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Rwanda – Myths VS realities

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THE country that is referred to as “the Land of Thousands Hills” might have a dark history but the future looks promising. Most people that haven’t been in post-genocide Rwanda classify it among “dangerous countries”.

Every time I venture outside this country and meet such kind of people, they tell me that they have seen movies such as Hotel Rwanda or Shooting Dogs. It is like those movies represent the current situation which is far different from what happened 20 years ago.

The Western media has also a role to play in this. As usual it never portrays a good image not only about Rwanda but also the whole of Africa. The information that is provided to prospective visitors by those medias is misleading.

The fact is that the country has been making progress in all domains and has a lot to offer to its visitors. Kigali international airport is served by international airlines such as Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways among others in addition to Rwanda Air and regional airlines.

The coach of Egypt national volleyball team, who was in Rwanda in Dec 2013 joked with local journalists that his wife had warned him to be careful and avoid going out during his stay. As he jetted in Kigali city he was surprised and immediately called his wife telling her that maybe their plane had taken them to Switzerland.

He could not believe his eyes compared to what he had in mind before his journey. Kigali city that has been tipped as the cleanest city in Africa gives the first impression of the country’s cleanliness to curious visitors.

Its roads and green areas all over the city give visitors a sense of order that is prevailing in the country. The city avenues are painted in black and white and in the middle of them are found palm trees that are planted in grass and flowers. Cleaning companies work seven days a week to keep public area clean and appealing to its visitors and residents.

Kigali has seen many commercial and residential properties sprouting from the grounds over the last twenty years to satisfy the growing demand of real estate properties. Visitors have a variety of choice when it comes to accommodation in addition to all kinds of pubs, café and entertainments.

It is usual to meet visitors from Europe, USA, etc. taking an evening walk around the city. This gives an indication of the kind of security that is maintained by disciplined men and women in uniforms. This situation is found in few cities around the world where foreigners can walk around in the night without fear.

The majority of tourists transit in Kigali to rural areas where they can discover green undulating landscape of hills, gardens and tea plantations. Tourists can visit the home of the third world’s remaining mountains gorillas, one third of Africa’s bird’s species, several species of primates among others.

The famous mountains gorillas are found in Virunga Mountains inside Volcanoes National Park. It is situated in the Northern Province of Rwanda, on the border of Rwanda, DRC and Uganda. Visitors to the park can enjoy trekking the mountains to discover gorillas that are found up at a three to four hours walk.

The park offers an excellent location for bird watching in addition to hiking trails, cycling areas, boating on the Twin lakes or fishing experience. Virungas Mountains host dormant volcanoes except for Mount Nyiragongo at 3462m and Mount Nyamuragira at 3063m above sea level, in the DRC. The most recent eruptions date of 2006 and January 2010.

Rwanda has no shortage of parks as tourists can proceed to Akagera National Park or visit Nyungwe National Park. The latter is over 1000 km2 and is Africa’s largest protected mountain rainforest. The park offer habitat to 310 species and is one of the most important and still undiscovered bird watching destinations in Africa.

Nyungwe is also home to one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of chimpanzees and offers a variety of hiking and walking trails leading to a canopy walk, primate tracking adventures which is the southernmost source of the Nile and ecotourism attractions.

In all those destinations world class accommodation are found at varied prices. Tourists that are eager to hire helicopter can enjoy a thrilling adventure above Akagera National Park, which is a truly memorable way to see the wildlife.

The whole experience cannot be possible without the warm Rwandan tradition that is embedded in diversity of fine crafts and traditions. These include music and dance and a variety of arts and crafts. A window on Rwanda’s history is provided by numerous Memorial sites and Museums preserved around the country. For visitors that are in Kigali city, Gisozi genocide memorial is a popular destination as it explains events that led to the horrible genocide that is still in the mind of many.

This piece cannot completely dispel the myths we find in the minds of people having the wrong information. The Land of Thousands Hills is one of new leading destinations in Africa to be discovered as visitors can come in through Kenya and Uganda using a single tourist visa. Welcome to Rwanda !!!

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