Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sunday at the tombs

One of the great sites in Kampala is the Kasubi tombs where the Buganda kings are buried, and so on Sunday in search of touristy adventure, I went.

It's not a very big place overall, about the size of a baseball field (to use a comparison comfortable to me), with a few huts in it. The largest is where the kings are buried behind a fig bark cloth hung from the ceiling in a place referred to as the forest. I had to wear the skirt you see for my individual tour, which was led by a young man named Nicholas.

I learned about the 52 pillars in the hut, representing the 52 clans of the Buganda; I learned about the table and two chairs sent by Queen Victoria which caused such an uproar when it was suggested that the king and "the" queen should sit in them, as the king had I can't remember how many wives. I saw the preserved remains of the leopard that had been the pet of King Mutasa (I believe), but had gone wild after his death.

Nicholas told me all of this, informed and placid, and as we approached the end of the tour he asked me what I did. I told him about Kiva and about microfinance and Nicholas became tremendously animated. "I make juice," he said, "And this is just the kind of thing I need!"

We sat down in the front office as I passed along the names of the MFIs that I knew about in Kampala, since Life in Africa isn't offering loans at this time. He gave me his phone number and email address and then took me on an entirely additional tour of the Islamic School right next to the tombs.

Nicholas sells some of his juice to the school and seems to me to be just the kind of person microfinance is around to serve: an entrepreneur with drive but not quite the capital he needs to do the job. He showed me some of the packets left lying around empty and introduced me to the headmaster who showed me around: boys dorm, girls dorm, classrooms, and the school building that used to be a mosque: the first mosque in Kampala.

This picture shows Nicholas, left, and the headmaster on the right standing in front of what used to be the mosque.

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