Uganda offers a rich sensory experience, full of sounds, sights, aromas and flavors of a culture that draws from dozens of ethnic groups. The diverse population means you’ll hear the sounds of more than 32 languages spoken throughout the country. Two official languages, English and Swahili, bring some unity to the varied peoples, as does religion. Uganda’s population is 85 percent Christian and 12 percent Muslim.
To complement these sounds, Uganda offers vivid images—rainforests, swamps with dense tree cover, volcanic mountain ranges, fertile coffee plantations, and the blue waters of Lake Victoria. But no picture of Uganda is complete without images of its people. Children in all areas enjoy playing soccer, a very popular sport. Men are often seen wearing the kanzu, the traditional national dress. The ankle-length tunic of white or cream color is typically made of silk, cotton, poplin, or linen, and often worn with a suit jacket, blazer, or sport coat. Many women wear the gomesi, originally a form of traditional dress for the Buganda, but now adopted by many ethnicities. The floor-length dress is brightly colored with short, puffed sleeves and a square neckline accented by two buttons. A sash is tied below the waist, over the hip area. Made from silk, cotton, or linen, gomesi are worn for special occasions in cities and urban areas but considered daily attire in rural areas.
Flavors and aromas of Uganda’s cuisine add a delicious cultural dimension. With English, Arab, and Asian influences, Ugandan food typically has a starch base with sauces of beans or meat. Matoke, a starchy variety of banana, is used especially in the south, boiled or steamed and mashed before being served with sauce. Groundnuts, or peanuts, are considered a staple and form the basis of several common sauces. Fish, pork, beef, chicken, goat, and mutton are all used for protein, but most rural Ugandans do not eat meat every day. Slaughtering an animal is saved for special celebrations. Yams, cassava, and African sweet potato are regularly eaten with a variety of vegetables, like corn, tomatoes, and peas. Fruits are usually served for dessert and include oranges, pineapples, papayas, and lemons. Sim-sim, or sesame seeds, are widely enjoyed as a paste mixed into stews of beans or greens, or a candy made by roasting seeds with sugar or honey. Meals are prepared by women and girls, usually over an open wood fire in a kitchen separate from the main house.
Cross International is proud to partner with the Project Princess Initiative to support girls in Uganda, helping them stay in school to gain a complete education and valuable training. Through working with these girls and their communities, our goal is to invest in a bright future for this nation, which offers a fascinating cultural experience to fill the senses with tastes, sights, and sounds not soon forgotten.