark concrete tunnel with darkened and damp prison cells separated by a (used to be) electrified waterway that was used as a torture chamber by the late Idi Amin Dada in the late 1970s.
Although the king does not permanently reside here, not everyone gets to enter the palace building. The horrific chambers in its perimeter wall are however open to tourists and one of the very knowledgeable palace guides will take you on a tour, also seeing a mini-museum on Buganda as well as a fireplace at the main entrance which can never burn out lest a king is dead.
Since the old days, the king and his ministers have gone the other end of the mile to debate policies and plan for this great kingdom at the parliament which in itself is a charming site of history.