MY 21 DAYS IN THE LAND OF A THOUSAND HILLS—THE TOWNS, THE VILLAGES

 Long before visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial, even before stepping onto Rwandan soil, I had so many questions. Questions that every visitor to Rwanda must ask to even begin the journey to understanding a country that has been to hell and back. Rwanda has in the past few years transformed itself into a magnet for travel enthusiasts, with the country’s dark past replaced by a serenity that draws in tourists from around the world.
Kigali is friendly to people who like exploring on foot although it might take more time to tour the city this way still offers good exercise and help work up an appetite for the famous meal of roast meat and fried banana.
MY STAY AT NYAMIRAMBO: Nyamirambo a pretty diverse and stretched-out neighborhood, encompassing the southwestern corner of Kigali. And a huge corner, at that! It’s a big place with the main part bordering town and ‘deep’ Nyamirambo (also referred to as Gangster’s Paradise) which stretches all the way up the hills into the distance. This is one of the most vibrant and interesting neighborhoods in Kigali. It’s full of mosques and many of the city’s Muslim residents live here. Unlike the rest of Kigali which seems to shut down at 8pm with everyone inside their homes, Nyamirambo hustles and bustles late into the night. When the rest of Kigali has gone to sleep (except for a few bars and clubs scattered around town), Nyamirambo lives on! People are out and about in this area at all hours and many of the local bars here stay open late and make a good place to go dancing. If you’re sick of seeing people you know at places like Ogopogo and Sundowner and want to feel a bit more anonymous, come to Nyamirambo for a night out. The bars here are cheap, the food is good, you’ll often encounter strange forms of entertainment (like lip synching stripper-ish types and farting/barking comedians) and it’s a lot of fun. The toilets are generally pretty horrifying, though, so… well, I don’t really have a recommendation. Just expect the worst and that bad part about going out in Nyamirambo won’t seem quite so bad.
Considered one of the most beautiful cities in Africa by visitors on travel sites and on social media, Kigali did not happen overnight. It has taken almost 20 years to rebuild the city’s physical, psychological and legal character. And yet it lives up to this newfound but long overdue fame with grace. My passion for Rwanda stems from its tragic history. Not that I was aware of the horrifying dimension back in 1994, but I realized that this was different to the many civil wars that Africa has been plagued with. The film "Hotel Rwanda" left an inerasable imprint in my heart. What puzzled me now was the question “How does a small country like Rwanda cope with the murder of 10% of its population within 100 days?” Of course the question couldn’t be answered during a three weeks visit, except a few glimpses.
Rwanda’s trademark is its “Mille Collines”. Add green and you understand why its thousand hills are a sight of its own. Tourism in Rwanda started in the late 1970s, when a few tourists came to trek the rare mountain gorillas. In the aftermath of the genocide, few tourists dared this traumatized country, but now they arrive in serious numbers. The gorillas are still the number one reason to come, but the Genocide Memorial in Kigali, the biggest of its kind in the country, has added another dimension.
Rwanda is extremely organized, safe and very easy to travel. Zillions of punctual (!) busses crisscross the country. Short distances are covered by Moto, motorbike taxis. Except for public transport, Rwanda is not cheap, at least not for tourists!
Compared to other African countries, I found Rwandans extremely law-abiding and orderly. The president’s political conduct seems partly responsible. Paul Kagame runs a tight ship. He was the leader of the Rwandan Patrotic Front that ended the genocide and has led the country since then. What some find undemocratic and authoritarian, others justify as the only way to unite and to steer the country from its nightmare.
Rwanda’s 6% economic growth and tough anti-corruptions law has been noticed internationally, as were Kagame’s even bigger plans: in 2020, he sees Rwanda as the technology hub of East Africa. The speed and eagerness to advance makes this a realistic goal. Just to give one example, 40% of Rwandans own mobile phone, almost a national addiction. But those are much more than just phones. They are used for cash transfer, to check on commodity prices, consult a doctor and of course for taking photos of each other.
To me Rwanda is special, different to all other African countries I have visited so far. Long before I went there, I had so many images, opinions and presumptions about its history, the genocide, politics, its unique gorillas, more than about any other country on this continent. I thought I knew what to expect.
Bang, and then nothing was like I had imagined it! The horror of the genocide hit me more than I could envision. But I also was stunned by the swift and successful rising from the ashes and the healing achieved so far. The beauty of thousands of green hills, my unforgettable encounters in the villages

IN ALL MY TRAVELS, I’VE NEVER SEEN A COUNTRY’S POPULATION MORE DETERMINED TO FORGIVE, AND TO BUILD AND SUCCEED THAN IN RWANDA.
Many sad stories can be heard at the end of the visit in the Memorial. Women telling how they were raped and had babies as a result, that they rejected afterwards and how some of them were infected with HIV. The destruction of the city was massive and it took a long time to rebuild while the survivors were still traumatized from what happened. Some tell that they lost all their relatives. One particular testimony really touched me, a couple that met by participating in activities of the Memorial. On their wedding day only friends were present as they had lost all relatives from both sides during the genocide……………
I’ll soon write & Publish more about KIGALI GENOCIDE MEMORIAL..
I hope you get the time to visit Kigali Genocide Memorial, a sad place with lessons to be leaned!



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