Kigali Travel Guide
Introduction to Kigali
As the capital of Rwanda, those flying into the country will begin their trip in Kigali. This city is surprisingly clean and filled with friendly locals, which stands in stark contrast to the state it was in little more than 20 years ago.
While there are sights here relating to the genocide that you should definitely see, there are also plenty of art galleries and markets that will provide lighter ways to spend your time before moving on to other destinations within Rwanda.
Cultural Attractions in Kigali
Start your time in the Rwandan capital by learning about its darkest chapter at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. This museum pays sombre tribute to the victims of one of the worst mass genocides in modern history.
Through graphic displays and exhibits, it will be made painfully clear what was going on in this country as the rest of the world sat on their hands and did nothing. The remains of over a quarter million of those that were slain are interred here, but this place isn’t the only site you should visit if you are interested in this macabre event.
Other spots in the area where grotesque crimes against humanity were committed include Ntarama and Nyamata churches, where 5,000 and 10,000 people respectively were slaughtered, and Camp Kigali, where ten Belgian peacekeepers were executed by the President’s guards.
There are many art galleries that can be visited in Kigali if you are a fan of the visual arts, but make room in your schedule for a visit to Inema Art Center if you are pressed for time. Created by two brothers that had a passion for painting that they cultivated during their time at Ivuka Art Gallery, it now hosts ten artists who produce paintings on canvas, sculptures, through mixed media, and so forth.
Education in the arts is lacking in many public schools in Rwanda, so they do a lot of work with disadvantaged communities in Kigali. As such, don’t be surprised if you see scores of local schoolchildren learning how to express themselves artistically during your visit.
Explore the former home of Rwandan president Habyarimana by dropping by the Presidential Palace Museum. The leader of the country from 1973 to the day his plane got shot down (which triggered the Rwandan genocide) in 1994, his abode was a palatial affair designed by a French architect.
With lush gardens making up the exterior, and plenty of eccentric design features inside the house (such as a witchcraft room and a weapons compartment inside his TV stand), it is a great place to get an idea how this country’s power elite lived over twenty years ago.
Other Attractions in Kigali
While the vast majority of Rwandans are Christian, a small minority (about 2%) practice Islam. The biggest concentration of this population can be found in the Muslim Quarter in Kigali, where the city’s largest mosque can be found.
The food is great, and there are many brilliantly painted shops, but the most noteworthy aspect of this place were the many Muslim residents that hid Tutsis from the Hutu militias during the genocide.
Responsible for saving scores of lives during that time, it is the sort of story that makes you believe in the goodness of people, as they helped their fellow citizens in the face of some of the most heinous acts anyone could ever imagine.
Those wanting to take in Rwandans going about their daily business will want to spend some time strolling around the Nyabugogo Market. It can be chaotic later in the afternoon and on weekends, but the opportunities to view all the best produce, fruit, meat, handmade crafts and clothing that can be found in Rwanda will make the rough and tumble experience well worth any discomfort.
Located close to the bus station, it can be quickly visited before heading out to your next destination in Rwanda.
Want to take in some of the best football or rugby that East Africa has to offer? Make an effort to buy a ticket to a game at Amahoro Stadium. With the ability to hold upwards of 30,000 people, it can get boisterous at times, but that is part of the fun of attending a match here.