“Habari?” You might hear this friendly Swahili greeting on the streets of Entebbe or when you awake in the morning to join your guides in search of Uganda’s magnificent mountain gorillas. “What’s news?” they are asking. And in Uganda, the answer is, “Plenty.” Here are some surprising facts about this little-known nation:
From 1894 to 1962, Uganda was a protectorate of Great Britain. However, Queen Elizabeth continued to use the ceremonial title “Queen of Uganda” until Uganda became its own republic in 1963.
Winston Churchill visited in 1907. He was so impressed by its natural beauty, he called Uganda the “Pearl of Africa.”
This very green nation is home to plentiful tea plantations. In fact, tea is its third largest agricultural export, after coffee and tobacco. And the best tea here is plucked by hand.
While in Uganda, eat as the Ugandans do. Two popular dishes are matoke, or cooked plantains, in a groundnut sauce, and rolex, an omelette wrapped in a chapatti, or flatbread.
The Rwenzoris are Africa’s tallest mountain range. The highest peak, Mount Stanley, soars to 16,762 feet and is permanently covered in snow, despite its location on the equator. Its glaciers are one source of the Nile River, which flows 4,258 miles to the Mediterranean Sea.
Speaking of the Nile River, on its way out of Uganda, it passes through Murchison Falls National Park. There, its waters explode through a rocky gorge that’s only 23 feet wide before plunging some 130 feet.
Landscapes of Murchison Falls National Park were used as location shots for the 1951 movie African Queen, starring Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.
Uganda borders Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake by area and the world’s second largest freshwater lake after Lake Superior in the United States. It supports the continent’s largest inland fishery.