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Located in East Africa, Rwanda borders Tanzania, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. With a population of 12.6 million, all Rwandans speak one language called Kinyarwanda. Being landlocked and the smallest country in East Africa has not stopped the country to position itself as a touristic place in the region. 

Source: The Common Wealth

Here are a few things I love about my country. 

Green and Beautiful Scenery

Rwanda is called a land of a thousand hills for a reason; the first thing you notice when you land is the many hills around the town and how green it is. The hills are not just in the city of Kigali but across the whole country, creating a stunning landscape especially at night. Rwanda is among the countries that are pushing ambitious actions on climate change and this is done through the banning of plastic bags, plans on increasing efficiency in energy production, industrial processes, waste management, transportation and agriculture. It is very rare to see garbage by the roadside in Kigali or other parts of the country. Palm trees planted in the middle and side of the roads make beautiful for a beautiful scene, while offering shade to pedestrians.

Culture and Tradition

 Intore: Rwandan men dancers captured by Plaisir Muzogeye

Rwandans are known to be culturally oriented people, to that extend that some of them have been named ‘Umuco gang’ on social media for making everything a cultural taboo or faux pas. Umuco means ‘tradition/culture’ in Kinyarwanda. Most things have a way of being done even though these traditions keep changing. For example, it was taboo to eat while walking that even now it is hard to find people eating by the roadside. It was also considered a taboo to drink milk while standing and although most people have outgrown this tradition, some old people will not offer you milk until you sit down. However not everything is taboo, some traditions are strongly upheld by everyone and celebrated. Dancing for example is one of the most uniting things among Rwandans. I firmly believe Rwandans have the best dances in the world. The cultural dance is regal with its moves mimicking the cow- a significant symbol in the Rwandan culture. A wedding without a cultural troop is not entertaining, especially for the older generation. 

The Variety of Food

brochette or kebab with green bananas is one of the most common dishes you will find in bars and restaurants. Captured by @afoodiescollective

While it is hard to find one specific dish Rwandans specialize in, there is a variety of cuisines across the country especially in major cities. As many experienced living in exile in different parts of the continent and the world, Rwandan food is inspired by these places. At a restaurant buffet, it is easy to find a mixture of the Congolese, Ugandan, Tanzanian and Kenyan dishes where you can choose your preference. Most homes take pride in their ‘isombe’ (cassava leaves) to serve special guests while others serve ‘peanut sauce and matooke (green bananas)’ depending on where they are from. Ikivuguto (fermented milk) is one of the most common drinks Rwandans will serve you at any time of day or night. The best thing about Rwanda is the fresh produce and variety that you will find in the market places; there is room to be creative and explore with your cooking.

The Western Part of the Country

Source: Africome

This is easily one of my favourite places in the country. Bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rubavu, Rusizi and Karongi share Lake Kivu, which is surrounded by volcanoes. Hotels built on hills give you the most beautiful views facing the lake, and if you wake up early enough you can watch fishermen chanting as they fish. There is no more therapeutic activity! Here, you will delight in fresh fish and Isambaza, small silverfish that are commonly known in these parts of the country. The hot springs in Rubavu will give you the rest you needed before you go back to the chaos of life. There are different activities to do such as jet skiing, canoeing or hiking the mountains. Before the pandemic, you could cross over to Goma for a short visit. 

Source: Gorilla Africa

Source: Gorilla Trekking Tours and Safaris

The Creative Scene in Rwanda

Source: Haute Baso

Source: House of Tayo

Creative people especially creative youth have been great contributors to the country’s fast-growing economy. Creative agencies like Illume Creative Studio have made great contributions to expand Rwanda's visibility in the creative industry through collaborating with African and international artists and introducing the first Diner En Blanc in Africa. Design houses such as House of Tayo, Haute Baso, Uzi Collection, Moshions dressed African and international celebrities. Uzuri, a shoe manufacturing company, has easily become the nation’s favourite and is currently expanding in the region. Painters, dancers and musicians are being embraced and initiatives are put in place to grow the art.

Source: Focus on Belguim

Have I mentioned that we highly pride ourselves in Stromae, a Rwandan Belgian singer who has won many hearts across the globe? Though there is still a long way to go and more advocacy is needed to encourage art as much as STEM, there is appreciation for the efforts being made. 

Rwanda is full of hidden gems that one has to keep discovering. There are multiple things that make you fall in love with the country, and I cannot simply list all of them here. From the beautiful people, the ease of life to the organized services in both the public and private sectors, Rwanda is a good place to visit for exploration or even stay for long periods to experience it fully. If you want to visit Rwanda, do not worry about visa processes, just show up with your passport and you will be granted one upon entry.

Natacha Umutoni

Natacha Umutoni is a passionate and loving introvert who believes she can do anything she can set her mind to. She loves overcoming challenges and solving problems. Her goal is to share her thoughts and experiences as both an African and Rwandan woman. In November 2020, her blog post on fat phobia ‘Fat people do not owe you good health’ became the most read on the Teakisi platform. As an introvert, she loves reading fiction and exploring with food through trying different recipes.