You are looking at the final burial place of 250,000 people in just 4 photos. The Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre is set in gardens about the full dimensions of an American football ground or European soccer pitch. Most of these people were killed in a few days when the Rwandan Genocide occurred in 1994. Today the Centre is much more than a mass grave. It is a working centre of learning as well as a heart-breaking museum to educate future generations of the nightmare that occurred. It is also working hard to help ensure that genocide, anywhere in the world, does not happen again. Sadly it has happened in so many places across the world.
The Centre is completely free and you will be offered an audio guide or sometimes even a human guide to take you through the exhibits and grounds. Starting downstairs are exhibits detailing the history of Belgian colonial rule and how they divided Rwanda into ‘Hutus’ and ‘Tutsis’. Originally it was to differentiate economic class. Tutsis has more wealth. Many were of a taller, thinner background (Kenyan, Ethiopian) than Hutus, but not always so. By the early 1990’s competing armed groups of the 2 classes were often at war. The Hutu government of 1994 prepared the genocide through training, distribution of weapons and radio transmissions starting the mass killings. Often the weapons were machetes and most were killed by hand. No age, sex or religion was spared and the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers meant the slaughter continued until over 1 million corpses littered the countryside. The photo boards and videos document the full horrible story.
Further exhibits downstairs include a central room of photos of victims donated by survivors. Many of the donors fled abroad and all too often the photos are of whole families and children. Every face in this filled room is frozen in 1994 when they were murdered. The last room displays skulls with the method of their death often very obvious.
Upstairs is a gallery showing the individual life story of more than a dozen children. It documents what they like to do, what kind of personality they had, their favourite toy and the method of their murder. Sometimes it even explains who killed them. Often a neighbour or family friend. The last gallery documents genocides across the world in the modern age. Not just the Jewish Holocaust in World War II, but colonial excesses in Africa, Yugoslavia in the early 1990’s, Cambodia and Darfur today.
There are also stories of hope here. There are stories of resistance and survival. There are classrooms here so children today can learn to live together. In fact the terms ‘Hutu’ and ‘Tutsi’ are banned in modern Rwanda. Their excellent website also has many stories of the survivors. Research is also done here to help document the dead and hunt down un-prosecuted genociders.
The gardens outside are beautiful and look upwards to the hills of Rwanda and the growing city of Kigali. There are 11 mass graves here with coffins stacked 3 meters deep in concrete crypts. Some coffins contain the remains of as many as 50 people. Whole families wiped out at a time and no one was left alive to ever identify thousands of the dead.
The newest project on site is to fully build a ‘Wall of Names’ with as many victims as possible memorialised. You can help with this, the upkeep of the Centre, grounds, education classes and research with your donations. They can be made here at the centre or via their website.
Unfortunately the Genocide of 1994 will forever be the major event in Rwandan history. Please do visit the memorial if you do travel to Kigali. There are other Genocide Memorial sites across Rwanda and other Mass graves. Please see their website linked below or other locations.
Please note: No photography is allowed inside.
Directions:Kigali Memorial Centre, c/o Aegis Trust, P.O. Box 7251, Kigali, Rwanda. Ask any Taxi or Taxi Moto for 'Memorial' in Kigali.
ATM’s are very sparse in Rwanda. In fact you will find 14 of the 16 are in Kigali; if you find them at all. The other 2 are in Butare and Ruhengeri. Every guidebook I can find on Rwanda says there are no ATM’s at all. Obviously times have moved on, but slowly. I only ever saw 2 in my travels across the country. My message is this: do not count on being able to access and ATM using a foreign debit card. Cash is pretty much the thing to bring along with a credit card (Visa). Travellers Cheques can be encashed, but will attract fees at banks. Thankfully there is not much crime in Rwanda.
The 2 ATM’s I did find are pictured. Photo 1 is the Ecobank ATM right as you come out of baggage claim in Kigali airport. That worked – no problem. The second is at Simba Supermarket in Kigali. Please see my ‘Shopping Tips’ on this page for Simba’s details. Unfortunately this seemed to be down more time than it operated.
The website link below is a page showing all the banks. Just click on the Ecobank link and you can search for all the ATM’s in Rwanda.
I first discovered the FREE Eye Magazine in Uganda. Absolutely fantastic. Great descriptions of restaurants and reviews, current music or art events, even shopping tips. Well Rwanda has the EYE, but it does not cover all that it could. It does have some good maps of Kigali and a few other major cities, some good stories, useful Kigali Airport information and lots of business listings. It even has information about the national parks. Sadly it lacks informative restaurant and hotel descriptions and impactful reviews of restaurants.
It is still free, and it is still developing. Given time I am sure it will be more useful than it already is. There is lots of helpful information – especially if you are going to be here for a while.
