The Baha’i Temple on Kikaaya Hill, north of downtown Kampala, is one of the prime tourist locations in Uganda. However, the site is also one of the best options for those who have a few hours off in their busy schedule and are looking for peace and quiet.
The Baha’i Temple is primarily a place of worship, which Baha’i followers call, ‘a holy place’. But there is no exclusion as Baha’is believe in unity and the way to achieve this unity is by being all-inclusive. Gloria Nalwanga, a guide at the site says that you will never be turned away due to differing beliefs.
The foundation stone was laid on 26 January 1958 with a call to “people of all faiths” to make it a house of prayer. The serenity inside the temple inspires a number of visitors to sit down and pray, as observed when you sit on one of the pews.
The whole building, from the ground to the tip of the spire, is 124 feet high. It is 84 feet in diameter in the interior with a circumference of 265 feet. The temple grounds cover 55 acres, according to Nalwanga. “There are plans to build schools and other centres on the grounds. But for now, we appreciate that people come from many places to enjoy the peace of the lawn,” she explains. The expanse of green lawn with leafy trees is one of the attractions of the site as are the expansive views over Kampala from the top of the hill.
The temple has nine doors signifying the nine ways or religions whose messengers Baha’i followers believe in. It is the ‘Mother Temple’ of Africa, meaning it is the only one on the continent. There are six other temples in the world: in the USA, India, Panama, Samoa, Australia and Germany.
The beliefs of the Baha’i faith inform their way of life and the guestbook in the temple reflects this as visitors use words like, ‘beautiful’ and ‘peaceful’ to describe their visit.
“We do not charge anyone for using the grounds,” Nalwanga says. “People come every day to tour or to use the grounds but all we require of them is that they drop their litter in the bins strewn all over the grounds.”
According to the guide, Baha’i followers are engaged in community activity that they feel will bring about peace. Nalwanga says, “We take time off our different pursuits to teach the principles of the faith. These are the oneness of God, the oneness of religion and the oneness of humanity.”
“We believe everyone should question whatever they are taught,” she further explains. “There should be independent examination of the truth because there are many interpretations of what humans may call ‘the truth’.”
The temple on Kikaaya Hill is the only one of its kind in Uganda but Baha’is from other parts of the country meet at centres in their locations. Prayers are held on Sunday.
“We do not have a priest or pastor,” Paul Lutwama, a follower, says. “Every Sunday, one of us can step to the front and lead the service.” Lutwama says this is to show that everyone can have the divine calling and no one is more special than the others.
On the Baha’i Temple grounds, all phones must be put on silent and no loud conversations are permitted inside the temple. The stained glass and the high spike inspire feelings of peace and contentment. No cameras are allowed inside the temple.
It is estimated that there are over 1,000 Baha’i followers in Uganda. In 1954, three years after the faith was introduced in the country, there was a reported 670 Baha’is.
To get to the Baha’i Temple take a Gayaza Taxi from the old park. It should cost 1,500 UGX. You could also take a taxi from Bombo Road, opposite Watoto Church Central, and it will cost you 1,000 UGX. Get off at the GAZ fuelling station at Kanyanya.
From the road up to the temple is 6km and be warned – it is very dusty. On a boda boda, you will pay 1,500 UGX.
Visiting hours are from 9am to 6pm daily. Telephone: 0312262680, 0772954379. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org