Unwinding in Kigali, Rwanda

On my recent trip to Africa, one of the places that I spent time in was Kigali, Rwanda. One week in Kigali definitely wasn’t enough time. I was in Rwanda conducting research for my thesis and also for peacebuilding work. Unfortunately, I was so consumed with my work and research that I was not able to have much of a tourist experience.

I arrived in Kigali after a week in Kinshasa, DRC. Though I am happy that I was able to go to DRC and would return again, because of the conflict in DRC, these were two very different experiences. Honestly, it was a relief to arrive in Kigali and to be able to use credit cards, hop in a car on my own to go to my hotel and roam around the city on my own day or night.

Don’t get me wrong poverty exists but it isn’t the level of despair that one might find in other countries in Africa – or even perhaps once outside of Kigali. But the city is clean and has a lush green landscape with mountainous backdrop. A military presence is ever present but it doesn’t feel imposing, they try to blend in and if you need help – it is okay to approach them. Though, I wouldn’t recommend asking for a photo – or taking one…Once a month all (or Most) Rwandans do community service in their neighborhood, which is one of the many experiences that the community has used to bond and forgive. Rwanda is a great example of how to move forward after conflict and tragedy.

One of the first places I went to was the Kigali Memorial Centre/Gisozi Genocide Memorial Centre. The memorial is a wonderful tribute to the victims of the genocide. The museum has photos and statements from children, which are very moving. Definitely should be a stop on your itinerary if traveling to Kigali.

I stayed at Heaven Restaurant and Inn, yes there is emphasis on the restaurant and most locals probably have no idea that they have rooms. But it is a great place to stay. With three rooms, you better book your trip early. It’s on a quiet street and feels secluded but is in walking distance of the hotel des Mille Collines, cafes, restaurants and the main shopping area.

The restaurant is popular with expats and tourists – it has a fabulous view, and they serve dinner (breakfast for house guests) and a wonderful Sunday brunch. There is a small shop full of items by local artisans and an art gallery. The staff was friendly and helpful. The room was spacious, comfortable and there was a separate sitting room. Overall, Heaven has really great ambiance and staying there was really relaxing – felt like a cross between a B&B and a retreat. The restaurant is a massive covered terrace, add candle light and the view…The first night that I was there a youth group danced in the restaurant –they were fabulous. IMG_1738

As for the food — the vegetarian taco plate was one of the best dishes that I have had in a long time. It is very fresh and comes with Dodo, an African green. They have a nice wine list and also make really fabulous Rwandan cocktails.



There is a great Indian restaurant, Khana Khazana a block away from Heaven. Though I ordered my favorite universally found Indian dishes, the flavors were slightly different, which is part of what I love about ordering Indian food around the world. I like heat, but I also want flavor and Khana Khazana strikes a nice balance. They also have a great wine list. I went a couple of times while I was in Kigali. They have outdoor terrace seating under a roof – like most of the restaurants that I ended up at. Great service and reasonable prices. Honestly, this was some of the best Indian food I’ve had in ages — reminded me of the flavors I’ve come to love from Indian restaurants in London.

Zen Thai restaurant was another favorite – it is located on the other side of town but worth the taxi ride. It’s an upscale restaurant that attracts expats, tourists and business people. It has a spacious outdoor terrace with seating under a thatched roof, and a small lake just below the restaurant. I went for lunch and was very happy to find tofu on the menu. They have a lot of great vegetarian options.

If you are in search or good coffee and/or wifi, stop by Bourbon coffee. It’s a great local cafe, nice atmosphere and very relaxing. The coffee is strong and smooth. There were lots of people hanging out working on laptops, reading and having meetings. There is a location in the main center where the mall and other shops are located. I didn’t try the food but it looked like standard bakery options and wraps.

It is a great place to visit – if you are a coffee and tea connoisseur this is the place for you – take some home with you. There are also many local artisans selling paintings, sculpture, house wares and jewelry.

I really wish there had been more time to see Kigali, aside from in the back of a taxi. I guess that means I must return soon.


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