Rwanda is like a shy well groomed beautiful girl that slowly opens up her face and reveals her charms to the visitor patient enough to discover her charms.
What draws your attention as a first time visitor (especially if you are coming from a boisterous and rambunctious city like Lagos is the serene and almost sleepy nature of Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali.
Located in the center of the country, Kigali is picturesque with numerous hills, ridges and valleys, and its incredible greenery.
Another thing you will notice is how clean Rwanda is.
The government banned all non-biodegradable polyethylene plastic bags in 2008 and if you look around at the airport, you’ll see large signs at the airport warning travelers that luggage searches can be conducted.
If you are found with these bags, you may be fined 50,000 Rwandan Francs (US$61) or even jailed depending on the seriousness of the offense.
Rwanda is a country that pays close attention and is committed to doing something about climate change, conservation and a green economy. (No surprises with all the greenery around).
The residential area of Kiyovu where I stayed for this trip is full of houses with amazing gardens. I have since developed a habit of early morning nature walks. The photos on this post are from such walks.
MOVING AROUND KIGALI
Getting out and about is quite easy in Rwanda; There are licensed taxis found at Kigali International Airport, and around the city.
They are easily identified by their white color, orange stripe and roof sign.
They are clearly not as cheap as the Boda Bodas ( Motorcycles) but for me, they are the safest mode of private transport.
To easily get a taxi however, you will need to either pick one up at a designated rank or get your hotel/restaurant to call for one. The taxi should have a meter; if it doesn’t negotiate the fare before hopping in.
The negotiations can be tricky too because most of the drivers speak the local kinyarwanda language or French, so if your french is not that good, you’ll be forced to communicate in broken English and a lot of hand gesticulations.
It also helps if you know where you’re going and can pronounce the name correctly.
It’s advisable that you change your money to the local currency before you start buying anything in Rwanda. The Rwandan bureau de change doesn’t change Naira, so have your money in dollars first, then change to Rwandan Francs.
The current exchange rate is 1 USD = 967 Rwandan francs.
KIMIRONKO COVERED MARKET
If you are in Rwanda and you are looking to shop for everything from Print fabrics to souvenirs to jewelry, everyday casual clothing and even food and vegetables, Kimironko is the market to visit.
The prices are relatively affordable compared to when you buy the same things at the mall. It is however advisable that you go with someone who speaks kinyarwanda (the local language) or Swahili or even French. Once you show up there speaking English, the prices have the tendency to become multiplied by 5 or 10.
The shop attendants are however quite friendly and are willing to show you around the market without even expecting a tip; (but it’s cool to be nice and tip like a good Nigerian. Lol)
The food prices in Kimironko market are on another level though.
My host in Rwanda are Belgians and as a properly brought up Yoruba girl from Naija, I have been craving food that has some hot pepper in it. I want rice and stew, I want fried Titus fish (or any fish) I want plantain and efo riro… heck; I’ll take indomie and egg at this point!
Anyway the only Naija food items I could purchase here were plantains and Bonnet Peppers(ata rodo). So tonight I will have to make do with my host’s lasagna.
Rwanda’s local cuisine is interesting though. The dishes involve plenty of boiled vegetables, potatoes and rice. They’re not exactly generous with pepper and seasoning though so, for the Nigerian palate, it can take some getting used to.
However, there are various restaurants across town that serve international cuisine that you can visit.
PLACES TO SEE
How do you visit Rwanda and not take a trip to the Kigali Genocide Memorial?
The memorial was constructed in the remembrance of more than one million victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The memorial is a place of remembrance and learning where more than 250,000 victims of the Genocide have been laid to rest.
Many people who lost loved ones in the Genocide visit to remember and grieve.
There’s a museum and a souvenir shop in there too. There is no entrance fee and donations are gratefully accepted.
Niyo Arts center is a beautiful place to visit too. You’ll find a collection of Rwandan creative artists and also work from different artists from the region.
The art centre provides a space for 7 artists in residence to explore their creative talents.
Another notable site to visit, is Ntamara Church. This site of the April 1994 massacre has been declared a genocide memorial and It remains a solemn tribute to those who were slain, the bones and belongings of the dead still lying among the aisles and the altar.
As familiar as I am now with Kigali, I am yet to discover all it’s nooks and crannies and I certainly haven’t travelled the length and breadth of the country, Rwanda.
However, I have every intention to do that and I do hope that you’ll visit and share your experiences too.