Rwanda, Pays aux Milles Collines

Everyone remembers the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the dreadful blood bath between the Tutsis and the Hutus. For myself, I was too young to recall the event but I surely do remember watching the movie Hotel Rwanda and being stunned by the story. I was happy that this small intriguing country was on our group tour itinerary. I was very curious to discover what Rwanda is all about today. The minute we crossed the border, I was in love! Volcanos and rainforests as far as our eyes can see, roads in perfect conditions (they even have sidewalks and bike lanes!), absolutely no sign of pollution (finally, an African country that believes in garbage cans!), houses and schools are nicely built and taking care of, AND, most of the Rwandan speak French! Wow! 👍 Despite this, 57% of Rwandan still live below the poverty line. They are simply very hard-working people who are proud of their country, striving to rebuild their economy and reputation.

We only spent 3 days in Rwanda but it was enough to get a glimpse of their beautiful culture and to learn about the history of the country. However, the dark days are finally behind. The Rwandan were able to turn the page and open a new chapter. Rwandan don’t differentiate themselves by tribes anymore, but consider themselves as one nationality. Nowadays, you don’t hear about ‘Tutsis’ or ‘Hutus’, but ‘Rwandans’. Rwanda has now become a very politically stable country, with no corruption. It’s impressive how an awful event had such a positive change for a country. Rwanda is a perfect example of a nation that was able to apologize, put the past behind in order to progress towards a bright future. Respect! 🙌

Population: 12.3 millions

Capital: Kigali

Languages: Kinyarwanda, French and English

Visited places during my trip: Kigali (Genocide Memorial Center), Musanze and the Parc National des Volcans

Famous for:

-The movie Hotel Rwanda

-Dian Fossey, an American zoologist who devoted her life to the study and the protection of mountain gorillas.

-Coffee and tea plantations

Interesting facts:

-Rwanda has the world’s highest number of women working at the parliament (56%)! Go women power!

-To preserve the natural beauty of the country, the government enforces a strict ban on plastic bags. You can even get fined if the police finds a plastic bag in your luggage at the border!

-Just like The Gambia, the last Saturday of every month is a national community service/cleaning day called the Umuganda. Every Rwandan (including the President) must clean their neighborhood or help building community centers (schools, medical centers, hydroelectric plants). No wonder the country is so clean!

-Rwanda, ‘Le Pays aux Milles Collines’ (the Land of Thousand Hills) got its name because of its endless rolling grassy hills, mountain ranges and volcanoes.

-Rwanda is one of the smallest nation and most densely populated countries in the world…

My highlight moment: My trek in the Parc National des Volcans in search of mountain gorillas! Mountain gorillas can only be seen in the nature in 3 different countries (Rwanda, Uganda and Congo); they can’t survive in captivity. So it is a pretty unique experience to get an encounter with these big intimidating primates! However, contrary to the commercial image of the fierce King Kong, gorillas are actually very nice and tolerant towards humans (let’s not forget they have 98% of our genes!). After one hour of trekking through the dense rainforest we finally arrived to our designed family, the Umubano group. It was pretty amazing to hang out with three silverback, but also with a little 3 months old baby! I must say gorillas are very charismatic creatures! I was impressed on how they didn’t mind us at all, they were just moving around us, like we were part of their family! This is definitely a must for everyone who comes in Eastern Africa! 🙂

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