Monday evening in Cairo, Egypt was a special moment to celebrate Uganda’s qualification to the round of 16 at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in more than 40 years.
For the obvious revelry, the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Embassy of Uganda in Egypt in conjunction with IBIS International Business and Investment Services, organized a ship cruise on the beautiful River Nile to celebrate as well as promote destination Uganda.
IBIS’s Managing Partner Nancy Hadi explained that the Honorable Godfrey Kiwanda Ssubi, Uganda’s Minister of Tourism choose to hold the event on a Nile Cruise Ship to highlight Egypt’s strong connection with Uganda through the River Nile.
The purpose of this event was to celebrate the Crane’s performance and qualification to the next level and to promote destination Uganda.
The celebrations were dubbed as “AFCON 2019 Ugandan Night on the Nile”, meant to merry-make, foster tourism, provide a networking plat form as well as further cement the bilateral relations between Uganda and Egypt.
They acted to serve as a breather for the Ugandan community who had earlier witnessed three matches in a space of seven days at the AFCON 2019 tournament.
For starters, Uganda Cranes beat DR Congo 2-0, played one all with Zimbabwe and fell 2-0 to the hosts Egypt, but, still managed to qualify as the second best team from group A with four points.
Fast forward, returning to the main agenda of the day – the water party at the Nile Smart Cruise Ship, Maadi Corniche – Cairo, Egypt, the whole experience was adventurous, breathe-taking albeit nervous.
When I received the invite to the event three days earlier, my inner soul aggressively debated on whether to attend or not.
The former won the healthy debate and by 4PM, the agreed check-in time, I was already at the venue.
Personally, this would be my first ever experience for a water party, a boat or ship cruise.
As I boarded the five storied MS Nile Smart vessel, I recited the Apostles’ Creed, the Holy Rosary in the meantime combining the penance and Almsgiving prayers as well.
God forbid! Deep in my mind, I recalled the ill-fated and infamous MV Templar of the out-spoken “Balance the Boat” fame that capsized along Lake Victoria last December in Uganda.
Security was fully alert with two check points but sadly no life jackets at the disposal.
Everyone on the ship was in a blissful mood. In the vicinity, there were a couple of life saving small speed boats that at least restored my confidence.
The beautiful glowing sun galvanized to the natural beauty of Nile River in this part of Cairo – Maadi as it set to usher in darkness.
On board were Uganda Tourism Board officials led by a board member Eddie Kirya, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Football Club chairman Aggrey Ashaba, Members of Parliament, the Ambassador of Uganda to Egypt Sam Male, businessmen, journalists and yes – “slay queens”.
As the guests settled in, they had the experience to taste the sweet Ugandan coffee and team, whose tempting aroma will leave you yearning for more.
Before the Ship captain set off, journalists conducted a couple of interviews.
Meanwhile, I witnessed contacts, business cards being exchanged between different parties on board and yours truly managed to “poach” one succulent entity.
Music ranging from Uganda’s top hip pop and contemporary current hits to Egyptian latest lyrics hitting the air waves of late was being played.
The gist of the Ship cruise then unfolded as there were vivid testimonies on the Ugandan tourism experience, testimonies about Uganda – unquestionably the “Pearl of Africa”, sharing of AFCON 2019 moments and all forms of speeches from key note speakers.
A sumptuous and delicious dinner was served by 9:30 PM as the boat moved along the calm waters of River Nile for close to an hour.
Meanwhile, at the business end of the ship, stalls selling traditional Uganda merchandise and the busy bar were frequented by different clients.
After the journey, Uganda’s ambassador to Egypt Sam Male emphasized the significance of healthy bi-lateral relations a key component to image building and luring as many tourists and investors.
There were also live paintings of Uganda’s landscapes and other images led by artist Maha Gamil.
A well baked cake whose Black-Yellow and Red icing decoration could prompt one to order for 99 similar pieces was then cut officially by the ambassador before the celebrations winded up in style.
By this time, I rushed to check on my list of new friends acquired on the MS Smart Nile as well as officially bid farewell.
What transpired therefore will remain as secretive as the daily affairs in a deserted cemetery.
What a night it was!
For God and My country.