The Pearl of Africa

Monday,2nd April, 2012

I was making preparations to go to Kampala again - packing and re-packing! I wanted to take so many things to make Khara's place more comfortable but I was limited to only 25 kg luggage on the plane. The flight was the next day at 3.30 p.m. I had extra lessons at school at 9 a.m. so I would have to go to school first, then go to Parklands to get 'mithai' and Baji would drop me at the Airport. My younger sister and her friends were also planning to go by road to Uganda over the week-end. Oh, it would be great fun. 

My school was closing for Easter. The children were busy with their work.  It was raining hard after a long dry spell.  In the evening I went to the Lavington shopping centre to get things for the children - meat, butter,croissantes etc so that they have minimal things to buy while I am away. Although they are big now and responsible, I still feel that from my side, I should do as much as I can for their comfort and well-being.

At night, I made fish and chips for dinner and 'biryani' for the next day. It was still raining at night. Although the rain was welcome - the mosquitoes seemed to increase - the insecticide and the mossi-sticks were having zero effect! I hardly slept!

Tuesday, 3rd April, 2012

My son was collected by the Globe Pharmacy van to be taken to the work place in town. I went to school for the extra holiday lesson - it was a Grade 12/13 Biology practical class and with the help of the Lab assistant, it went on fine. I also had to give the students some assignments for the holidays.

I was up even before the alarm - prayed, made breakfast and gave the dogs, their food.

At 10 a.m. I went to buy some things for Khara from Highridge. There was hardly any traffic, surprisingly, so I reached home by 11 a.m. My daughter was at home. She helped me with my final packing - the weight seemed in excess  but I had to take the duvet, bed covers, a rug and a melamine dinner set for the house in Kampala. Baji came with her driver and by 2 p.m. we were at the JKIA. 

There was no problem with the luggage or the immigration. At the security check, I was asked to open my hand luggage - they wanted to scrutinise the small wall mirror that I was carrying. 

While I was waiting in the lounge, Khara rang and I told him him we would be meeting in a couple of hours. At 4 p.m. the flight took off and soon we were over the clouds.  

It is a wonderful feeling you get when you look out of the plane window and see the cottony clouds below you. We were over the Lake Victoria and I could see some islands in the blue water. It seemed like a page out of an Atlas - just like the shape of the corner of the lake, we used to draw in primary school, during the Geography lessons! The sun peeped through the silver-white clouds as we flew over the vast expanse of water. Then the topographical view of the land intrigued me. It was amazing to see the tracks looking like threads and the houses like match boxes. 

We were served with sandwiches, but some how I never feel like eating during a flight - I just had some juice. While in the mid sky, I prayed for the welfare and respect of my children, remembered Mum and Dad a lot and relived the trip for Hajj with Baji and Reema. Life was going on but it would never be the same!

Soon we landed at the Entebbee Airport. An attendant helped me with my hand trolley down the stairs. It was slightly warm but windy on the run way. The parked aeroplanes that seemed like toys from the air, now looked bigger than life.  As I walked towards the Immigration office, I rang Khara - he was still on his way and there was lots of traffic. 

I filled in the official forms and gave my finger prints in front of the camera.  The lady there commended my hair colour. When I told her it was simple, home pasted 'henna', she was amazed.

My luggage came on the conveyor belt and I battled with it to get it onto the trolley. Some times you cannot find anybody to help. I walked out at last as some smartly dressed representatives asked if I wanted a taxi or a hotel. I told them I was waiting for my car - I was feeling a bit apprehensive as Khara had still not come. 

After some time that seemed like hours, Khara arrived. He was looking tired although the driver, Musa, had been driving. The old 'merc' seemed to have been cleaned. I sat at the back while Khara sat in front with the driver. It was dusky now and there was still a lot of traffic but the greenery on the roadsides was so beautiful. I saw a huge 'jack-fruit' actually growing on the stem of the tree - I had never seen this. The bill boards were in myriads but quite innovative especially the ones advertising and sensitising people about products and HIV.

It was just after 6 p.m. when we reached the house. We put the luggage upstairs. Khara was starving so we shared the flight sandwich and had some juice.  He also had the 'methai' that I had brought from Nairobi and then sat in the dining room to watch cricket news, his favourite pass-time.

I unpacked my luggage in the bed room and put the new bed sheets and a bed-side rug that Mum had gifted me a long time ago. The room looked cleaner than the last time I had been here. Feeling very tired, I wanted to rest but my head was throbbing and my throat seemed sore.

