Mbarara is a town located in southwestern Uganda. It is situated 167 miles (270 km) southwest of Kampala at an elevation of about 4,850 feet (1,480 metres) and is linked by road with Kikagati, Bushenyi, and Masaka. The town is located in a forest region and is known for its crafts, including wood carving, pottery making, and weaving. Industries produce textiles, soap, oils and fats, beverages, processed food, rope and twine, and plywood. The surrounding area was part of the historical Ankole kingdom. Mbarara has several churches and the residence, on a nearby hill, of the former bishop of Ankole.
History of Mbarara, Uganda
Ankole (Mbarara) District was founded in 1901. The abolition of Ankole federal and kingdom government in 1967, gave rise to Mbarara District Local Government (MDLG). Mbarara, the main town of Ankole District became a township in 1957. Following the Coup of 1972, the name Ankole District was changed to Mbarara District, and the township was transformed into a municipality in 1974.
In 1973, Bushenyi District was created out of Mbarara. In 1995 Ntungamo District was created and in 2002, the sub-county of Itojo, formerly part of Mbarara, was added to Ntungamo District. In 2005, the boundary was significantly reduced and the district was further split into three other district Local Governments namely, Isingiro (comprised of Bukanga and Isingiro counties), Kiruhura (comprised of Nyabushozi and Kazo counties) and Ibanda (comprised of Ibanda County).
The sub-division left the current Mbarara with three counties of Kashari, Rwampara and Mbarara municipality. Recently, in August 2015, Parliament passed a resolution to create Rwampara District out of Mbarara District, effective 1st July 2019. Based on that decision, Rwampara District was created on 1st July 2019 and Mbarara District boundaries were further altered to remain with Kashari County and Mbarara Municipality.
The district was named after its municipal center, the city of Mbarara, where the district headquarters is located. It is said that the word ‘Mbarara’ is derived from a common type of grass in Mbarara known as ‘emburara’
Where is Mbarara Located
Mbarara is a city found in Western Region, Uganda. It is located -0.60 latitude and 30.65 longitude and it is situated at elevation 1422 meters above sea level.
Mbarara is an important transport hub, lying west of Masaka on the road to Kabale, near Lake Mburo National Park. This is about 270 kilometres (168 mi), by road, southwest of Kampala, Uganda's capital and oldest city. The coordinates of the Mbarara central business district are 00 36 48S, 30 39 30E (Latitude:-0.6132; Longitude:30.6582). The city lies at an average elevation at about 1,147 metres (3,763 ft) above sea leve
Mbarara has a population of 97,500 making it the biggest city in Western Region. It operates on the BEAT time zone.
Things to Do in Mbarara
The Igongo Cultural Centre
This Centre was built in 2011 along the Mbarara to Masaka road. It is built on the grounds which held the former palace of the King of Ankole. The Centre is one of the leading cultural sites in Uganda. It helps promote and showcase the cultural heritage of the people of South western Uganda. Among the key attractions in the Centre is the Eriijukiro museum. A tour of the Eriijukiro museum takes about 30 minutes.
The Eitaramiro cultural village on the other hands shows how the typical Kinyankore household looked like hundreds of years ago. You will see traditional household items like animal skins, calabashes, milk gourds, grinding stones and a fireplace made of stones. While at the Centre you can go to the traditional restaurant to try out local Ankole food including matooke, ghee and millet bread. You can also try out potent local drinks made from sorghum and maize. If the drinks are not for you, you can go to the book shop of craft shop to see ancient sculptures of the animals and people of ankole.
The Igongo Cultural Centre also has a section for other tribes like the Batooro and Bakiga. By the end of your tour to the Igongo Cultural Centre, you would have got an idea about how the people of the area lived their lives hundreds of years ago. There a is a high end hotel at the Centre with conference facilities where you can spend the night as you tour the facility and town in phases.
