It made headlines twenty years ago as Tutsis and Tutsi sympathizers were brutally hacked to death by Hutu militia, but today Rwanda is emerging as one of Africa’s most organized and progressive countries. Plastic bags are banned (in fact they are confiscated by army personnel at borders), helmets are enforcibly worn on motorbikes, and crime levels have plummeted. While many criticize Paul Kagame for his somewhat authoritarian rule, there is no denying that Rwanda is one of the cleanest and friendliest countries on the continent. While its genocide history is horrific and thought-provokingly displayed in memorials across the country, Rwanda also boasts stunning lakeside retreats, a rolling patchwork of crop-laden hills, and its own small corner of jungle-dwelling Mountain Gorillas.
What to do:
– Trek to see families of Mountain Gorillas along the jungle-clad slopes of Parc National des Volcans
– Witness the horrors of the genocide at the Kigali Memorial Centre, set up not only to educate visitors, but also provide a place for relatives to grieve their loved ones.
– Relax on the shores of Lake Kivu at Kibuye, a more laid-back and local version of Gisenyi to the north.
– Eat ‘melange’ – a local buffet comprising beans, cassava, rice, plantain, potato and cabbage, available at lunchtime in huts across rural Rwanda. Be warned – this is NOT all-you-can-eat but pile-your-plate-as-high-as-you-can!
– Visit the Nyamata Memorial Church, just south of Kigali, where the clothes of the hundreds murdered here have been left draped over the pews and the bullet holes are still fresh in the walls.
– Indulge in fine international cuisine in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, where a large expat community resides.