Suhail sent us chicken and 'naans' for dinner. Khara and I enjoyed the food together. Khara was so sweet - he served me and I felt so touched. My heart went out to him. May God bless  him always.

The night was warm and there were some mosquitoes buzzing around. There was an overhead mosquito net but I didn't want it - I felt so claustrophobic in it!

Wednesday, 4th April, 2012

I woke up early but just lolled. Khara had his tea and rushed for a Pakistani Function from where he went to work. Sharon had arrived, so I gave her the presents I had brought for her - a sundress and eclairs. She had passed her recent tests with A grades. She told me she had been sick with 'chicken-pox' and her uncle who used to pay her fees, had died. I felt really sorry for her as she was such an intelligent and hard working girl.

My tea had become cold so I had some juice. I told Sharon to use the 'thermos' flask that I had brought, to keep the tea warm. Later Suhail made some fresh tea for us. He saw the album with my Hajj photos and I gave him the shirt, 'jae namaaz' and 'chevra' that I had brought for him. He was so thankful and he showed me the pictures of his wife and small children in Pakistan.

He then watched some 'Waaz' on T.V. and then left for his restaurant. 

After Sharon left, I started making the new curtains for Khara's room. I had brought the white and gold material lying in the house in Nairobi. Miraculously it was just enough for the two windows in the room. It was a tough job as I had to hand stitch everything.  I also had to put the runners and hooks on the palmate all by myself. Anyway I enjoyed making the curtains as there was no disturbance. By 5 p.m. I had finished. The room looked so presentable now and I was sure Khara would be happy. I wanted him to feel good when he returned from work, fatigued and fagged out. Other days there was nobody to welcome him.  I wanted him to feel my presence even when I would not be there.

Shifa, my niece, had been messaging me frequently to ask how I was, asking for a story book from Kamapala and wishing me a good holiday. She had indeed matured a lot. She needed more attention and constant companionship so that she could carry out constructive activities.

It was almost 7 p.m. It was raining heavily outside just like the last time that I was here. I was waiting for Khara, my 'jaan', to come home. I was really missing him. I prayed for his well-being and thanked God for all His blessings.

Khara came at 7.45 p.m. I served him with juice and we watched some T.V. Suhail came with the food for dinner- 'daal', 'bhajia' and 'naans'. We all enjoyed the food together.

When Suhail saw our tranformed room, he was amazed and joked that he was getting a 'cold' with so much 'hygiene' around!! I told him I would do something about the other rooms too especially the guest room. Khara retorted, 'Don't spoil our habits'! He was pleased with the new curtains and the setting of the room. He slept like a baby. I, too, was really tired because of all the bending and stretching while putting up the curtains.      

Thursday 5th April, 2012

The alarm rang at 6 a.m. Sharon came early and made the tea which we had with some cookies. Khara had to go to work immediately as he was going to be very busy that day. I wanted to have a cleaning spree in the house! 

I started off with the upstairs bathroom - it seemed the dust had been there for years. I tried to clean the walls of our room but some spots and marks were permanently etched there.  The house needed a new coat of paint badly.  

Suhail brought me some juice and tea . He was so sweet - such a good son. He had worn the silvery grey shirt I had brought for him and he looked so smart. I wished him well and hoped he would flourish in his business. He went off to work at 1.30 p.m. Sharon also had to go.

After my mid day prayers, I started cleaning the downstairs area. The kitchen seemed to have dirt from 5 years! Even the sitting room was full of dust. I remembered Mum and Khalla who also used to clean up where ever the went. They hated 'ghalazat'. I hoped I was  not becoming obsessed with an ultra clean and healthy environment! By the time I finished the house looked more like a 'home' now.

It was 8 p.m. when Khara returned. Soon the food also came - it was beef curry and chapatis. Khara liked it but I had the previous day's yoghurt and bhajia. Somehow I could not swallow the beef - my throat seemed to have tightened!

Khara watched cricket but I was really feeling tired of the wiping, sweeping and dusting the whole afternoon. I sent messages to the children in Nairobi and then rested. It had been raining again in the evening so it was quite cool and the mosquitoes had also disappeared. Khara rubbed my back as it was aching and before I knew I was fast asleep    

Friday, 6th April, 2012

Around 10 a.m. the driver came and I too went with Khara to the town. Khara got dropped off at the Sports shop and I went to the 'Uchumi' mall. It was huge with food courts and shopping amenities. I was surprised to see that all Kenyan stuff was on the shelves of the super market. There was loads of KCC butter in the dairy side - we had an acute shortage of butter in Nairobi - I was tempted to get some and take it back with me!

