Things To Do In Kigali
Kigali is the capital city of Rwanda and one of its interesting highlights are the villages that cling to its green and tropical hillsides. There are river valleys, grasslands and volcanoes with forested slopes, the home of the endangered mountain gorilla. Most of the Rwandans belong to a group of people called the Hutu, but a minority of the ten percent is Tutsis. For hundreds of years the Tutsis held power while the Hutus were poor peasant farmers. In the late 1890s, Ruanda –Urundi (Rwanda and its southern neighbor, Burundi) became first a German, then a Belgian colony.
When To Go:
The atmosphere in Kigali, Rwanda is mild, and the year is separated by two different stormy seasons. In spite of the fact that the temperatures in Kigali are warm as the year progressed, certain months can be a great deal more agreeable to visit amid than others.
Generally, the hottest months of the year (February – March) and the summer season is when the daily temperatures can go as high as 80's, with temperatures habitually arriving up to the high of90's.
Conversely, the coldest months of the year generally are June and July (winter season) it is also an agreeable time to see and explore the wonders of Kigali.
The tropical storm and blustery seasons in the city occur from February to April, and again from November to January, yet Kigali's high height causes less rain than any other city and its low lying territories of the nation. The summer months of March- May is also the rainiest time of the year and when travel is not highly advisable or at your own risk.
To spend the most out of your holiday in Rwanda, here are the top things to do in the city of Kigali…
Kigali Memorial Centre / Gisozi Genocide Memorial Centre
The Kigali Memorial Centre / Gisozi Genocide Memorial Centre is simple, but worth seeing. There is an exhibition that tells the whole previous history that culminated in genocide. Some of the images and explanations are quite shocking. According to the guide at the museum there are more than 200 thousand people killed during this troubled years in Rwanda. Several people are also buried there. There is also another section of the museum that talks about the genocides in other parts of the world. It’s an impressive place, not very big but well worth the effort. Admission is free but you can make a donation for the museum if you want, though it’s not compulsory either. A single visit will make you understand the history of Rwanda in pictures and films that you will see in the site.
Absolutely not to skip, the memorial center gives the 1994 genocide a face and tells its horrible stories of oppression and terror. What you will most remember about this place are the walls that are filled with photographs of victims and the beautiful stained glass windows. The museum serves as a clear presentation of the atrocities that occurred in Rwanda. The way the story is put into this Memorial Centre, is very beautiful. Inside you will be overloaded with text, photos, and videos. What is exhibited is intense and impressive and leaves deep traces of sadness and empathy. They exhibit the skulls and bones of adults and the helpless children. The guide will also tell you stories about how the rebels butchered or burned children like animals. There are also stories about women who are raped by men that were known to be HIV+. And outside, there is a cemetery where the remains of 250,000 men, women and children received their final resting place. A visit to this melancholy but historic place is a must when in Kigali City.
The Nyamata Church is right next to the diocese and remains as a grim, sad, and disconsolate witness the result of severe changes and loss of control, this church defines the meaning of genocide. Just the memory remains right now as an example of a reconstruction of a country that was once battered and sprawled with bare bones. Today, Rwanda is following the winds of development and modernization but the church remains in the memory of the survivors and the generations that follow. Coming down from Kigali to the south, after 30 minutes of paved road with little traffic and passing through the center of Nyamata, on the right, there are two Catholic churches about genocide in Kigali (Nyamata and Ntarama). The first became a national monument in memory of the genocide and the second is now ready for worship but still bears the traces of genocide.
Who has entered this church in Rwanda during a service can understand how it is possible that 10,000 people were massacred in this church, given the enormous amount of believers in this nation. It is hard to judge a place for the storage of human brutality, a place where men have killed other men, helpless, brutal, regardless of gender and age. You do not need spectacular monuments to those who want to remember the wrong decision or a tragic memory. What is only left is the hope that in the future someone will serve to not repeat what happened in this part of Kigali City. The guide itself was a genocide survivor who lost almost his entire family. There is an entrance fee to gain access to all the significant parts of the church. You can see the macabre touch, bones of the dead, but not at the level that they are shown in other memorials in Kigali. The shrapnel and clothes of the victims are still displayed. A word of advice; it is not suitable for people who are too sensitive.
This is an extreme example of what man can do when it is psychologically conditioned by the media and poverty. You have to be brave to see this place for the respect of all those who have suffered genocide. It is a well-preserved place where the horrors of the genocide have come very close. The traces of violence and brutal murder are still seen. You must be brave enough to see the Ntarama Church because it is not suitable for everyone. Please be reminded that taking pictures is only allowed but you need to secure a permit from the tourism office of Kigali. The church is well preserved and all the personal things of the victims are kept in another room for exhibition. In the church there are countless garments and utensils of those killed, if you can bear the smell, go on and continue to explore the other sections about genocide.
To reach the Ntamara Church, you must endure the one hour journey with the crowded minibus from Kigali to Nyamata and then a 20 minute drive with a motorbike taxi (choose a stable machine) over dirt roads to reach the Ntarama, a small village with one of the many memorials of the genocide of 1994, but very special. In the church of Ntarama everything was left largely as it was after the locals found it only to see the massacre of about 5,000 dead, with blood-soaked clothing, skull, objects, and multitude of debris. It is a terribly depressing site, but a must for every traveler in Rwanda.
Akagera National Park
It is a beautiful park that is rich in animals to see in the wild. The Akagera National Park is very simple and has lots of possibilities for excursions and an organized tour arranged by the package tour operators in the resort. Experience the night tour where you can see many animals identified by masterfully guiding the light barrier, from hippos to the mongoose, from buffalo to impala, and then many others.
