Kigali is the largest city in Rwanda, and also the capital city. Since it sits almost at the geographic centre of Rwanda’s 26,338 square kilometres, it’s the county’s business, cultural and transport hub. Jambojet will fly once daily (Flights to start on 25th November 2019) from its hub at JKIA, Nairobi, to Kigali International Airport. Book your flight today and discover the heart of Africa!
Rwanda is a landlocked country located in Central & Eastern Africa. To the north, it borders Uganda, South – Burundi, East – Tanzania, and West – DRC. It's home to over 12 million people, most of whom reside in the capital, Kigali.
Rwanda is located within the African Great Lakes region. It is known for the scenic hills, and thus fondly referred to as Le Pays des Mille Collines, Land of a Thousand Hills. Despite being landlocked, it’s fertile and has about 1,600 square meters of water coverage. The climate is temperate to subtropical, with two rainy seasons and two dry seasons each year.
The people of Rwanda are known as Banyarwanda, and the most widely spoken language is Kinyarwanda. English, Swahili and French are also spoken, although not as common. With over 12 million estimated population, in an area of about 26 thousand square meters, Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries, ranking 14th in the world.
The population is mostly young, with over 80% of the living in the rural area.
Rwanda has enjoyed political and economic stability since the genocide in 1994. The 2018 parliamentary elections saw 64% of the seats filled by women, making it one of the two countries with a female majority in parliament. Policy reforms from the early 2000s form Rwanda’s economic success story, and they aspire to reach Middle Income Country and High Income Status by 2035 and 2050, respectively.
It is a good thing that the cabin crew require everyone who sits by the window to open them during landing, because if you are flying into Rwanda, you will need it. You will look down through the small window and the first thing you will notice about this country, as the iron bird makes its way down into Kigali International Airport, is that everything you’ve heard about it is true. The country is green, with rolling hills that are sometimes interrupted by pockets of brown rooftops. Then the city comes into view - a sight for sore eyes.
There and then you will realize that you made the right choice in picking this place as a travel destination. Even if you are here on business, a little work and play never killed anyone. The Magunga compiled this list of things to do when visiting Rwanda.
Visit the Memorial
It is no secret what happened in Rwanda about 25 years ago. When the worst of mankind was brought out in people who had - for the longest time - been neighbors, friends and even family. The nation descended into madness, and after three months, people could not recognize their country - or themselves. It is an event that many Rwandans wish did not happen, and even when you visit, it remains a scar in their memories and histories.
Much of what happened between April and June 1994 is documented in different memorial sites and galleries. To act as a reminder of what should never happen again. When you are around, you can visit the memorial sites in Gisenyi, Ntarama, Murambi and Nyanza.
If you are in Kigali, visit the Presidential Palace Museum or the Kigali Genocide Memorial. But remember to carry a box of tissues with you.
However, remember this happened more than a quarter of a century ago. There is a lot more to Rwanda than the memory of the genocide.
If you asked anyone who has been to Kigali for a place to go let your hair down and put your feet up and just relax, chances are high that they will tell you to go to a place called Pili Pili. A hangout spot on top of a hill overlooking another hill, perfect for a sundowner. When the sun goes and darkness enter, those hills come alive with millions of dots of light, you'd think there is a crusade of fire flies.
Ubumwe Grand is smack dab in the middle of the city. It is a hotel, with a restaurant and accommodation, but that is not the only reason you should go there. If you are to go to Ubumwe Grand, go to the rooftop. From there you will have a 360 degrees view of the whole of Kigali, and if you find yourself over there in the evening, you will look down westward and see the Kigali Convention Center come awake, with colours of the country rotating just after sunset.
This is not an easy country for people from places like Kenya. It feels as though they are doing everything wrong. They drive on the wrong side of the road, from the wrong side of the car. It will sometimes feel as if there is an accident waiting to happen, but that is just your conditioning rearing its head. Everything is fine. Nothing is wrong, just different.
If you are in a bit of a hurry and want the cheapest way to move around, take a motorbike. In Kenya we call them bodabodas, but here the locals call them Motor. If you do not speak French or Kinyarwanda, you might need some luck breaking the language barrier. However, more and more Rwandese are picking up Swahili and English, so you may be fortunate to once in a while be able to communicate easily.