It was a public holiday so Khara was going to work a bit later than usual. Even Sharon came late. We had tea and cookies while Suhail enjoyed the 'chevra', I had brought from Nairobi. I recalled that my niece in Biringham had told us that her son Shazu really liked eating 'chevra' and he was only two years old!

I enjoyed going around the aisles and got some necessities for the house here - buckets, mats, tea, eggs, fruit etc. I also took some photos.

We went back to the Sports shop where Khara had ordered 'pilau' for lunch. Even Suhail came over and we all had food in the back room of the shop. On my request Suhail had ordered a cake for my brother-in-law's birthday which was on the next day. My sister wanted to give him a surprise at Taj Restaurant. They had reached Jinja and had gone to see the Owen Falls.

We had a lot of childhood memories of Jinja where we used to stay in 'master's' house. 'Masterani', his wife used to love to feed us with fresh 'parathas', 'achar' and 'duud' [milk]. Their own children were in Pakistan so they really pampered us!

With the driver I came home. I set the dining room and organised the kitchen. Now things looked better. My sister rang me at 6 p.m. They had left Jinja and would reach Kampala at night. So we would meet the next day. Khara came and got engrossed in watching 'cricket', as usual. I didn't mind, as long as he was around. I rested a bit and prayed. It was dusky, the weather was cool and romantic - or was it all in the mind?

Dinner was mixed veges and 'roti' which I enjoyed. Some how I always prefer vegetarian food unlike Khara who loves chicken and fish.

My sister and her friends had reached Kampala by 9 p.m. They were staying with Mr Mumtaz, a mutual acquaintance. 

Saturday, 7th April, 2012

I was excited as I was going to meet my sister in Kampala. We had breakfast and waited for the driver who was late because of the drizzling. Around 10 a.m. we were on he way to the 'Bumbo' area. After several phone calls and directions we managed to find the house which was a beautiful mansion with a lush garden. The decor inside was exquisite and beautiful - it seemed like a 7 star hotel. No wonder my sister and all had preferred to stay here. We were all delighted to see each other in the same place after decades. We also met Mr Mumtaz and his wife, Azra who were ideal hosts to their guests.

They were all having breakfast. I just had some juice. The men sat in the garden which had many sorts of flowers and trees. 

After an hour or so we all got into three cars and followed each other to the town. The traffic was pretty bad and the road was full of pot-holes - a reminder that we were still in Africa! We parked on Kampala Road and went in to see Khara's Super Sports shop. As we walked along the road we clutched onto our bags and cameras as we had been warned about 'snatchers'. In fact we witnessed somebody being mugged and people running after the thief.

We drove through the congested roads of Old Kampala and went to the Gadaffi Mosque. I had seen it on my last trip, but this time we even went inside and were awed with the islamic architecture with 'ayats' engraved on the walls. Gadaffi had done a good deed here. We prayed and from the court yard admired the panoramic view of the City. The floor out here was reflecting so much light that although it was not a sunny day, we could hardly open our eyes.
We got packed into the cars again and went to the 'Garden City', the Uchumi Mall. In the food court, there were so many people of all races and colours - there was hardly any space to sit. We all relished the various dishes ordered- Iranian shaurma, masala dossa, chicken tikkas and kebabs. We took a quick round of the mall, took some photos and headed to the car park as we were short of time.
Our next destination was the Munyiona Resort [Speke Hotel at the Lakeside]. Last time Khara and I had come together here but today he had stayed back at the sports shop. We all took long walks, enjoying the lake view, green lawns, blue waters and many sorts of beautiful flowers. The soil seemed so fertile. We saw some plants flowering here - in Nairobi we had seen only the leaves!

My sister was tired and feeling weak so we gave her some 'patisa' to raise her sugar level and we all had it too.    

It was almost dusk when we drove out of the resort. We stopped at Mr Mumtaz's cousin's house where we all said our prayers and had tea. Even this house was majestic. One of the sons of the hosts, Amjad and Kosar, had come from Coventry, U.K. where he was studying. He had met my niece Candy and nephew Fadhi, who were in the same university - small world!

Khara rang me to tell me that he was already at the Taj restaurant with Sohail. We were all supposed to go there for dinner.

We had to pass through Mr Mumtaz's house for a few minutes. The 'lights' had gone [another reminder that we were in Africa!] so we sat in candle light. We met the daughter, Afea, a studious 'A' level pupil who wanted to pursue Medicine in the future. She drove their car towards the Taj and we followed in the other car. My sister was sitting with me and we remembered the times we used to come to Uganda with Dad and Mum when we were children.