You can arrange with staff at the Igongo Cultural Centre to take you for more activities outside the facility itself. With this arrangement, you can visit the Biharwe Eclipse monument in Mbarara or go outside town to visit Bahima villages and honey farms. If you are taken to visit one of the Bahima tribesmen, you should expect to learn how to make ghee/butter locally from milk. If there is more time, you can ask to move with the herdsmen as they take cattle for grazing in the swamps. When you return with the cows, you should help with the milking before saying farewell.
Sanga Cultural Village
If you are still interested in more cultural experiences after visiting the Igongo Cultural Centre, this is probably the next best place to go. This Centre showcases the cultural heritage of the Bahima (a subset of the Ankole tribe). It is built close to the junction going to Lake Mburo National Park. While here, you will spot many of the traditional regalia and tools used by the Bahima tribesmen. You will meet Hima women have vast information about the tribe, the role of women in the household and other ancient traditions.
See the long horned cattle of Ankole
The Ankole cattle is why Mbarara is referred to as the land of milk and honey. The Ankole cattle are strong and can survive in harsh conditions. They grow long and striking horns and are generally less susceptible to diseases. Unfortunately, cross breeding with the smaller Zebu cattle is threatening this unique species. The Banyankore have the largest cattle farms in Uganda. Mbarara district is the leading producer of milk and other dairy products in the country thanks to the Ankole cows. As you approach the district, you will begin to see countless farms along the roadside with hundreds or even thousands of cattle. Many of the large farms accept visitors and tourist. You can stop by one of the farms for a tour to learn about how the animals are kept. While at the farm, you might be taught how to milk a cow manually or prepare eshabwe (local gee).
Visit Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National park is located only thirty minutes away from Mbarara by road. It was once part of Mbarara District but with the creation of new districts, the park now falls under Kiruhura district. Lake Mburo National Park one of the smallest national parks in Uganda but with amazing activities in store for those who visit it. It is the best place to see Zebras while on a safari in Uganda. Apart from the Zebras, expect to encounter hyenas, leopards, mongooses, Buffaloes, Waterbucks, Impalas and various other antelopes. Lake Mburo is the only place where you can go for a safari on foot, on top of a horse, with a quad bike or a standard safari vehicle.
The night game drives in Lake Mburo National Park sets it apart from other national parks in Uganda and offers the best chance to see Leopards. You can also go for a boat cruises in Lake Mburo to see crocodiles and hippopotamus. Lake Mburo National park has its own cultural Centre that could rival that in Igongo in the future. Lake Mburo is one of the best places for sport fishing in Uganda. Birders should expect to sport the Shoebill stork, papyrus yellow warblers, red-faced barbets, Wood Doves, Common Scimitarbill, the Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Red-headed Lovebird and the African finfoots. Lake Mburo has some amazing hotels and lodges to choose from if you plan on spending more than a day.
Mbarara City tour
Mbarara is a fast developing town and you can’t leave without going for a full city tour. For one to experience the kind of life in a city, the first place to go to are the local markets. Visiting local markets exposes you to the culture of the people and gives you an understanding of the kind of life and challenges they face. You can observe how the people go about with their business and even listen to the latest gossip.
After visiting the local markets and buying some fresh fruits, you can proceed to the larger shopping malls. The malls are frequented by mostly the middle and higher class residents. Safariland Park in Mbarara is a good place to start. It has a collection of bars, shops and restaurants – Expect to find both the locals and tourists. Later in the evening you can go for a drink at one of the top hangout joints as you wait to check out Mbarara’s night life. The best way to tour the city is by using a boda (motorcycle taxi). Using a boda boda is risky and you need to insist that you are given a helmet. Keep in mind that although riding on the bikes can be fun, almost 50 percent of road accidents in Uganda are caused by boda boda riders. We highly recommend that you hire a car to avoid the risks of using a boda.
|Languages spoken||English, Nyankole, Luganda|
|Currency used||Uganda Shillings|