There is the option of taking cabs. For one, you can hop into the next available Yego, or you can use the mobile app cabs. However there is something you need to know. There are no Ubers, Taxifys, Bolts or Lyfts here. But there is Move. It is the only mobile based cab hailing service in this country, at least for now. Came up thanks to a partnership between the government at Volkswagen, thus all their cabs are VW. And because VW set up a plant in Rwanda, it means all the cabs are brand new and in tip top condition - a breath of fresh air if you ask me.
Then there is the option of taking a bus, if you are going to go out of Kigali, which I hope you do. The most reliable one is the Ritgo Bus Service. Traverses all routes to all the major towns in the country. Spacious, with enough legroom. Only that you will have to bear with the slow pace because of the 60kph speed limit on all PSVs.
Lake Kivu sits to the West of Rwanda, in a town called Gisenyi, that borders Democratic Republic of Congo. It is one of those places everyone says you have to go to, and they are right. It's a 4 hour journey, but my goodness...that road that snakes through lush green hills has to be the most beautiful road I have ever seen.
Lake Muhazi is just one hour away from the city, on the eastern side. It is a long shallow lake that winds its way in between green hills. But as you may have heard or learned by now, everything in Rwanda is sandwiched between hills. On its shores are a number of boutique hotels. You will park your car on the shore, a few meters from the road, and a boat will ferry you across to your hotel of choice. The one we got to try was the Kingfish Hotel. Here you will sit in a shed overlooking the lake, with a fish the size of a celebrity’s ego splayed open before you, roasted. Plantain, fries, kachumbari and ugali will be next to it. A gin and tonic would be great too - and perhaps a person, someone who would make the moments here worthwhile.
Nyungwe and the Volcanoes
Nyungwe and the Volcanoes are for hikers, nature lovers and those who get thrilled by wildlife. At Nyungwe you will walk across plantations and waterfalls to go birdwatching and look at different species of monkeys and chimpanzees. The Volcanoes is the more popular destination, but also the most expensive. We went hiking the volcanoes for a couple of hours to a family of gorillas hidden in the mushy thickets. The truth is, gorillas are nothing like what we watched in Tarzan. They are aggressive and territorial, and they do not particularly enjoy human company. The guide, holding a rifle, said if they begin pounding their chests in aggression, we should squat and make grunting noises. But that kind of instruction disappears at the sight of a 400kg mammal standing before you in obvious aversion of your presence. When that happened, we did not squat or grunt, we scampered for dear life.
As a result of a couple of heterogeneous influences, Rwandan cuisine is a mixture of culinary traditions including the Bantu tribes of Congo and Uganda, the French and the Belgian. Just Rioba compiled this list of where to eat, and what to eat when in Rwanda.
Go to places
Come Again restaurant is popularly known for a must-have dish in Rwanda known as the Akabenz, aptly named after the Mercedes Benz. It is a simple yet spacious set up in Remera near Kigalis’s national stadium and from its name, you already know that you are bound to go back after the first try.
Etoile D’or specializes in a dish known as micopo and it’s located in Nyamirambo. The goat is wrapped up in foil and cooked for a couple of hours. This meal is not only delicious but the servings are generous. You are guaranteed an authentic experience with the juiciest goat meat you have ever had.
Poivre Noir restaurant has a well-detailed menu and the food is the perfect combination of French, Belgian and Rwandan ingredients. The restaurant is located in Kimihurura, has relaxed cozy vibes with terrific views.
Pilipili Hotel is another epic spot located in Kibagabaga. It’s usually pretty crowded with locals especially on Sundays afternoon but that's because the food and the vibes make the place worth it. Their menu covers both local and international cuisine. Make sure you stay till evening for majestic views of the city at night.
Must try dishes
Akabenz- is one of the most popular dishes in Rwandan cuisine. It is fried pork that is dipped in a thick and sweet sauce. It’s usually served Ibirayi which are gigantic deep-fried potatoes that are cut into half. Add a bit of chili on the side and you are promised a mouth-watering experience.
Isombe- you cannot visit Rwanda and not try Isombe which is a traditional stew made from mashed cassava leaves and several other ingredients like peanut butter, stock from boiled beef bones, seasoning, tomatoes, garlic, and onions. Isombe has a meaty taste but it does not contain any meat. It is best served with Ugali or rice.
Brochettes are a staple in Rwanda. They are grilled meat on skewers. The meat could be goat, chicken, beef or fish dipped in spicy tomato sauce. You have to try dipping brochettes go in mayonnaise