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Rwanda Main Cities
- BUTARE AND NYANZA
Located at Rwanda's geographical heart, the rapidly growing city of Kigali is not only the national capital, but also the country's most important business centre and main port of entry. Serviced by an efficient international airport and connected to neighbouring Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi by surfaced roads, Kigali boasts a range of hotels catering to all tastes and budgets, and an assortment of fine restaurants whose menus reflect the country's historical links with Belgium - while also embracing numerous other international cuisines.
Despite such concessions to modernity, Kigali retains the feel of a garden city, with a satisfyingly organic shape dictated by the verdant slopes over which it sprawls. The compact, low-rise city centre surrounds a busy, colourful market, and is studded with souvenir stalls displaying a wide range of lovingly executed local crafts. The atmospheric Muslim quarter abutting the city centre is well worth a visit, and one can also explore the network of leafy avenues that wind out of the town centre into the surrounding residential suburbs.
Among the safest and friendliest of African capitals, Kigali is blessed with a moderate high altitude climate that belies its tropical location, and is conveniently located within three hours' drive of the main tourist sites. The Rwandan capital provides both a comfortable and welcoming introduction to this land of a thousand hills and an ideal springboard from which to explore this magical country.
Genocide Memorial Exhibition and Gardens
During the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, over a million people were murdered.
Some 250, 000 perished on the streets and in the houses, churches and hospitals of Kigali alone. After the genocide, the Kigali City Council decided to dedicate a site for the burial of its people in a single place. Many mass graves were exhumed from around the city and the remains interred at the Kigali Memorial Centre in Gisozi district. This is now their final resting place. It is a poignant symbol of the devastation that genocide brought to families across the city and the county as a whole.
The cemetery has been developed into a centre and place of reflection and learning for the families of victims, for schools and visitors to Rwanda. You are now able to see the mass graves and view the permanent exhibition, as well as experience the moving children's memorial and gardens.
Kigali Memorial Centre's exhibitions and films are not recommended for children under the age of 12. Parents and guardians wishing to take younger children do so at their own discretion. All children must be closely supervised at all times.
We recommend you allow about 1.5 hours to view the centre.
BUTARE (and Nyanza)
Butare was the largest and most important city in Rwanda prior to 1965, when it lost out to the more centrally located Kigali, 135 km to its north, as the capital of independent Rwanda. Today the site of several academic institutions, including the country's largest university, Butare is still regarded to be the intellectual and cultural pulse of Rwanda. It is also an attractively compact and sedate town of shady avenues emanating from a main street lined with comfortable small hotels and breezy terrace restaurants.
The most prominent tourist attraction in Butare is the superb National Museum, which houses perhaps the finest ethnographic collection in East Africa. Absorbing displays of traditional artifacts are illuminated by a fascinating selection of turn-of-the-century monochrome photographs, providing insight not only into pre-colonial lifestyles, but also into the subsequent development of Rwanda as a modern African state.
The cultural significance of the Butare area is further underlined by a visit to nearby Nyabisindu, formerly known as Nyanza, the traditional seat of Rwanda's feudal monarchy. The impressive Royal Palace at Nyanza, an enormous domed construction made entirely with traditional materials, has been painstakingly restored to its 19th century state and is now maintained as a museum.
Nyanza the Royal Town
Before the arrival of the Europeans, Rwanda was a centralized state complete with a monarchy. Traditionally, the Royal court of the kings (Abami) was mobile. By the arrival of the Europeans, the palace has shifted to Nyanza. It was at Nyanza that the first European met with the reigning Rwandan King Musinga.
Nyanza lies 90 km from Kigali. Today it is known as Nyabisindu.
The complex comprises of the modern palace constructed in 1932 for Mwami Rudahingwa Mutara III, a reconstructed traditional palace and in the vicinity ruins of other palaces. The reconstructed palace contains the king's traditional bed made of an animal skin stretched over a wooden frame.
The "Intore", one of the richest dances in Africa in terms of artistry and originality traces its origins to this palace. Originally a war dance, it has been perfected giving it a gracefulness and elegance of a modern dance but retaining its originality and cultural identity.