9/24/08

Exploring the South of Rwanda

Tourist Attractions of the Southern Province

© Marion Grace Woolley

Traditional Mwami hut at Nyanza, M. G. Woolley
Rwanda, the Land of a Thousand Hills, is best known for its Mountain Gorillas in the far North, but what happens if you head South?

Each of Rwanda's provinces is slightly different in appearance, from the towering volcanic mountains of the Viungas to the flat safari planes of Akagera in the East. The Southern Province is charicterised by lower, rolling hills leading down towards Nyungwe NationalPark and the tea plantations of Cyangugu.

Here is a suggested bespoke tour which you can do in a day, setting off around 7:00 from Kigali to make Nyanza before the museum closes at 16:00.

Murambi Genocide Memorial

Gisozi Memorial Centre in Kigali is the best known reminder of 1994, but Murambi is the most graphic. Not a destination that everybody will wish to visit, but many do each year. Murambi is the site of a technical college which, over two days, became the mass grave of some 50,000 Tutsis.

What is significant about Murambi Memorial Centre is that many hundreds of the bodies have been preserved in quick-lime and remain on display, a lasting testimant to the horrors of what happened there. The museum, as with all of the memorial centres, is free to enter though visitors are invited to leave a contribution when they leave.

In the rice paddies approaching Murambi a government prisoner programme means that many who wear the pink uniforms of convicted interahamwe daily grow food to feed the nation.

Butare National Museum

This very stylish modern building stands in Rwanda's "intellectual capital" of Butare, the last stronghold of the retreating government army and now the country's foremost university town where you can also stop for lunch at the famous Hotel Ibis for around FRW 5,000 (£5/$10) per person.

The museum hosts a large collection of traditional crafts including a model traditional hut which you can walk around. It also hosts information in Kinyarwanda, French and English on traditional folklore and medicine as well as Rwanda's presidents and colonial history. Entrance is around FRW 4,000 (£4/$8) and 3,000 for residents (£3/$6).

Nyanza Mwami Palace

"Mwami" is the Knyarwanda word for "King", and Nyanza, between Butare and Gitarama, is home to both a traditional Mwami hut and the more modern stone palace which was home to Mwami Rudahigwa Mutara III and his queen.

Entrance costs about the same as Butare Museum although there is a further fee of FRW 2,000 (£2/$4) if you want to take photographs - inside and outside the hut is permitted but not inside the palace - and FRW 4,000 (£4/$8) for video footage. There is also a museum of modern art on the opposite hill which is included in the price of the tour if you get there in time before closing at 16:00.

To tour all three means being on the road for around six hours but it really does show the best and worst extremes of the country's history and will certainly give you something to talk about on your return.

One of the most reliable tour companies who can provide you with a car and guide for around $250 (£125) per day is Bizidanny Tours based in Kigali near the central mosque. They have many years of experience and are quick to respond to e-mails: Danny (+250) 0850 1461 / infobizidanny@yahoo.fr


 








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East Africa
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