Cultural heritage sites are often overlooked when it comes to travelling in Africa, but as part of our history they hold a lot of meaning. Understanding the pattern
of cultural evolutions and preservations over centuries connects us as we learn about the journeys taken to transform various cultures.
In order to fully understand what has made Rwanda the country that it is today, we must first look at its people and its past. Here a four cultural heritage sites worth visiting in Rwanda:
1. Rwanda genocide memorials
Rwanda is a country of beautiful rolling hills and amazing views. But the dark past of the Rwanda genocide that claimed almost a million lives still haunts the country. This said, Rwanda has forged a way forward and its progress has been tremendous; and it is now ranked among the top developing countries in Africa.
As you travel through the country, you will see many genocide memorial museums preserved in various districts for people to reflect on the past. When in Rwanda, endeavour to visit one of these museums and hear the stories as told by the survivors about how race and tribal extremism can lead to societal collapse.
Among the many genocide sites in Rwanda, one of the most popular to visit is the Bisesero genocide memorial site. The memorial has displays showing the skulls and the clothing of victims, and can be quite difficult to stomach at times. Entrance to all genocide sites is free, but some tourists offer tokens of appreciation to the guides who walk them around the different sections of the museums including the mass grave where many victims were buried.
2. Ndaba rock
About a two hour drive from Kigali is one of Rwanda’s most historical tourist sites which attracts both locals and foreigners interested in its mythical stories. The rock is legend to be dripping with honey which was used to attract all the people of the surrounding forest, including Ndaba, the greedy hunter who is said to have perished at the bottom of the rock in the basin of honey.
According to legend, before Ndaba’s death his fellow hunters lowered a rope down the rock which Ndaba would use to climb up to collect the honey into pots. But their greedy friend kept them waiting while he ate the honey himself, until finally they all gave up and left the rock. After stuffing himself with honey, Ndaba decided to leave for home too, but it was too late and there was no rope to help him out of the rock. Ndaba tried to climb out but lost balance and hit his head on the rock and died.
This story teaches Rwanda visitors and locals not to be greedy, as greed will only bring trouble to communities. The Ndaba rock also features a magnificent waterfall which visitors can marvel at.
3. Iby’iwacu cultural village
Musanze has an amazing cultural village that is open to, and welcomes, foreign travellers, especially those who visit Rwanda for gorilla tracking safaris in the Volcanoes National Park. The area is home to mountain gorillas, as well as colobus and golden monkeys, Dian Fossey’s tomb and a cultural village full of rich traditions.
A welcoming performance by the warriors, the witch doctor’s station, the blacksmith and wedding ceremonies are some of the most exciting cultural village activities. You may also get to experience the traditional ‘ntore’ dance. The breathtaking dance sees the ladies move their arms like flying birds while the men make stride jumps, like hunters protecting their catch. This keeps some tourists stuck to their seats, while others join the procession to see if they can test their skills.
4. Cultural museums in Nyamata
With collections from ancient colonial times and kingship traditions, the cultural museums in Nyamata are not to be missed. Learn more about Rwanda values and traditions as the communities embrace visitors, who are regarded as good luck.
Rwanda is a country that is blessed with both a rich history and an abundance of natural beauty and wildlife. From encountering the mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park to primate treks and birding safaris, there is no shortage of things to experience in this diverse country.