Masindi is in western Uganda, just south of Murchison Falls National Park. Masindi means footpath in the local language. It was once the capital of Bunyoro kingdom, in which it is situated.
In 1872, Sir Samuel Baker, as the Governor of Equatoria, entered Omukama (king) Kabalega’s capital in order to assimilate Bunyoro into the province of Equatoria. Kabalega did not want to be colonised, and fought Baker. Baker fled, but not before burning Masindi to the ground. Kabalega then moved his capital to Hoima, which has remained the kingdom’s capital to this day.
When Uganda became a British Protectorate, Masindi became a commercial hub, as the central point between train and water trade route – the ferries from Butiaba across Lake Albert and north up the Nile, and the Uganda Railway. The East African Railway and Harbour Company built the Masindi hotel – the second oldest in the country – to accommodate travellers in transit. Its where Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn stayed while they were filming The African Queen in 1951. Ernest Hemmingway stayed at the hotel while recovering from not one, but two plane crashes in the space of one day while in Uganda in 1954, before committing suicide seven years later.
Masindi was the site of a camp for Polish refugees fleeing World War II. About 6,000 Poles resided just outside Masindi for the duration of the war, building a church which still stands.
Visit Masindi and see its historic sites on our Explorers’ Footprints tour.