By Kiyimba Bruno
Kabalagala is a fast-growing neighborhood in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, and largest city. The neighborhood is famous for its many restaurants, bars and nightclubs. It is a major entertainment center, with many of the establishments open 24 hours, 7 days a week. During the 2000s the neighborhood has become a vibrant business hub, with new commercial banks, supermarkets, fuel stations and a university campus.
The American Embassy in Uganda is located in neighboring Nsambya, about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) west of Kabalagala, along Ggaba Road. The neighborhood is a favorite hangout for foreigners visiting or resident in Uganda.
What is special about Kabalagala is that during day some buildings are shops. And at night they turn out to be drinking and boozing places. In fact it’s a stress free society.
According to sources, residents of Kabalagala used to make the tasty pancakes which then drew a lot of people to the area and the name stuck.
Today however, pancakes are not as popular as they have been replaced by roasted meat.
Kabalagala, being a commercial hub, boasts of various activity centres like educational institutions, supermarkets, banks, retail shops, boutiques, lodges, bars and night clubs. It is safe to say that there is nothing you can’t find in Kabalagala.
But, that’s not exactly what makes Kabalagala such a loveable place. Kabalagala is most known for its wild night work outs.
Most of the establishments in the area are open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
“Kabalagala never sleeps,” a bar attendant at De Posh pub, one of the hottest in Kampala, told me as we discussed life in this crazy suburb.
The man described Kabalagala as ‘vibrant’. Day or night, Monday or Sunday, you will always find bars open and full of revellers.
“Here, bars do not close, disc jockeys don’t stop spinning music, and kitchen masters do not put their fire out,” another man I found near De Posh said.
Even with all that, Kabalagala still has time for more activity, commercial sex.
In the day, the suburb remains relatively quiet except for the sound of heavy traffic and music coming from open bars. Like any other place, people work but as the sun starts to ‘drop’, bars light up and heavy music invades the area.
From as early as 6.00 p.m., people hit the streets for the ‘hot’ Kabalagala nightlife. Among them, girls wearing skimpy attire start flowing in from surrounding areas. The number keeps increasing as it gets darker.
I visited a number of pubs trying to get a glimpse into the life there. I arrived at De Posh pub at 9.00 p.m. and the place was already full.
At the entrance, security is tight: about three or four security guards use electronic metal detectors to check everyone who enters the pub and bags are kept at the entrance.
When I stepped inside the pub, dozens of party animals were already busy drinking and enjoying the loud music which made it difficult to interact with my colleagues. I noticed however that the women outnumbered the men.
I asked an attendant about the girls and he did not hesitate to tell me that they were sex workers and were there to look for ‘clients’.
“Every day, this place is packed with such ladies,” the man told me.
“And others will be here soon,” he continued.
The girls sit in groups and drink beer as they wait for potential buyers. They only wear tight pants, mini-skirts and high-heels. Others opt for dresses the size of a t-shirt.
A few other girls publicly smoke cigarettes and Shisha- an oriental tobacco pipe with a long flexible tube connected to a container where the smoke is cooled by passing through water.
“If you want one, I can get you the most beautiful of all. But, you will have to negotiate the price yourself,” the bar attendant told me as I kept bombarding him with questions about the girls. He even showed me a nearby lodge where, in his words, ‘things are done’. But, that’s not what I was there for, so I focused on getting information.
Apparently, according to sources, the girls ‘charge’ between 20,000 and 100,000 Ugandan Shillings per night (that’s between RWF 5,000 and 25,000) while ‘VIP” treatment goes for about 120,000 shillings (about RWF 35000 per night).
Also, clients in Kabalagala are not scarce because if the ladies show up every day, that’s a sign that they actually sell their ‘goods’.
Fred, a student at a local university, said the place is strategic as it is near three universities. As far as he is concerned, it is clear that students could be among the clients of these ladies.
However, these ladies have something about them. Even when they have not been approached by a client, they are not afraid to make the first move.
No one bothers them – not even the police, according to sources.
I left Kabalagala around 1.00 a.m. with one thing in mind: as commercial sex continues to thrive alongside other businesses in Kabalagala, the pancake city described by a taxi driver as ‘sin city’ continues to reap from the tons of people who turn up in pursuit of the suburb’s exceptional fun.