So you’re travelling and you have a lay over in Kigali or you’re on business and looking to squeeze in an hour here or there for site seeing. I recently had the chance to travel to Kigali and made every effort to discover what I could after my days formalities.
Before I share a few things you can do in and around the city, let me tell you that Rwanda is bea-u-ti-ful (you gotta read is slowly with emphasis). It is nicknamed the Land of a Thousand Hills and even in the main city of Kigali, this is evident. The landscape is picturesque with dips and slopes of earth and greenery. In fact, it’s natural beauty reminds me of the Malawian port town of Nkhata Bay. And, yes, it is clean. A colleague and I played spot the rubbish and we counted about 5 pieces of insignificant paper here and there in a busy part of town. Lastly, it is safe. Walking about at night in places like Johannesburg is a luxury. So you can imagine how happy I was to stroll with my laptop bag, all the while snapping pics on my phone after dark, without anxiety.
Here are a few things I squeezed in and you can add to your itinerary when in the Land of a Thousand Hills:
- The Genocide Memorial
It would be an injustice to write about Rwanda and not pay respect to its painful past. It is therefore fitting that the first stop on this itinerary is the memorial centre. When travelling to Rwanda, take a moment to read up on the country’s troubled history before you visit. This will set you up well to appreciate the context and the level of progress and strides towards development that you will experience. The museum experience started off with a short video of survivor narratives of the genocide, a sobering introduction to what lay ahead. The museum goes from exploring the history of Rwanda from pre to post colonisation, to events leading up to and after genocide. The most devastating portion of the museum for me, was the Children’s Room. An historical and shattering archive dedicated to children lost to the atrocities of the early 90s. It gives you a glimpse into their short lives and is a reminder of how man made travesties rob the most innocent. When you exit the museum, the outside lawns are the burial place of over 250 000 lives. People visit this burial site and lay flowers in remembrance of those gone. The museum, like many across the world is not an enjoyable experience, but a necessary one. There is no entrance fee but you can (and should) leave a donation.
2. Kimironko Market
A galore of hand made contemporary arts and crafts will lift your spirits and draw you back to the present. Like most markets in the developing world, have cash and bargain. Whether you’re looking for home decor items, hand made jewelry, scarves, paintings, trinkets to gift people back home or even fruit and vegetables, you will find them here. FYI the little bananas (sweet bananas) are delicious even for someone who is not a banana fan like me. If you have time, you can even pick a traditional fabric of your liking and the many tailors in the market will sew an attire ready for you to pick up the next day. I managed to score a few woven baskets for my place. Be careful not to lose track of time in the isles upon isles of goodies
3. Sundowners at Inema Art Centre
Co-owned by Rwandan brothers, the ‘cool kids’ of Kigali have turned this into a local hangout. The DJ is ready with a mix of music from across the continent and beyond to make those far from home feel welcome. Enjoy the local, modern art pieces before stepping out onto the deck, which boasts breathtaking views of the city, all whilst soaking up the cross cultural, cross generational ambiance.
4. Ride a Boda Boda
Boda Bodas are motocycle taxis found in many African countries. Rumour has it that they are called Boda Boda because they were the main mode of transport between the Kenyan and Uganda BORDER (Boda). Do give it a try, and make sure you have your helmet on to fully enjoy the ride on the hilly streets of Kigali. This is how most people get around the city, zipping in between cars and beating traffic.
5. Marvel at the Kigali Convention Centre
The Convention Centre is an iconic landmark of the city. The multicoloured dome comes alive at night casting a kaleidoscope of colours visible from a distance.
I wish spent more time in Kigali so I can write a list of 10 things to do but I guess that’s reason to plan a holiday to this beautiful country.
Have you visited Kigali? Please share some of your fave spots with me.