Jinja is a town in the Eastern Region of Uganda, located on the shores of Lake Victoria and lies in the North of the Lake. The origin of the name “Jinja” comes from the language of two tribes (the Basoga and the Baganda) that lived on either side of the River Nile in the area.
In both languages “Jinja” means “Rock”. There is a sense of timelessness when you visit Jinja city. The magical confluence of beauty, nature and the people can be experienced here as you can see layers of history unfold in every nook and corner of city.
There are so many reasons for you to visit Jinja from it’s rich industrialization, cultural diversity, source of the Nile, to it’s bustling markets and architectural buildings, from the delicious food to the vibrant local life, from the hospitality of Jinja people to the cheap yet classic hotels. The rich tapestry of history can be seen in the sights and sounds and in the many places to visit in Jinja city. There is something special about Jinja and personally it is unlike any other town that I have been to in Uganda.
Here are my a thousand reasons as to why you should visit Jinja city, a charming town and city with it’s unique mosaic of local People and the Asian people particularly the Indians, Somalians and Pakistans
Jinja is an industrial town. With the construction of the Hydro Electricity Power stations at Kiira dam, Owen falls dam and the Bujagali dam all in Jinja city, the naming of the source of the Nile, and the British building a railway through Jinja towards Kampala. It’s from then that Jinja town became a hot-spot for industries and trade. Jinja has over 70 functioning industries which attract visitors. These include textile (Nytil Picfare), Nile Breweries at Njeru for beer, Kakira Sugar Works for sugar, Jinja Steel Rolling Mills for steel rolling, Grain Milling industries, Tea Processing industries and Fish industries like the Masese Fish Factory, etc.
Source of the Nile. The second longest river in the world starts from Jinja city. It is about 2km away from Jinja town. Marketed as discovered by the European explorer John Speke, the source of the Nile provides a pretty focal point to the flow of water from Lake Victoria’s only outlet. The beautiful scenery here is pretty amazing!
Along the Nile River within a 10km and 18km distance from Jinja municipality are Bujagali falls and Itanda falls respectively. These falls offer the best white rafting activities in East Africa. And not forgetting the bungee jumping adventures.
Itanda falls also offer bird watching, camping and picnic outings.
The Lake Victoria beaches and Islands. Jinja city is known for boat racing, sports fishing and sand bathing on Samuka island, Ndaiga and Lwabitooke island. The key beaches along the lake and Nile include the Nile Discovery Resort Beach, A one beach at Masese, and the Nile Explorers Beach among others. These beaches and Islands in Jinja city are worth a visit on hot and sunny days for sand bathing, picnics and camping.
The Art and architecture. Jinja city was a hotspot for Asian migrants during the colonial times. This can be seen in the old buildings with their unique designs that make them stand out from the rest. Jinja city has priceless old Hindu temples, mosques, residential and commerical buildings. Such buildings were built by Asians and are still in existence. For example the Madhvan commercial building at Main street in Jinja city tells a story of the historic past.
Currently the new Jinja bridge (Source of the Nile bridge) is the first cable stayed bridge in Uganda and the second of it’s kind in East Africa. It majestically crosses the Nile giving a charming look to the surrounding areas unlike other places in Uganda. It lights up Jinja’s skyline at night and this makes it worth a place for taking photographs.
While in Jinja city, you will see lots of art galleries which are storehouses of stories, beautiful African cultural wears, jewelry, paintings to mention but a few. These art galleries are all over Jinja city but most concetrated along Main Street and others at Samuka Island, the source of the at Nile etc. You can literally become a time traveller by visiting these classical places in Jinja city.
Bustling markets and streets. Jinja city is not only about the old architectural buildings, it’s living history can be captured in vibrant markets and streets. Walking along the ageless 2km Jinja main Street, you’re lost in the covered alleys which are home to many shops selling everything from ceramics, food, cinematography films, drug pharmacies to household items. The Jinja central market was and still the hub of merchants. It is believed to be the biggest market in Uganda under one roof. From the top, the Jinja central market looks like a stadium. You can’t visit Jinja city and not head to these busiest and crowded streets and markets which are some of the places that will draw your attention.
The cultural/heritage sites. A visit to Jinja city is not worth it without visiting the Kyabazinga’s palace (King of Busoga kingdom’s home) at Igenge hill. While at Igenge palace, you get to see a fascinating view of Jinja city. Mpumude hill in Jinja city serves as a historical and cultural hill. It’s where Busoga’s kings are crowned from and historically viewed as where Bunyoro’s King (Omukama) Kabalega breathed his last in 1923.
Not forgetting Mwiri hill the highest point/hill in Jinja city on which Busoga’s mighty school “Busoga College Mwiri is situated”. Standing at elevation of 1356 metres, you’ll realise what Mwiri students mean when they boost for having studied from a hill that offers the world’s best panoramic view. It’s truly amazing viewing the magical Jinja city from this hill.
Hospitality of the people in Jinja. There is something special about Basoga being hospitable that needs to be experienced. Personally for me Jinja city is all about food to be specific Rolex chapatis
and plain chapatis. I don’t know which kind of recipes they use to make their chapatis as they’re extremely the most delicious. The taste is totally different from any chapatis that you’ve eaten elsewhere.
In restaurants, coffee or tea houses like The Source Cafe, traditional sites, markets. All these are part of the itinerary and things to see in Jinja city.
The local people love to woo you with their hospitality and you must stay in any of the local hotels here. There are different kinds of accommodations in Jinja city to suit every budget- be it budget hotels in Jinja or luxury hotels, boutiques, guesthouses, and bed and breakfast options. The Jinja people will ensure that their guests are very well taken care of and will pamper you all the time.
There are still many reasons to visit Jinja town. Jinja is the third popular most visited city in Uganda after Kampala and Entebbe. Jinja can be accessed by air, water, road and rail. If you have not been to Jinja before, then make sure that this vibrant historic town is in your travel itinerary anytime soon.
Namaganda Lyndah is a Writer/Author at Ada Uganda