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  • Discovering a new meaning of home in Uganda’s natural splendor

Steeped in natural beauty and cultural diversity, East Africa is a treasure trove for adventurous travelers seeking new horizons. While growing up, Ahmed Molla was taught that home was defined by a specific address and familiar faces. However, as he journeyed through life, he discovered that home transcends mere coordinates; it is where love, comfort, and belonging converge.

Addis Ababa showed Ahmed that cultural richness abounds in Ethiopia’s capital, from bustling cafes scented with roasting coffee to streets resounding with traditional music. Yet for Ahmed, who was raised seeing home as belonging to a fixed place, truly experiencing Africa meant finding connection beyond boundaries.

Now in his 30s as the founder of a startup, Ahmed sought more adventure, authenticity and connection beyond Addis Ababa’s sights. Realizing Africa’s shared heritage, just as Ethiopia bears the moniker of “water tower of Africa,” he saw Uganda, nicknamed the “Pearl of Africa,” as a new realm to uncover.

“Uganda beckons with untamed beauty and warm hospitality,” said Ahmed, preparing for a journey of discovery. “It’s time to discover Africa’s soul in Uganda’s embrace.”

While Ethiopia has stunning natural landscapes and wildlife, Ahmed had heard Uganda unveils a tapestry of experiences to suit every traveler’s desires from thrill-seeking to restful relaxation—experiences that may differ from what Ethiopia offers.

 

“Before visiting, accounts told of Uganda accommodating all interests,” he noted.

Uganda’s tourism thrives on affordability and global accessibility, improved infrastructure and eco-initiatives empowering travelers to aid conservation. Eager to witness this, Ahmed embarked on an expedition across Uganda seeking community beyond familiar places.

For Ahmed, seeking leisure and cultural exploration in Uganda offered novel experiences. Uganda’s serene lakes and rivers provide the ideal setting for relaxing boat cruises and fishing, like on vast Lake Victoria with breath taking sunsets and water sports, he says, adding, the tranquil Nile River invites unwinding amid scenic vistas.

Both countries boast unique histories, attractions, and landscapes. Yet Uganda’s cultural diversity emerges as another highlight.

Exploring kingdoms like Buganda unveils traditional rituals. Vibrant festivals showcase musical dance celebrating diversity.

“Imagine a safari in renowned parks witnessing the Big Five up close, the thrill of spotting mountain gorillas amid dense forests are an unforgettable encounter,” said Ahmed.

As an Ethiopian accustomed to robust heritage and tribes, Ahmed says visiting Uganda is nothing different than connecting with welcoming people. “Tasting dishes like Matooke and Luwombo with sweet treats was a novel experience,” he noted.

Participating in community tourism projects allowed learning traditions and supporting sustainable development while fostering meaningful connections, according to him.

Tourism is a leading economic driver for Uganda, earning USD 729 million last fiscal year and 4.7 percent GDP contribution. Yet Ethiopia’s industry suffered 70 percent losses from pandemic and conflicts.

In addition to attracting tourists with infrastructure and variety, Uganda is ideal for hosting conferences, meetings, and incentive trips in its vibrant capital Kampala with lush greenery and stunning Lake Victoria views.

“Uganda’s MICE sector uniquely combines business and leisure for Ethiopians,” observed Ahmed. “Imagine exploring culture between conference sessions or thrill-seeking safaris as an incentive—once-in-a-lifetime experiences amid nature’s splendors.”

Though exact number of Ethiopians residing in Uganda is not available, a significant number of Ethiopian community has settled in Uganda, consisting of Ethiopian nationals who have engaged mainly in the service sector, startup business, employed in different sectors, as well as pursuing education.

“In the streets of Uganda, you will see lots of lots of small businesses, restaurants, grocery shops, hair salons owned by Ethiopians, including trade, construction and transportation businesses,” says Ahmed.

According to the Tourism Ministry report, the tourism sector in Uganda is on a path to recovery, although it has not yet returned to pre-COVID-19 data.

As the country takes steps to restore peace and stability, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Tourism is also working diligently to rejuvenate a sector that has incurred substantial losses. The Ministry has visions of making Ethiopia among the top five tourist destinations in Africa by 2025.  Before the horrific two-years internal conflicts and the pandemic, the country drew over 800,000 tourists, spending amounted to USD3.5 billion in 2019. the number went down to 518,000 international tourists in 2020, according to the World Bank.

Despite the damages the pandemic and the conflicts in different parts of the country inflicted on the sector, Ethiopia has immense tourism potential to be unlocked. the government has also embarked on construction of different tourist’s destinations, which Ahmed hopes will revive both the domestic and international tourist flow to Ethiopia. 

Uganda, according to Ahmed, revealed that home transcends physical places and resides where the heart finds comfort. “Here, I discovered a favorite spot immersed in warmth and joy, filled with excitement around every corner,” he reflected. Waking to bird song and fresh air, Uganda’s welcoming embrace makes settling in feel easy. Modern workspaces, he says, paired with plentiful opportunities foster both productivity and a sense of belonging.

As Ahmed prepares to return with valuable memories, he leaves with a new understanding.

“Home is wherever your heart finds solace,” he said. Uganda offers visitors the perfect balance of business and leisure in an environment surrounded by nature’s splendor and a vibrant culture, inviting all to create unforgettable experiences and memorable sense of place. By Meti Teshome, The Reporter

 

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