Jinja was once a mere fishing village, but its location as the source of the world’s longest river, the Nile, changed its fortunes. John Hanning Speke was the explorer who finally discovered this geographical landmark on Jinja’s shores in 1862, finding what centuries of explorers had failed to. The Nile leaves Lake Victoria at Jinja, and begins its 4,258 mile journey to the Mediterranean.
Jinja comes from the Luganda word ‘ejinja’, which means rocks, because there were large rocks across the falls that marked the start of the Nile. The Nile acts as a divider between two kingdoms – Buganda on one side, and Busoga, on the other. Jinja is within Busoga kingdom.
Jinja became a township in 1906, and Semei Kakungulu became the head of the Busoga parliament, or Lukito. The position would eventually become that of king, although the first man to take the title of king, or Kybazinga, was Semei Kakungulu’s successor, Ezekiel Tenywa Wako in 1939. The king’s palace is in neighbouring Bugembe, and was built by the current King’s grandfather, although the kingship is not hereditary.
Queen Elizabeth II of England visited Jinja in 1954 to open the Owen Falls Damn. She stayed in one of the country’s first hotels, Ripon Falls Hotel. The hotel fell into disrepair, and although the building still stands, it is derelict.
Visit Jinja on our Return to the Nile tour and see the sites that created a town.