It is available in all the better hotels in Kigali like the Hotel des Milles Collines.
OPPORTUNISTIC DISEASES. Doesn’t sound like a nice way to die does it? Please note that Diseases is plural. Very plural. If you want to get to know a local Rwandan VERY well – make sure you use a condom. You will see signs across Rwanda warning of the dangers of ‘SIDA’. SIDA stands for Le syndrome de l'immunodéficience acquise. French for AIDS. Unfortunately Rwanda, like so many developing countries, has a high infection rate. Being reckless can kill you. Worse – you could get something really nasty that will make you regret living. Just in case you don’t believe it, I have listed some of the diseases and infections you can contract after getting SIDA. Bacterial Pneumonia, Septicaemia (blood poisoning), Tuberculosis, Cryptococcosis, Penicilliosis, Herpes Simplex, Herpes Zoster Virus, Isopsoriasis, Leishmaniasis, Candidiasis, Cryptosporidiosis, Microsporidiosis, Toxoplasmosis, Kaposi's Sarcoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and Lymphoma. This list drives my Spellchecker crazy and they all sound horrible. With good reason. All these diseases, viruses, infections and growths are available FREE when you save time and money not using a condom.
Stade Amahoro, or Amahoro Stadium, means 'Peace Stadium'. This multi-purpose venue serves as the national stadium for events such as soccer and athletics. It also hosts music events and sometimes memorial ceremonies for the victims of the Genocide. Amahoro actually served as a safe haven for as many as 12,000 Tutsis fleeing the barbaric massacres that took place across Kigali in 1994. It was being used as a base by UN troops from Bangladesh at the time and thousands of refugees survived due to their protection. Sadly over a million Tutsis did not.
The military head of the UNAMIR (UNITED NATIONS ASSISTANCE MISSION FOR RWANDA) mission, Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, describes the Stadium in his book ‘Shake Hands With the Devil’: "When the war started the place filled up and at one point we were up to 12,000 in here. Twelve thousand people trying to live in here. So you get this latent smoke that hangs in here. All you see is people and clothes and so the place looks absolutely, totally out of control. It became, in probably the most pejorative way, something like a concentration camp. We were out there protecting them, but while we were out there, they were inside dying. And the stench, the stench was so powerful you actually had to force yourself not to puke or anything."
The Bikini Tam Tam Beach Club is the best beach bar on Lake Kivu. It is actually more beach than bar, but that is what makes it so good. Essentially it is a beach area with gardens overlooking Lake Kivu. The ‘restaurant’ part of Bikini Tam Tam is mostly plastic tables and chairs stuck in the sand. Don’t worry, they do have covers they put up if it really starts raining. In addition to food and music on the beach, they also have a (safe) boating and swimming area. You can enjoy a massive (720ml) cold Primus on the beach. In fact you are less than 1 km from where Primus Beer is brewed!
Tam-Tam's are musical gongs from Southeast Asia and no one is quite sure how the bar received its interesting name. This is a great place to unwind and see in beautiful sunsets over the lake. To add to the excitement you can see the nearby active Nyiragongo Volcano and you are right on the beach of one of only 3 Exploding Lakes in the world. And Nyiragongo destroyed 20% of the twin town of Goma in 2002. You need more than 1 beer! Weekends are packed, but you can always sit on the steps of the kitchen building or on the sand. They have shower facilities, but bring your own towel.
The restaurant menu is mostly beef burgers and chip (thick French fries, but you can get some steak and seafood dishes. The atmosphere is the real charm here. It’s fun and lively.
They also offer camping in their beautiful gardens underneath the dense trees.
Dress Code: Anything goes. Bring some swimwear and a towel!
Address:On the shores of Lake Kivu, Gisenyi Directions:It is located on Ave. de la Production o nthe way to the Primus Brewery. Just ask any Taxi Moto Theme:Eating and Drinking
This is the best Ethiopian Restaurant in Kigali. It may actually be the only one, but you do not want to miss this restaurant if you love Ethiopian food. If you have never tried Ethiopian food then you have an amazing opportunity to sample Ethiopian cuisine at its finest. I had a chance to meet some of the staff earlier in the day before I came to eat here. They are a friendly group of folks and I had the pleasure to meet the main cook who produced all the mouth-watering food I enjoyed. I was made to feel very welcome, a cold beer was never far away and the décor has some cool Ethiopian themes.
So why do I say it’s a 10 out of 10 and a good place to try Ethiopian food? Because their Menu item number 10 is a combination of 10 different dishes! And its all tastes absolutely delicious! I ate every bite.
