Top Cultural Experiences in Rwanda
Many people are deluded to visit Rwanda mainly for the gorilla trekking experiences but in reality, what keeps many coming back over and over again is the warm hospitality of the people of Rwanda who reward with insightful cultural experiences after your long day of a hike through the jungles of the Land of a Thousand Hills. Build on strong traditions that originate from the Ancient traditions of honor and hospitality run, it is no doubt that many travelers are curious to discover the much narrated Rwandan culture to meet up with unique people, relate to their lives and get introduced to the different customs and traditions of the locals.
The traditional and cultural experiences in Rwanda involves the local entertainment; music and dance play with a wide variety of performances ranging from dashing demonstrations of bravery and prowess to humorous songs, light-hearted dances, and rural artistry with roots in traditional agriculture. Traditional songs are often accompanied by a solitary lilunga—a harp-like instrument with eight strings—while more celebratory dances are backed by a drum orchestra, which typically comprises seven to nine members who collectively produce a hypnotic and exciting explosion set of intertwining rhythms. Now let’s explore the top cultural experiences in Rwanda that you can discover, explore and relate on your Rwanda cultural tour.
Rwanda Genocide Memorial Visit (Cultural Experiences in Rwanda)
The genocide memorial in Kigali is included on every city tour and is a must-see. Rwanda’s painful past has haunted the country for years; however, their impressive recovery story has turned them into inspiration. The genocide memorial acts as a humbling reminder to those present and honors those lost. This is a worthwhile visit for travelers who want to gain insight into the history of genocide in Rwanda, it will also help travelers appreciate how far Rwanda has come. The Memorial Center is open every day from 8 am to 5 pm, but the last entrance is at 4 pm. It opens at 2 pm on Umuganda Saturdays (the last Saturday of every month when Rwandans get together for community clean up). There is no fee to enter, however, audio guides are available. The Center is located in Gisozi.
While the largest memorial is in Kigali, the genocide touched all corners of Rwanda, and as such there are many emotionally charged memorials located throughout the country. Some are as simple as a quiet garden space for contemplation, while others are larger and hold relics, remains, and exhibits on the genocide itself. Beyond the main memorial centre in Kigali, a few of the memorials that belong on any Rwandan itinerary include:
Nyanza Genocide Memorial: This site, in the grounds of Kigali’s Ecole Technique Officielle, holds the graves of more than 10,000 Tutsis who were massacred here during the genocide. Today several concrete memorials mark the spot, and it’s been used as a main site for genocide anniversary commemorations.
Ntarama Genocide Memorial: Set in a village south of Kigali where more than 5,000 people were killed in the grounds of a church, the site today has been turned into a memorial garden, and the interior of the church holds the personal belongings and skeletons of hundreds of the victims, including everything from clothing, to toys, to identification. Guided visits are available.
Nyamata Genocide Memorial: Along the main road south of Kigali, this is another church where people sought protection but were ultimately slaughtered. 10,000 people were killed here in 1994, and today their personal effects fill the church. Two crypts underneath the grounds hold tens of thousands of bodies, and guided visits are available.
Murambi Genocide Memorial: Set in a former technical school just north of Nyamagabe in Rwanda’s southwest, the Murambi memorial is perhaps the most significant, and most wrenching of all of Rwanda’s genocide memorials. Up to 50,000 people were murdered here, and the mass graves so large, that the heat of the surrounding decomposition preserved many of the bodies, which now populate the bare dormitories of the school. To better explain the events leading up to the massacre, an interpretive center was opened here in 2011.
Music and Dance Experiences in Rwanda (Cultural Experiences in Rwanda)
The finest displays of Rwanda’s dynamic traditional musical and dance styles are performed by the Intore Dance Troupes. Founded several centuries ago, the Intore, (The Chosen Ones) who performed exclusively for the Royal Court, were given military training and taught the technique of jumping which forms a significant part of the dance. Performed wearing grass wigs and clutching spears this dance is a true spectacle of Rwanda.
Live dance performances can be seen at cultural villages, museums and as entertainment at many lodges and hotels across Rwanda. The Iby’ Iwacu cultural village in Musanze and the National Museum of Rwanda have regular performances and daily dances occur at the RDB office at Kinigi, Volcanoes National Park.
Art and Crafts Tour Experience in Rwanda
A distinctively Rwandan craft is the Imigongo or cow dung paintings that are produced by a local co-operative in the village of Nyakarambi near the border with Tanzania. Dominated by black, brown and white whirls and other geometric shapes, these unique and earthy works can be bought in craft markets throughout the country.
Weaving and basket making is a traditional art still used today to make dry containers for storing food and medicines. These are also known as peace pots and had traditional values such as to commemorate weddings or as a welcome gift.
Pottery is one of the oldest forms of art in Rwanda and can still be seen in many towns today using traditional Batwa techniques. Known for its good quality clay these potteries are still widely used for cooking and storing liquids.
Coffee and Tea Plantation Cultural Tours in Rwanda
With twelve coffee-washing stations, three tea plantations, three cities, dozens of villages, and more beaches, coves, waterfalls, valleys, and vistas than we can count, the winding path of the Congo Nile Trail is a true rambler’s paradise, and offers some of the finest hiking to be had anywhere in east and central Africa. Winding its way along the fringes of the lake through the peaks of Rwanda’s endlessly verdant mille collines (thousand hills), a through-hike of the Congo Nile Trail is as challenging as it is rewarding, and with a peak elevation of 2630m, it’s a serious workout to boot. The full 227km route takes 10 days to complete on foot (including a rest day to soak up the beaches around Karongi), but can be approached in sections based on your ability and interests. Whether you’re keen to soak up daily life in a traditional village, tour a historic church, swim and paddle on the lakeshore, or see where your morning coffee gets its start, drop by any RDB office and they can get your Congo Nile excursion started.
Umuganda Cultural Experience in Rwanda (Cultural Experiences in Rwanda)
Dating back to colonial times and translated from Kinyarwanda as “coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome”, Umuganda is when Rwandans from all walks of life come together to work for the good of their neighborhoods and their nation as a whole. The last Saturday of every month, shops are closed, buses stop running, traffic disappears from the roads, and Rwandans set aside their personal business for the morning and contribute their efforts to public works projects around the country, which can include litter cleanup, tree planting, building houses for the vulnerable, and more. The social and economic benefits of Umuganda are easy for all to see (Rwanda isn’t the cleanest country in Africa by accident!), and whether or not you have special skills to contribute, all visitors are warmly invited to take part; given the range of projects addressed through umuganda, you’re sure to find one to fit your interests.