Rwanda : The Land of a Thousand Hills
As you cross the borders from Burundi into Rwanda the scenery doesn’t reveal a different country. Still the beautiful terraced hills stretch along the way and the locals are busy carrying their goods around on their heads. However, once you are in Kigali,the capital, you see the difference straight away!
From the first impression we got of this city nested in between hills was that it was different than the big cities we have seen so far. This city was strangely clean, no traffic and its wide roads were beautiful with flowers and trees in the sides. There was organisation and there were well dressed people! There is even a decent Mall in its center! It certainly looked more European than African!
While in Kigali we stayed in a great hostel, Discover Rwanda Youth Hostel, which we enjoyed very much. First of all it was quite close to its center and secondly was a meeting place for backpackers, researchers and locals and we met a lot of interesting and fun people. There we also found more information about Kigali.
Kigali was founded in 1907 by German colonists and its today’s attractive appearance is directly linked to the country’s dark days only 20 years ago. It is hard to imagine that during the 1994 genocide, its streets were littered with dead and decaying bodies.
Within 3 months nearly 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were systematically butchered. So much hatred had been infused through propaganda into Hutu minds against Tutsis. The “extermination ” of Tutsis was being planned long time ago. This situation was created with intervention of the colonists which initially had put a system with cards that for the first time would differentiate the people into different classes, the Hutu and the ruling Tutsis.
When Hutu government took over and incident after incident brought the people to start “The cleaning up process”. Barricades would be set up in each village and town and militia would enter houses demanding to see the identity cards. Then Tutsis would be killed immediately with a very torturing way. Even neighbors turned against neighbors with the target focusing on children and women…
By visiting the Genocide Memorial of Kigali (free entrance) you get so emotional when you see evidence of all this and also see the videos of testimonies from several survivors. It is shocking how savagely people were killed and you understand people’s lives will never be the same after this.
But luckily Rwanda is making huge efforts today. Local tribunals are held in villages with those involved in the killings so that they can discuss matters openly and ensure it will never happen. Also a lot of foreign investment is elevating the standards of life.
Also, in Rwanda the use of plastic bags is prohibited and at the borders they are confiscated them if found. Locals use paper bags instead. What is important to mention is that every Rwandan every Saturday morning dedicate two hours from their time to do community work. This may involve cleaning the neighborhood or fixing things for the community.
The cheapest way of transport here is the boda boda
(motorcycles) that gets you fast around the city and also allows you to admire the views from the adjacent hills! In Kigali we loved how nice was to walk around the neighborhoods and the craft markets.
Typical food here is again brochettes (meat on sticks) with delicious potatoes grilled with their skin, and also the typical french buffet restaurants. The menu includes fried green bananas, stews, meat ,rice, soup at the typically huge African portions! We really enjoyed!
Although we had amazing time in Kigali, the time had come to move on to the North of the country..
Check out more photos from Rwanda