The restaurant is huge and could easily accommodate large groups. If you don’t see the staff, they are nearby, just call out and they are there instantly. The staff are local people who do speak some Amharic (the majority language of Ethiopia). It is owned by an Ethiopian gentleman named Mesfin Asfaw and he moved the restaurant here in 2007. Some guidebooks still have this located at ‘One Love Club’.
Their menu includes coffee (invented in Ethiopia!), Tibs (stir fried meat), Doro Wott (chicken & egg in a spicy but not overly hot red chilli dish), Kitfo (beef either raw or cooked) and goat (legs or ribs). As Ethiopia is famed for its vegetarian dishes, there is a selection for non-meat eaters.
So what’s did I get to eat in my 10 for 10? Please read below.
Favorite Dish: The number 10 dish is called ‘Siga Beyeantu’ and contains such fantastic dishes as Tibs, Doro Wott, Kitfo, Key Wott, Fir Fir and several vegetable dishes. All this was served with Injera (the flat spongy bread the food is on) and some cold Primus beers.
Directions:Opposite to the small stadium main entrance - there is a sign pointing towards the restaurant. Just tell a taxi to take you to the stadium in Ramera. Or take the Kimironko bus to Chez Lando and keep walk towards the Amahoro stadium.
Just go to the front of the Mille Collines Hotel and look for the Elephants. This is the dramatic REAR entrance to Chez Robert and a good buffet meal. Chez Robert is a real guy from Brussels and the restaurant is quite good. The outside grounds and gardens are decorated with animals and dancing men in costumes. Inside is a dark wood bar and serving room. The dining terrace is lovely and they play CNN and international news on a large screen in the smaller inner garden. The food varied between fresh bread, salad, some seafood, hot meat dishes, rice, friend bananas, rice and a range of desserts. For $20, including a few big Primus beers, it was a nice meal. Not great, just nice.
The staff were super friendly and I even had my picture taken with one of the gardeners. I was also able to pick up a copy of THE EYE magazine. The outdoor tables were quite interesting being tiled and the environment was cosy despite being a large place. The dining room staff kept opening the dishes for me to look at and select from. My beers were cold. So if you are in Kigali, you might want to have one meal here.
Favorite Dish: Several beef and pork dishes, fried fish (better than it sounds), a nice seafood salad and some roasted vegetables. All washed done with a massive, cold Primus beer. All enjoyed on the terrace.
Address:Ave de la République, Centreville
Comparison: more expensive than average
Directions:Just 50 meters down the hill from the entrance of the Mille Collines Hotel.
This humble little bakery in Gisenyi makes the absolute BEST Samosas in the entire world! I stopped in just to see what they had on offer and noticed a large basket of samosas in a glass cabinet. I asked for one, expecting a cold, bland snack. Instead I was given a hot, fresh, meat samosa that absolutely exploded with flavour in my mouth. Super delicious! It was spicy, but not hot. They had just made them and I went back for more! I have travelled the world and I can assure you these are the best Samosas I have ever had.
For those not familiar with samosas, they are triangular pastries filled with meant and/or vegetables. Their name derives from a Persian word and were probably invented in Central Asia. And now you know where you can get the best samosas!
Boulangerie de Gisenyi also makes fresh bread, stock canned foods and has cold soft drinks. For a budget traveller this is a good place to get supplies.
Favorite Dish: A cold apple juice and some wonderful meat Samosas made in Heaven.
How bad is the food and service? Yes, it is bad. Famously bad. There were even newspaper stories in August 2009 about the staff and managers they had to all fire because of poor service and worse food. If you are staying in Kigali for a while, this is a great place for a coffee and to use your laptop. Now they do get good reviews on their coffees and fast, free internet. It is located next to the Nakumatt Supermarket in the Union Trade Centre, so if you need a fix – pop in for a latte
Favorite Dish: You are advised, by many travellers on the internet, not to eat here. I didn't.
Would you like to see the Mountain Gorillas? Other wildlife? A general tour of all that Rwanda has to offer? Kennedy Nari is your man! Kennedy, member kennedyrw on Virtual Tourist, can organise tours of Rwanda for you at a good price. Kennedy is Congolese, but was born where DRC, Rwanda and Uganda meet. It is also the location of the rare Mountain Gorillas. He organised my day Gorilla Tracking in the DRC where photos 2-5 are taken. He organised everything via email before my arrival in Rwanda and met me personally in Gisenyi, Rwanda. He is able to organise any sort of tour you would like and match any budget you have. Throughout my stay in East Africa Kennedy was in touch with me and my guides at all times.
I found him to be very friendly, professional and organised. I would absolutely recommend his tour company to anyone visiting Rwanda. He also covers: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania. Highlights are the mountain gorillas and active volcanoes. His company has a fantastic 12 day tour of Rwanda, Burundi and DRC including the gorillas if you want a super tour.