Kasubi Tombs Uganda: Visiting the Toms in Kampala, Facts, Architecture, Entrance fees and more guide
The Kasubi Tombs is one of the historical and cultural sites in Uganda, situated within the Capital City (Kampala), notable for being a burial site for four former Kings (locally known as Kabaka) of Buganda Kingdom of Central Uganda. This remarkable cultural site sits on about 26.8 hectares of Kasubi hill although most of the surrounding areas have been locally farmed.
The unique architecture, cultural tools and symbols represent the popular “Ganda” culture and for its cultural significance, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 2001. It has stood out as one of the most outstanding buildings built of traditional material in the whole of Sub-Saharan African region. This site is currently the main and most popular cultural and spiritual center for the Kingdom of Buganda where cultural and traditional practices especially rituals related to Ganda people are frequently practiced by Royal family and its representatives. Four of Buganda’s former Kings (Kabakas) were actually buried at the site and presently represents a spot where communication links with the spiritual World is still maintained.
The Kasubi Tombs site is currently divided into three major areas-the western side marked by the main Tomb area, the area behind the Tombs where buildings and graveyards are actually found as well as the Eastern area primarily used for agriculture. Still on the main Tomb building, it is circular and crowned by a dome depicting the craftsmanship as well as masterpiece of form of the Ganda people. It was constructed with vegetal materials such as spear grass, wattle, wooden poles and papyrus reeds. Kasubi Tombs’ main importance solely lies on its intangible benefits of spirituality, beliefs, identity and continuity of the Buganda culture, making it a historical and cultural symbol in Uganda and East African region.
The main entrance into the Kasubi Tombs is a spectacularly built gatehouse known as “Bujjabukula”, which according to Ganda culture is guarded by guards who hide behind a see-through woven reed screen as a way of keeping watch round the clock so as to control access into the site. The gatehouse was built with wooden columns firmly holding a thatched roof with walls that were made of woven reeds.
This is the gateway into the small courtyard marked by a circular house (Ndoga-Obukaba) in which the Royal drums are kept. After this forecourt, the main courtyard (Olugya) follows and is surrounded by a reed fence as well as a number of houses constructed for the widows of the Kings and ritual benefits. The Courtyard entrance is a remarkable feature as it immediately faces the main Tomb building locally known as “Muzibu-Azaala-Mpanga” built from wooden poles, daub, reed and wattle, hence making it the architectural masterpiece of this site. However, modern building materials were brought in during the last main renovation by Kabaka Mutesa II in 1938. The borders of the Site are marked by bark cloth trees (scientifically known as Ficus natalensis or locally Natal fig or Mutuba) and were established since 1882.
These Tombs are sheltered within a sacred forest (locally known as Kibira), totally kept secret from public by bark cloth curtain and entrance is limited to the widows of Kabakas, other members of the Royal family and the Katikiro (Kingdom Prime Minister) an
The floor of the main building is covered by palm leaf mats and lemon grass, while the interior is beautified by Authority symbols like shield, drums, medals, spears and photos of former Kings buried at the Site.
The site core is the Royal Palace put up in 1882 by then King-Kabaka Muteesa I Mukaabya Walugembe Kayira, the 35th King of Buganda Kingdom to restore the one put up by his father-Kabaka Ssuuna II in 1820. The new Palace building later became the Royal burial ground after his passing in 1884 and the area is part of the 31 Royal Tombs distributed across the Kingdom since its establishment in the 13th Century, although it is the most popular.
The four former Kings that were buried at Kasubi Tombs are Kabaka Muteesa I Mukaabya Walugembe Kayira (1835-1884), Kabaka Danieri Basammula-Ekkere Mwanga II Mukasa (1867-1903) who died in exile within Seychelles Islands and his remains were brought back in 1910, Kabaka Daudi Chwa II (1893-1939) and Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa II (1924, died in 1969 in exile and remains were brought back in 1971)
However, the main Tomb buildings were unfortunately destroyed by fire in March 2010, hence the site was included in the Red List of World Heritage Site in Danger since July 2010. Nonetheless, reconstruction on the historical and cultural site started in 2014 with support from Japanese Government.
Kasubi Tombs Entrance fees
As of 2021, the entrance fees into Kasubi Tombs are UGX 30,000 although some evidence of the 2010 fires will be seen.
How to get to Kasubi Tombs in Kampala
Kasubi Tombs are found in Kasubi Hill, Masiro Road Kampala and is between 20 and 25 minutes from the City Center. Private transport by Car Rental Companies can be organized although public means by motorbikes (locally known as Boda boda) or Matatus are available within the Taxi parks or Boda boda stages.