Hi guys, how are you doing! I thought to share about my trip to Kigali, Rwanda with you all. Enjoy!
In 2017, I travelled to Rwanda and a few other East African countries with my husband and son. When I told a friend of mine about the impending trip, she said,
“Temi, kilenwa kiri (what are you guys looking for up and down the place)?
“Ewo niti Rwanda”? (Why Rwanda?)
“Shey e sha ni mu Enioluwa da ni? “Hope you are not taking your son on that trip?”
This is how a lot of people feel about exploring African countries. They are weary about so many things from safety concerns to wondering whether it will be worth it when they could spend that time having fun in some other location. I was like that before. My idea of a fun holiday destination was Europe or the Americas or Dubai because shopping is a must and what manner of shopping can you possibly do in Burundi or Kampala other than collect cowrie shells? Well, now I am reformed and I know better. I had a wonderful and inexpensive experience in Rwanda. I didn’t do any shopping other than some “Kigali” key rings but I went away a fuller person with more knowledge and enlightenment.
We actually visited three countries (Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda) and were able to get our visa on arrival. It was just one visa, known as the East African Visa, which covered all three countries and cost $100. We flew Kenya Airways and made a stop in Dubai before coming back home to Lagos. The entire trip (4 countries) was completed in 7 nights! Yes, welcome to our world where we see all we have to see about a city in two days. If it is that nice, we find time and money to return. Random: Dubai is a city I don’t think I can tire of. On my first trip there, I spent 2 nights and three days, I have returned and keep having a different experience as they just keep revamping the city and making it fresh.
Anyways back to Rwanda. We went to the capital city, Kigali and I loved every bit of our 2 nights’ stay. The people speak French and some English and Swahili. Our tour guide, Paul, speaks all three. Rwanda is indeed a beautiful place, rich in history, most of which is pretty sad stuff.
We stayed at the Serena and visited the Hôtel des Mille Collines which became famous after 1,268 people took refuge in the hotel during the 100 days of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. The story of the hotel and its manager at that time, Paul Rusesabagina, was used as the basis of the film Hotel Rwanda.
Kigali is a very clean city and I understand it has won an award for the cleanest African city.
Whilst at the hotel, I developed some random skin reaction and was taken to the King Faisal Hospital and it was indeed a great service delivery. The hotel paid for it and till date, still send kind messages checking up on us all.
We visited the Genocide Memorial Centre which is tagged “A Place for Remembering and Learning”. There was not much “remembering” to do other than the fact that my Masters dissertation on International Security was centred on the Genocide and the international community’s response (or lack thereof) to it. However, there was a lot to learn about how sublime hatred can very quickly deteriorate into bloodshed.
When we were done at the Genocide Memorial Centre, Paul took us to the Presidential Palace Museum in Kanombe, a Kigali city suburb.
The former presidential palace is located at about 4 kilometres from the airport. The building was opened in 1980 and the then head of state, Juvenal Habyarimana, occupied it from then until 1994, when he died in a plane crash alongside his Burundian counterpart president Ndadaye. 6 April, 1994, killing him alongwith Burundi President. This incident sparked the worst genocide of human history in Rwanda which devoured almost one million human lives in 100 days starting on 7th April, 1994. The plane landed right inside his compound and its remains are still right there till date. The visit cost us Rwf6000 about $10 or N3600.
In sum, it was an eye opening experience and I urge all who also have the wanderlust bug in them to explore Africa more. There is so much beauty and richness of heritage. Lots of beauty to explore and loads to learn from right here!
- Check the reviews of every single place you want to visit: from hotels, to museums, etc. I always spend days on Trip Advisor, asking questions about places I am interested in even before I begin planning. Thousands of travelers have been where you want to go and will usually give you an unbiased review of places you want to visit as well as tips on how to get the most out of your holiday. So check the reviews and make informed choices.
- When visiting a country you are not familiar with, try booking a hotel in the nicer parts of town. This will ease you in nicely and you can then go on guided tours to the inner cities and really explore by day and return to your hotel at night.
- Enjoy the locals. You can do this by getting a local tour guide (usually through Trip Advisor). Get the one many people have reviewed. The locals make you truly experience what the city is about. For example, anyone who visits Lagos and restricts himself to VI and Ikoyi has not really seen a quarter of what Lagos has to offer. In order to have a holistic and comprehensive feel of the land, you must go to the nice as well as not so nice areas even if you decide not to lodge there and see how 70% of the people really live.