Rolex in Kampala
The origins of the Rolex are shrouded in mystery. According to an article by Ugandan journalist Dennis Muhumuza, a man by the name of Sula was the first to establish a Rolex stand behind Kampala’s Wandegeya mosque in 2000. Most intriguing, wrote Muhumuza, is that Rolex making is a man’s affair.
“From Wandegeya to Kalerwe and other hubs for the booming lucrative Rolex, you will rarely find a woman frying [one].”
What is the Ugandan Rolex? It’s a street snack that consists of fried eggs rolled into a chapati, the flatbread that originated from the Indian subcontinent and is now an East African staple. The filling can also include assorted vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, and green peppers.
Last year, CNN named the Rolex as one of the African foods that are finally ‘taking off,’ leading one to wonder where CNN has been all this time. They even got the picture wrong. Somebody told me that the word Rolex is a contraction of ‘rolled eggs,’ but this appears to be pure speculation.
I met a Rolex-maker at the Uganda Museum last year; the Rolex Festival had taken place there a few days prior. Launched by tourism minister Godfrey Kiwanda as part of a community empowerment program, aiming to increase demand for the Rolex as a fast food and to promote Rolex-making as a commercial activity.
“The ministry of tourism, wildlife and antiquities is endorsing Rolex as a proudly Ugandan product that is also enjoyed by tourists,” said Kiwanda.
What better place than the storehouse of Ugandan culture to partake of this proudly Ugandan delicacy?
I watched the Rolex-maker’s movements with great interest. He worked in silent concentration, the supply of eggs and chapati dough on his table steadily reducing as the day progressed. Business was booming as festival attendees, museum visitors, and schoolchildren made trips to his table to order their Rolexes. He rolled out lumps of dough methodically and placed each flat circle onto his frying pan, deftly flipping the browning chapati from side to side with his spatula. When the chapati was ready, he set it aside and quickly made an omelet, which he then rolled into the chapati, a tasty and filling snack.