Juba is Africa’s youngest capital city following the recognition of South Sudan as an independent nation in 2011 by the international community. Juba is both a port and the largest city in the country. The city is rapidly growing, even though it suffered a setback following the crisis that ensued in 2013, just two years after independence.
Although the city’s history is tied to the setting up of Gondokoro as a mission and trade post in the 19th century around Juba area, it was not until 1922 that Juba was established as a small town by a band of Greek traders who were supplying the British Army. Juba and the rest of southern Sudan would have been part of Uganda, if the British had had their way. However, a 1947 agreement known as the Juba Conference led to the unification of northern and southern Sudan.
During the long Second Sudanese Civil War which lasted 22 years from 1983 to 2005, Juba was the focus of much fighting. Following the cessation of hostilities, it became the interim seat and capital even though it was not the initial choice. However, the heavy presence of UN operation in the city virtually gave it the upper hand, as development started creeping in. Recently, there have been a fresh push to relocate the capital to a different city, but as of today Juba remains the capital of South Sudan.
Thankfully, the period of violence that Juba was thrust into which saw the capital city bear a lot of the brunt is all over and the city is picking up the pieces to continue its upward growth. There may not be much going on in terms of natural attractions in the city yet due to the ruins, but a ‘Must See’ is the White Nile River. Several hotels are built around the river area and so it is hard to miss. Juba Bridge Right is another ‘Must See’ and the 40+ bridge runs over the river. An important monument is the John Garang Mausoleum where the remains of the Father of South Sudan lies, while his statue stands at the entrance. Other places worth seeing include: Nyakuron Cultural Center, Konyo Konyo Market, Jebel Kujur - a mountain range on the outskirts of Juba, and Gondokoro Island where the first mission in Sudan was established.
That Juba is a fast growing city means that there are several international restaurants serving a rich array of continental dishes to meet your dining demands. There are various canteens run by Eritreans, Kenyans and Ugandans in the city. But for the more adventurous palates, be informed that the local staple is known as kisra. Kisra is a wide flat pancake made from fermented sorghum and – wait for it – cow brain is used to line the pan instead of cooking fat. Other local delights are ugali, made from maize flour and posho is made from millet. Like most parts of Africa around the equator, tubers play a part in the menu and they include: cassava, yam, and potato, as well as plantain and dried coconut root. Green vegetables like kudra which grows along the river, okra known locally as bamia, as well as peanuts are also regularly used. Meat and beef comes in from cow, chicken, goat, and sheep, while pork and fish is mostly imported. Meat is often boiled or stewed, and sometimes dried or smoked and served in pasted groundnut sauce.
Fruits such as mango, pawpaw, banana, avocado, guava and pineapple are available. Sugarcane and sweet sorghum stems are chewed by the locals. Tea and coffee are popular and drunk anytime of the day. Kerekede made from hibiscus (wonjo in The Gambia and Zobo in Nigeria) is also a popular drink. Beer is also available, both imported and local brew, while a local gin known as siko can be sourced in the seedier parts of town. Soft drinks and juices are also available, with the locally produced Club Minerals edging the imported sodas. Of course for choice wines and spirits, the hotels and restaurants and bars have them stocked up.