There are no jaguars or hyenas to see but the tour is still interesting to see. There are lions, and they can be seen in large quantities inside the national park. There are lions, (but they are only 4), but for the rest you can see other animals in the wild and in large quantities. Don’t bypass the safari boat tour, with luck you can see the Hippos and other species of water buffaloes.
Inema Art Center
The Inema Art Center is a charming art gallery that contains really nice art created by the famous painters and children of Kigali. The price of the most famous paintings is unfortunately a bit high but it is worth it. Otherwise, you have the option to you can buy paintings by the children from Rwanda. The owner is very nice and welcoming and glad to show you around the room.
It is worth taking a trip here. The many beautiful pictures alone are worth a visit. And when you also can chat with one of the artists that are most often present themselves, it is a totally memorable experience, an artistic pleasure. You can drift through this art center and discover in every corner something new. In summary, it is a must for anyone visiting Kigali. It is a truly great place filled with serenity and in addition creative talent.
Kigali Muslim Quarter
The Bohemian part of the city offers a very interesting visit, if you spend a few days in Kigali. To see and explore what it has to offer, most of the tours here are organized by the women's cooperative located in the neighborhood, and they are very interesting. The Muslim Quarter is nice to roam around because it is quiet and pleasant. From here, you can reach the city center easily.
There are shops for women where they can buy hijabs, jewelry, perfumes, and skirts. There are several mosques in the area and a visit requires modest clothing and observing their faith in silence and with an open mind. The streets are also lined with groceries and restaurants that serve Halal food. When you’re in Kigali drop by this interesting quarter and see another aspect of the city.
Kigali Presidential Palace Museum
Despite the fact that it is not at the highest point of the "must do" areas in Kigali, the Presidential Palace Museum is worth going to, particularly on the off chance that you are intrigued by the historical backdrop of the city. It also once served as the official residence of previous president J. Habyarimana (1973 -April 1994). His untimely demise, started the “era of the genocide”, and it is generally accepted that both his assassination and genocide were arranged occasions. His plane smashed right on the grounds of the presidential palace that immediately took his life.
The historical center permits you to stroll through the whole castle, including the secret entryways. These rooms are noticeably non specific and bring you to the feeling of the administration at that time. The exhibits about the late president and former rulers of Kigali are stunning and educational . The remaining parts of the president's plane are still on the grounds, a solemn indication of the horrific 100 days of genocide that followed after his ill-fated plane crash.
To better understand the events that led the so called era of genocide in Kigali, it all started when Rwanda became independent in 1962, the Hutus gained power and years of violence against the Tutsis followed. Most of the people fled to the neighboring country of Burundi. There were also economic problems that surfaced during that time. Rwanda depended on its coffee exports, and in the 1980s the world price of coffee fell sharply. In 1994, the leaders of the Rwanda and Burundi were killed in a plane crash believed to be caused by the terrorists. Chaos immediately followed as Hutu government troops fought Tutsi rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). By the time the RPF’S victory ended the fighting, millions of innocent men, women and children have been killed and others had fled the country. A major international relief effort was needed to help the country recover from the effects of war. During this troubled times in Kigali, some ran towards the nearby Tanzania and crowd around a water hole because this is their only source of water. More than 250,000 people escaped the violence in their nation but needed to risk hunger and disease to escape the reign of terror in Rwanda.
Kigali Bourbon Café
It is Wi-Fi (free) and has the best espresso in Kigali. At the Kigali Bourbon Café, there are sweet pastries, espresso, and a chance to rub elbows with the cosmopolitan clientele of the Starbucks counterpart in the city. The prices are quite high but it has become a favorite hang out place and watering hole in Kigali for their young individuals.
It is one of the cozy atmosphere and cool places to stay in the center of Kigali. It is also mainly frequented by Westerners. The elite café is located in the UTC mall, the service is excellent, and the menu is varied. Experience the taste of exquisite coffee paired with locally made pastries and a good view of the city.
Gorilla Trek Africa
The visit to the mountain gorillas is an unforgettable experience at the Gorilla Trek Africa. The hike to the gorillas is an adventure that you can enjoy with friends and family. You will pass through typical African settlement areas and also avail of a secure parking. The gorillas are guarded and also well-cared for.
It is overwhelming to be in close proximity to the animals and to observe their habitat and behavior. They are accustomed to visitors and interact in a good way and where you as the spectator can also feel connected. Include the Gorilla Trek in your travel itinerary about Kigali, it is worth the time and effort!
The Librarie Ikirezi is in the Kacyiru neighborhood of Kigali, right between the two bistros/coffeehouses - Shokola Lite and Magda Cafe. This library holds lots book titles in their collection and archive. There are books that are available in Kinyarwanda (the local dialect), English and French, in addition to selling school supplies like pens, markers and paper. There is likewise an extraordinary youngsters' book section. They have a good mix of fiction and genuine books, maps and stationary. There are numerous titles accessible and it is also offered in distinctive dialects.
The Khana Khazana is a famous Indian cuisine restaurant that most tourists visit while in Kigali. The portions served here are generous and the service of the staff is perfect. To get the best choices it is best to ask about the food that you fancy in their menu from their amiable staff and food crew. Highly recommended is the fried aloo (potato fritters), samosas, the chicken and spinach dhal, in short everything. It has great service, good value and very cool ambience.
What makes Kigali interesting is the fact that they were able to preserve with all their might a tragic part of their sad political history complete with details, and physical evidences of a troubled nation fought by two tribal groups. Even the personal belonging s of the dead was preserved to tell the story and horrors of inhumane atrocities against the Rwandan people. The genocide site alone is more than enough reason why you must come and see the historic city of Kigali.