Last week, Uganda hosted delegations from the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD); after a fruitful day of hard-knuckle discussions, the delegates let their hair down at Ndere Cultural Centre courtesy of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB).
The function kicked off late; instead of the 5pm start time as planned, events kicked off at around 7pm, but the guests looked eager for what lay ahead and the organisers managed to get away with their ‘Ugandan time’.
When the gala finally started, the delegates clearly had no regrets for waiting that long; some gushed about the night being the best they had ever spent in Uganda, a country many of them had visited more than once.
Stephen Rwangyezi, a founding member of Ndere Troupe, who doubled as the MC, profusely apologized but threw the delegates into laughter when he said that was part of the Ugandan culture showcase.
“I see white people walking in a hurry, yet they also told us that the world is round; so, we wonder where you people rush off to. Here, we take our time,” he said.
Rwangyezi, milking the timekeeping mistake to the gala’s advantage, added: “In Uganda you can invite a person to a function that starts at 11am. They will arrive at 12:30 walking slowly and showing no concern; so, you guys, that’s how we do it here…anyway, you are welcome!”
All through, guests were entertained by cultural music and dance from different parts of the country, jokes from Rwangyezi and a cultural buffet.
Ugandan delegates were so impressed with Rwangyezi and some confessed that beyond his unequaled dance skills, he could make a serious career out of comedy.
Claire Mugabi, UTB’s marketing manager, said the gala was part of a continued effort to promote Uganda as a tourist destination beyond just national parks and wildlife.
“The gala held for the delegates, government representatives and media was meant to showcase the beauty of the Pearl of Africa through cultural performances, food, cuisine and true Ugandan hospitality, so as to leave a lasting memory in the minds of the delegates for repeat visits after the conference,” she said.
Mugabi added, “Uganda is a culturally diverse and rich country, a key selling point for us as a tourist destination. We wanted to treat the delegates to a true Ugandan cultural experience at the Ndere Cultural Center. They enjoyed various cultural performances from different parts of Uganda, folklore, food and drink, among others.”
Commenting on the experience, Rose Malango, the UN resident coordinator, extended her sincere gratitude for hosting the delegates to a delightful evening of beautifully choreographed cultural performances.
She said, “Uganda is truly an endowed country and the cultural experience we have revelled in today highlights the country as culturally diverse and rich; but more than that, we were able to see art, unity and enjoy storytelling. The delegates have seen Uganda in a way many have never seen or heard about.”
Uganda has a rich cultural diversity and is endowed with 64 tribes and languages, each with a distinct cultural heritage, history, food, dance, dressing, beliefs, customs, music and folklore.
When it comes to food and cuisine, Uganda is known for its wide variety of tropical fruit and organic food, a big attraction today for food enthusiasts especially from the West.
“We hope that we can see repeat visits in big numbers by engaging delegates and other visitors who come to Uganda for conferences and events,” Mugabi said.
According to UTB, the majority of tourist arrivals in Uganda are from African countries. In 2017, these constituted 80 per cent of the total 1,402,409 arrivals for the year while overseas visitors/tourists made up 20 per cent or 273,731 of the arrivals.
The tourism body wants those figures to improve and the gala at Ndere Centre in Kisaasi, which attracted many non-Africans, hopefully worked its magic.