Juba’s status as South Sudan’s capital is more an accident of history than a reflection of its strategic importance.
Located in the southern state of Central Equatoria, Christian missionaries originally established the town on the site of a Bari village in 1920, during the early years of Anglo-Egyptian rule. From then on, Juba evolved as the provincial capital of a far-flung outpost of the British Empire, before ultimately finding itself as the new seat of government for a young nation following decades of turmoil.
For much of its brief past, Juba remained a relatively small municipality, one which, in another quirk of history, became home to up to 10,000 Greek merchants supplying the British army with provisions. The neighbourhood of Hal Jalaba has been known as the Greek Quarter ever since. The Greek-Sudanese community has now dwindled in size. Today, Mongallese Arabs account for a significant proportion of Juba’s population, having developed a unique dialect known as Juba Arabic. This pidgin language gave the name ‘Konyo Konyo’ (meaning ‘mingling’) to Juba’s bustling central market, and, should time allow, is well worth a visit.
Investment in the city picked up pace after independence, and Juba has grown to a population of roughly 500,000 inhabitants. Yet further conflict and economic woes have severely hampered any incentive for architectural flare, minimising Juba’s appeal as a destination in and of itself. This said, Juba is nonetheless a surprisingly relaxed city of mostly low-slung buildings and enjoys a prime setting on the White Nile. See our accommodation page for the Afex Hotel, which makes the very most of its position on this iconic river.
Apart from Konyo Konyo and the White Nile, the intrepid visitor to Juba might consider visiting Jebel Kujur, a granite rock overlooking the city, a beautiful view as a reward for the effort it takes to hike there. Otherwise, there are the city’s cathedrals and mosques, its various — for those wanting to South Sudanese food — ‘nyama choma’ joints, and the likes of the presidential palace and Logali House.
For accommodation in Juba, we use the wonderful Afex River Camp.