Over 20 years after a horrific chapter in its history, Rwanda has gotten back on its feet and is now developing fast and well. The country's capital, Kigali, has all the qualities of a major touristic hub, but is somehow still a hidden gem. Here's all you need to know about Rwanda's metropolitan jewel and its myriad marvels.
An overlooked city that will catch your eye
At the heart of Rwanda lies its cultural, economic, and social center, Kigali. The capital boasts a modern, elegant cityscape that is ever-evolving, embodying the country's constant and courageous effort towards post-war nation-building. Blending modernity and authenticity like no other, Kigali harmoniously mixes traditional sights and iridescent skyscrapers, a folkloric ambience and a cosmopolitan atmosphere. The hilly city knows exactly how charismatic it is, and will confidently wow you with its plethora of luxurious eateries, fashionable spots, and enthralling culture. Despite being the burgeoning, cutting-edge city that it is, Kigali is often overlooked, ignored by tourists in favor of the countryside's safaris. Here's why you should give Kigali all of your attention.
An emerging city that keeps in touch with its traditional soul
Forward-looking, tech-centric, avant-garde: these are the adjectives that best describe Kigali. Progress is a key word in the Rwandan capital, which makes it the ideal environment for innovative startups to thrive and new business ventures to flourish. As in every city where modernity starts making an appearance, luxury is never far behind. Kigali is home to the very first Marriott Hotel in sub-Saharan Africa, and a number of other fancy spots have sprung up in the capital. Despite being a center of opulence, the emerging city has not lost its authenticity, which is particularly prominent in Kigali's cuisine and artistry. As you stroll around the city's bustling streets, you'll find a slew of traditional restaurants where you can indulge in slow-roasted tilapia and Rwandan cheese. Don't forget to get a taste of fair-trade coffee, which is some of East Africa's best according to the locals. Kigali's art scene is also quickly expanding, touching the hearts and minds of citizens and tourists alike. The Niyo Art Gallery is particularly noteworthy, being a colorful, unpretentious spot where local artists are given a platform to express themselves.
A clean city that works towards sustainability
Kigali is proud of its clean streets, and it should be. You'll certainly enjoy strolling around its immaculate boulevards and well-manicured green spaces. Kigali is also a green pioneer, and does more than just dabble in sustainability. Over the years, the city has taken on numerous eco-friendly initiatives, and it shows. It all starts with education, and school children are taught not to litter and how to be environmentally-conscious. A nationwide plastic bag ban was established in 2008 and a 24-hour cleaning service has also been set up in the city, working around the clock to keep the streets spotless. There's nothing better than to explore a neat, clean city that understands the importance of respecting the planet.
A safe city that prioritizes gender equality
Not only is Kigali clean, it's also known to be one of Africa's safest cities. It boasts a very low crime rate and offers a warm welcome to foreigners. What is particularly noteworthy about Kigali's safety-related endeavors is the city's considerable effort towards creating safe spaces for women. As a metropolitan champion of gender equality, the capital strives to provide women with protection and opportunities. In Nyamirambo, one of Kigali's most vibrant and diverse districts, you can find the Nyamirambo Women's Center, an NGO that combats gender-based violence through women's empowerment and financial autonomy. There, you can support the organization's work by buying the gorgeous souvenirs made by local seamstresses. A multitude of fair-trade coffee shops and bakeries also offer delicacies that are made entirely by women, from coffee beans grown by women farmers to cinnamon pretzels cooked by women. In May 2018, Kigali also elected a woman mayor, Marie-Chantal Rwakazina, who is committed to not only making Kigali a safe haven for women, but most importantly a place for them to thrive.