November 28, 2008 / 11:06 AM / 10 years ago

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Kigali

KIGALI (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to explore the Rwandan capital of Kigali? Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most from a short visit.

A woman is seen on a main street of Rwanda's capital Kigali February 6, 2008. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz


6:00 p.m. - Begin your visit with a cold beer at Hotel des Mille Collines (Avenue de l’Arme / Avenue de la Republique). During Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, more than 1,000 people were saved inside its walls. The story was turned into a blockbuster movie called “Hotel Rwanda.” It has recently reopened after renovations. Walk through the subdued lobby and go downstairs. Sit out on the balcony and enjoy picturesque views of Rwanda, nicknamed the land of ‘milles collines’ or a thousand hills, whose beauty is only partly obscured by leafy trees.

7:00 p.m. - Walk directly across the street to Chez Robert Restaurant, French and Belgian cuisine. It may look abandoned from the outside but keep walking down the stairs and around to the entrance. You’ll be greatly surprised upon entering by its warm atmosphere, dimly lit tables, soft African melodies, and the smell of a juicy, dinner buffet all instantly flirting with your senses. It’s an ideal place for intimate conversation and of course, a very full belly.

8:30 p.m. - Walk around the city center to digest the large meal you’ve just eaten. Compared to many other cities in this part of Africa, Kigali is quite safe. So enjoy. Enter into any of the small, local bars downtown and order a Mutzig beer that costs around $2, but don’t have too many. Rwanda’s hilly roads could give you problems.

11:00 p.m. - Not tired yet? Head to the Kigali Business Center. Don’t let the name fool you, there’s a night club downstairs called Planet. It gets quite full and there’s a $2 cover at the door. The packed dance floor, mix of Western and African music and plentiful beer should give you a fun night.


10:00 a.m. - Walk down the main roundabout near Nakumatt mall. Hire a motorcycle taxi to take you around the city. Kigali is nicknamed the “Switzerland of Africa” with its rolling, verdant hills. The city appears bigger than it actually is. However, it is an orderly place and motorcycles are required to have a spare helmet. Tell the driver “Pole, Pole” which means slowly, slowly in Swahili, and then sit back and enjoy the wind on your face.

12:00 - Head to Bourbon Coffee, a western-style cafe in Nakumatt mall. Eat a Tramezzini sandwich with a side salad and Dijon dressing. The focaccia bread is a welcome change. Take your time, it’s a cozy place to hang out. You can see people reading in armchairs and working on their computers. Have a caramel drizzle “kawaccino” for dessert, and relax.

2:00 p.m. - Kigali is an immensely walkable city. Wander around the center. Beautiful cobblestones down some streets, and the clean sweet smell of blooming flowers down others, will help you relax. The slow pace of life on Saturdays will slacken your stride as will the sometimes steep inclines.

7:30 p.m. - Head for dinner at Indian Khazana in a quiet area of downtown Kigali near the National Bank of Rwanda. It’s hard to hear any noise as you enter, but pass the wall shutting the restaurant off from the small parking lot, and it seems as if you’re in a different world. Waiters are dressed in dark red Indian garments with gold trimmings. You can’t go wrong with the Chicken Tikka Masala.

9:00 p.m. - Go for a nightcap at Orion bar in Kimihurura. Once you pass the entrance, head around the back. A small, open-air bar awaits you. Young professional Rwandans frequent this joint, and if you want to continue partying into the night, there is a club.


11:00 a.m. - If you can manage an uncomfortable past, and feel inclined to learn more about the history, then visit Kigali’s Genocide Memorial Center (open Monday through Sunday from 8:00 to 4:00 except public holidays). This permanent memorial pays homage to those killed in the 1994 genocide of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The exhibitions tell of Rwanda’s history beginning with colonization by the Belgians, an in-depth look of the genocide, as well as information on other genocides around the world. Parts of the museum are not for the faint-hearted. Walk slowly through the exhibitions to the outside gardens. On a Sunday, the gravel paths are quite deserted. Through the garden is a covered path next to concrete tombs that house some 250,000 bodies, walk underneath the flowered canopy with the sweet smell of honeysuckle and past the mass graves.

(Additional reporting by Christopher Cymbalak)

Reporting by Jack Kimball; Editing by Paul Casciato

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