This is a typical scene on the street of any "city" in Uganda. Shops are very small, very close together, and you might find the weirdest combination of items in any one store. Some stores are definitely specialty shops and might just sell paper, or electronics, or shoes (generally used).
The streets are busy and crowded, but Jinja is a bit of a respite from shopping in a big city like Kampala. I liked shopping in the bigger city, but my friend Karen says she'd rather shop in a town where you don't have to take you life in your hands just to cross the street. Actually, that's not an exaggeration. The cars in Kampala drive FAST, about 6" between them - and I mean front to back and side to side! Also, they don't care if they hit you, and many men will yell out to you, whistle, or call you names. Not pretty. Jinja is much more mild in that respect, but again, it is much smaller. That also means there is less selection and things are a bit more expensive. We were fortunate to find this shop owned by an Indian man. He was very nice and when he found out that we were buying fabric for the villages and to sew for children, he was compassionate. He gave us the best price of any other shop we'd been to by far. The "cotton" that we bought there was about 15,000 Ugandan shillings for a 6 meter piece. That means it was a little under $1.00 per yard! The reason I put "cotton" in quotation marks is because they always insist it is cotton. This is a thinner material than the wax-print and I believe it is part polyester. I like it though because the dress I'm wearing in the picture is made of that fabric. It does not wrinkle, but was cool enough to wear. The wax print was a little more expensive, and I actually just prewashed some and have it on my cutting table.
We took our friend Betty with us while shopping - which you must do in Uganda. There are 2 prices for everything. The regular price and the Muzungu (white person) price. They don't try to hide it. It's just a fact, you are Muzungu, you pay more. Also, you MUST bargain your prices. If you don't, they will consider you a fool and really take advantage of you. If a shop owner is unwilling to bargain, they are "rude" and you can tell them so. I'm glad we had Betty with us.
We ended up having to go back to this shop and buy more fabric. We did not have Betty with us, but fortunately for me, the man remembered me and still gave me the same good price on the fabrics. Oh, and I was telling you that there are weird combinations of things in the shops? Well, this shop sold beautiful fabrics and soccer balls!!! Go figure.
In Uganda there are basically 5 types of fabric.
- Sequined and embroidered fabric - there are a lot of Muslim and Indian people in Uganda. These fabrics are typically used for their traditional dress.
- Polyester charmeuse - this fabric is used for the traditional "Gomez" Ugandan dress. This is incredible for me since we all know how hot polyester is. Also, the Gomez uses about 6 meters to make. It is layers upon layers.
- Kitenge fabric. This is the beautiful wax print fabric that is used to make the 2 piece dresses that more of the "modern" girls will wear. I believe this style actually comes from Kenya.
- The "cotton" which I believe is polyester. This is more "affordable" and comes in the same beautiful prints as the kitenge fabric
- The solids and other print fabric that is lighter weight. This is more of a broadcloth type fabric and is mostly used to be tied around the waist over the nicer clothes. Sort of like we would use an apron. This is sold in 4 meter lengths where all of the above fabrics are sold in 6 meter lengths. I bought some of this fabric the first year I went to Uganda, and although I really liked the print, I hated the fabric. It was off grain and never would hang straight. I ended up giving that skirt to the Good Will!