Afea didn't know the way to the restaurant so we had to stop several times to ask passers-by. My sister and I recalled the time when long ago our house help, Masila, took Dad to his home village near Machakos to buy goats. Dad got tired driving for hours while Masila went on saying, 'hapa tuu, hapa tuu' [it's just near, it's just near]!

Finally after a long drive, we reached the Ntinda area and managed to find the restaurant.

Sohail had got all the dishes prepared specially and everybody enjoyed the chicken wings, tikkas, grilled fish, masala chips and 'paye' with 'naans'. After the dinner the surprise cake came for my brother in law whose birthday it was. He cut the cake with my sister and we all sang 'Happy Birthday' for him.

Khara and Sohail were there to welcome us. It was a full moon night but a bit cloudy. It was 9 p.m by the time all the introductions were done and we all sat at the tables in the 'bandas'. We were almost twenty people.

It was past 11 p.m. now. Suddenly two hairy caterpillars fell onto our table from the roof. We knew it was time to go now! The good-byes were said and they all left for Mr. Mumtaz's house. Khara and I thanked Sohail for the lovely dinner he had arranged.

With the driver Khara and I came home. There was so much noise in the area as it was a Saturday night and lots of blaring music was being played around. It seemed there were no laws about noise pollution in residential areas here. We had to literally put cotton wool in our ears to sleep in the otherwise cool night!

Sunday, 8th April, 2012

Khara was feeling a bit low in the morning. His blood pressure goes down some times. Sharon was not coming today, so I made some tea in the 'micro-wave' and served him with the 'katlamey' from Nairobi. He started watching cricket on T.V.

My sister rang me that they would be soon leaving for Entebbe where we could all meet and have a picnic. The driver, Musa, had come, so we started off the long drive.

The traffic was lesser than other days. The asian F.M. radio was playing old songs like 'kanton se cheen ke ye aanchal..' and I was enjoying the view outside. The lush greenery strikes you again and again as you drive on the roads the sides of which are full  of 'kiosks', hawkers and small houses. There is hardly any expanse that is uninhabitated.

At exactly 2 p.m. e reached the 'Aero Beach' which was situated just after the Entebbe International Airport. There was a small charge to enter. Many cars were already there and people were enjoying the beautiful beach.

There were two old aerplanes parked in the ground. Children were climbing in and out of them. One plane was supposed to be the one that was hijacked in a historical happening some years ago. 

There were so many statues of famous personalities, standing around. People were getting photographed with Mandela, Obama and other celebrities! Sculptured animals were also perched on the rocks. Children and adults were playing cricket in one corner. Khara and I walked along the beach and then sat on the benches to wait for the others to arrive.
Soon our hosts arrived - Kosar, Amjad, Jugnu, Sadaf, their husbands and children, too. One of their cousins, Huma, was a Dentistry student at the Makerere University in Kampala. I recalled Jamil [my friend Shahnaz's husband who had recently passed away]-he had studied Medicine at that university for many years and his Mum, Khushia, used to come to Uganda very often.

My sister and her relatives also arrived. They had gone to see the Botanical Gardens from where they had brought for me a giant fern frond  - my sister knows I love plants!

They were all in the right spirit, equipped with beach caps, sneakers and cameras. By now the beach was packed with people swimming, playing and having sheer fun. I couldn't help remembering our childhood days when our parents used to bring us to this same beach to make us enjoy our holidays.

The men had set up the barbecue and we enjoyed the delicious garlic bread and chicken grilled on coal. We sat under the tent. All the women and the girls made really good hosts and they served us with soft drinks and salads. They had been to Nairobi some years ago and had even visited Baji's house so they all remembered her a lot.

Driving out of Aero Beach was a nightmare. The place was already crammed with parked cars and lines of more vehicles were streaming on the narrow, rocky lane coming from the main road. There was surely a beach party planned  for the night!

Soon it was time to say good bye as my sister and all were travelling back to Kenya by road and they had to start off at 6 a.m. We hugged each other and prayed that we would meet again soon

After an ordeal of one hour we managed to reach the main road. It was dusk now; we reached home at 7 p.m. Mr Amjad rang Khara to invite us for dinner at 'Fang Fang' restaurant but we declined as we were already so full and tired.

I sent messages to my children, Reema and Baji. I missed them so much and wished they could also come and enjoy Uganda, the Pearl of Africa. I made a mental note of buying a 'map' especially of Kampala and its environs as the days had passed so fast and time to go back to Nairobi was so near.

It was a warm night and again outside, there was so much music playing at the loudest volume possible. People here knew how to disturb others!

