Discover the Heart of Africa
by Louise Hogan
For me, Rwanda is perfect for every visitor to Africa, whether first-timers or seasoned travellers. Here’s why you should visit this beautiful, innovative country!
Here are my 8 greats:
- It’s Safe Rwanda is one of the safest and most economically prosperous countries in East and Central Africa. Forget about its history, Rwanda today is safer than many European countries! Kigali is an efficient, well serviced city with a good road network. Even the motos (motorbike taxis) are incredibly regulated, registered with the proper authorities and always carrying helmets for passengers.
- And very progressive! Rwanda is the only country in the world to have banned plastic bags completely. If you’re entering overland from a neighbouring country, your luggage may well be checked to make sure you’re not trying to bring any into the country!
- The People are Friendly and Open This is something often said but rarely meant but truly, Rwandans are some of the friendliest people I have ever met! They’re so welcome and open. If you want to experience true African hospitality, head to Rwanda!
- It has a Vibrant Capital The capital Kigali is a beautiful city, with picture perfect red tiled roofs densely spread over rolling green hills. Rwanda envisions itself as a growing technology and start-up hub, a Singapore- like knowledge based economy. And it’s put serious work into this, laying 4,500 km of firbe optic brandband cables meaning the country is seriously well connected. This has attracted innovative spaces such as Impact Hub Kigali and means Kigali is a seriously cool, truly vibrant capital city.
- It has Stunning Scenery Lake Kivu, in the far west of the country, is an otherworldly sunken mountain valley. The steeply ridged islands are actually the tops of sunken mountains. It’s a beautiful chill out spot, with great lakeside hikes and white sand beaches on the lakes shore. It’s a four or five hour drive from Kigali, with good, paved roads the whole way. The drive itself is an attraction, with beautiful scenes the whole way through coffee growing country.
- There’s Volcanoes, Rainforests, Safaris AND Mountain Gorillas! Mountain gorillas are Rwandas big tourist draw – it’s one of only three countries in the world where they can be found. An estimated one third of the only 780 mountain gorillas left in the world are found here. But the country also boasts a whole host of other wildlife and natural attractions. There are traditional safaris in Akagera National Park, though not on the same scale as Kenya and Tanzania and Nyungwe Forest National Park is a vast untouched expanse of rainforest . Volcanoes National Park, home of the mountain gorillas, borders DRC’s famous Virunga National Park and contains six extinct and three active volcanoes.
- It’s a Caffeine Lovers Paradise! Tea is Rwanda’s biggest export and its lush rolling hills are also perfect for coffee plantations too. I’m personally a big fan of Rwandan coffee! Most of us enjoy a brew of some sort every day so it’s worth spending an afternoon at a tea plantation or coffee farm to see all the work that goes into keeping us caffeinated!
- The Art Scene Kigali may not have the nightlife of Kampala or Nairobi just yet, but its art scene is flourishing. This is due to a combination of factors, not least a traumatic collective past creating a need for therapeutic expression and also a strong economy creating an indigenous market to support artists. Check out Ivuka Arts, Inema Arts CentER and also Heaven Restaurant and Boutique Hotel which displays many up and coming Rwandan artists.
Did you know?
Rwanda is that it is one of the few countries in the world with a female-majority parliament. Women hold 61% of the seats in the Rwandan parliament, which is the highest percentage of any country in the world.
This is largely due to the country’s efforts to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, particularly after the 1994 genocide which claimed the lives of many men and left women as the primary caregivers and breadwinners in many families.
A little history:
Rwanda’s history is complex and has been shaped by a variety of factors, including its geography, colonization, ethnic tensions, and political upheavals. Prior to colonization, Rwanda was a monarchy ruled by a Tutsi king, and the country was divided into three social classes: Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa.
When the country was colonized by Germany and later Belgium, the colonizers reinforced these social divisions and gave preferential treatment to the Tutsi minority. This contributed to ethnic tensions that culminated in the 1994 genocide, during which an estimated 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis, were killed in a 100-day period. In the aftermath of the genocide, Rwanda has focused on reconciliation, rebuilding, and promoting economic growth.
The country has made significant progress in reducing poverty, improving healthcare and education, and promoting gender equality, but it continues to face challenges related to political stability and ethnic tensions.
About the Author: Louise Hogan is blogger and nomad who works in social media and digital advertising. From the West of Ireland, she has lived, worked and travelled in Asia, the Middle East and East Africa. She blogs at: http://www.recoveringhumanitarian.com
Follow Louise on Twitter @lahogan4 and Instagram