Monday, 9th April, 2012

By the time we finished the chores, it was 1.30 p.m. Khara had an 'off' today so he drove us to his friend Rabbani's house in Kololo. Their house was on top of the hill and you could view the whole city from the balcony. I noticed that the 'Kenya High Commission' residence was just the next house.

It was Easter Monday. In the morning I fixed the curtains and the bed sheets in the spare room. I asked Sharon to clean the room and balcony  that was flooded with dirt rain water, a haven for the mosquitoes!

I had brought a present for the lady, Arshad and chocos for the children. We looked at the photos of my last trip to Kampala and my Hajj snaps. Arshad cooked chicken and pea 'pilau' while I cut the salad and fruit. Some more guests also came and we all had lunch together.

Around 5 p.m. we said bye to them and drove back home.  Khara watched cricket for a couple of hours. Sohail brought 'pizza' for dinner and we all enjoyed eating and chatting together.

Tuesday, 10th April, 2012

Today I was going back to Nairobi. The flight was at 5 p.m. Khara had to go to work very early as he was supposed to receive a 'container' for the shop from the customs office. The driver was to come at 1 and take me to the Airport. On the way I hoped to go to some book shop and also say bye to Khara at the sports shop. We had a happy time together and again separation loomed ahead....

I did my final packing and this time I left some of my things here so that I won't carry extra stuff next time. Sharon came to clean my room and I gave her some Ugandan money as a fare-well gift. She was so happy that she touched my feet. She wanted to study further but had so many problems. I prayed for her success and happiness.

For breakfast I had some left over 'pizza' and juice. Suhail had rung the driver to come and he was there on time. Suhail offered to accompany us to the Airport but I declined. Khara was still busy at the customs office so I said bye on the phone.

At 1.30 we started for the Airport. Surprisingly there was hardly any traffic and within an hour I was dropped at the Entebbee Airport. It was too early to check in, so I  went to the waiting area and shopped for a few trinkets and 'art' cards from the small shops there. At 3.45 p.m. I checked in at the '540' stand. This time the suitcase was only 13 kg!. I filled in the Immigration forms, did the finger print check and was allowed in.

From the 'Duty-Free' shops, I got some spiral note books for my daughter and chocolates for my son. Baji's text came -she asked me to ring her when I boarded so that she could send her driver to collect me from the Nairobi Airport.

Khara also rang to ask if I had boarded but it was 4.30 p.m. and there was no call for the passengers. Well '540' had to do it again - the flight was delayed by two hours. I checked the time table screen several times to make sure - it would now leave at 7.15! So exasperating!

All the passengers were disgusted. An attendant, Fina, came to tell us of the delay and said we might be given tea at 5.30 p.m. I really needed it - I had been here since 2.30. I rand Baji and Khara to let them know of the situation. Some passengers lay back on the seats and slept. I would never do that; I just sat hoping that my feet would not start swelling!

I looked at the paintings hung around the waiting lounge. They were good - pity, you cannot take photos in this area. This Duty-free area was small but nice.

The realisation dawned on me that it's so true that one is actually alone in this world. Take my example; at that moment, my husband was in Kampala, my children in Nairobi, my brother and sisters in their own worlds, parents passed away and I in Entebbe, waiting for the flight home. I had never felt so lonely!

At 5.45 p.m. we were called to the cafeteria and served with a snack of 'samosa' and tea which was really welcomed.  
Around 6.50 p.m. we were asked to go to Gate 1 to have the final security check - even the shoes were examined. Another wait till finally at 7.15 p.m. we were allowed to walk through Gate 2 and board the 'East Africa' plane - the original '540' plane had some technical problem which had led to the delay.

We were given a sandwich and juice as soon as we settled down in our seats. The flight was smooth and thankfully we landed safe and sound in Nairobi at 8.30 p.m.

My trips to Uganda were really a ploy of destiny; may be I will never get to visit Kampala again because just a month afterwards my husband shifted back to Nairobi. He was unable to secure a work permit to stay there. He was lucky that his previous company in Nairobi where he had worked for more than 30 years, called him and took him back with open arms. He rejoined immediately.

I was secretly happy that we would be staying together again!

copyright shama butt  

Latest comments

19.11 | 07:25

You are so kind. Do see other pages on menu. You will enjoy. Bless you. Luvv.

19.11 | 01:25

Sad to know that Ms M Butt is no more. May her soul rest in eternal peace... Ameen ❤️

19.11 | 01:22

You were my favorite biology teacher. I never forgot you😊

22.06 | 09:34

Thanks dear arfa. Check out other pages on the menu. You will enjoy. God bless.

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