After spending 96 hours in Kigali two weeks ago, I now understand why it is referred to as The Country of a Thousand Hills or in French “Le Pays aux Mille Collines”.
The capital city of Kigali is literally surrounded by hills and mountains, leaving you in awe as you admire the greenery and breathe in fresh air.
I was in Kigali for the U.S. President Malaria Initiative’s Global Conference for the VectorLink Project.
For those of you who don’t know, outside of being a Food Blogger and Owner of my Catering Business, I also have a 14-year career in Procurement and Logistics, which is what I do on the PMI VectorLink Project, responsible for the procurement and movement of personal protective equipment (PPE), spray equipment, entomology (scientific study of insects) supplies and materials to over 25 African nations.
To say that I stayed at the Hotel des Mille Collines, is an honor. Its story was told in the movie “Hotel Rwanda” and the property became famous after its manager, Paul Rusesabagina, allowed 1,268 people to take refuge inside the building during the Rwanda Genocide of April 1994.
Flashbacks of some of the movie scenes were very much present in my memory but I can tell you that those scenes were nothing close to what the Rwandans lived through during the Genocide, which accounts for over 1 million deaths in 100 days.
It is truly a historic building with beautiful grounds and amazing views from its Panorama Restaurant on the top floor of the hotel.
Now, I was very happy to be in Kigali, most importantly because I was able to meet all of our African counterparts with whom I’ve worked with for the past year, an opportunity to put faces to names.
Outside of that, I wanted to see Kigali with the little time I had remaining in the city, discover the food scene, learn a bit of Kyniarwanda (Rwanda’s dialect), buy some coffee, tea and a few souvenirs, etc…
Oh, I sure learned a few words:
Bite – How are you?
Murakoze – Thank You
Muramute – Goodbye
Ubumuntu – Humanity
I was looking forward to communicating in French, however I was informed that French was no longer very much spoken in Rwanda, partially due to France’s involvement during the Genocide.
Those who know how to speak it well are from the older generation but the younger generation, millennials speak English for the most part.
Enough about Rwanda’s history, I am sure you can’t wait to read about the food scene and salivate!
My friend Josine (who is Rwandan) had given me a few recommendations before I left for Kigali. On my second night, we went to Repub Lounge, which was no more than 10 to 15 minutes from Hotel des Mille Collines.
Let me start by saying that once you walk into this oasis, filled with African art, wooden frames and boasting the perfect vibe for dinner and drinks with friends, you’ll never want to leave.
Mark my words.
I loved how the fabrics on the table and chairs were made with Ankara, a true representation of our African culture.
If you are looking for a smooth cocktail, Claude (the best waiter/server ever) strongly recommended Red Star, Repub’s house cocktail.
You’ll want one, two, three…It was that good!
For appetizers, I have two recommendations: You MUST try the Sambaza and/or the Samosas (beef).
These little tiny fish come from Lake Kivu in Rwanda. As you can see, they look like Sardines but taste so much better.
They were fresh, crunchy and the dip it was served with, definitely added another layer of flavor. You could also simply eat them without dipping.
We ate the whole plate!
Now, the Beef Samosas!
These little triangle rides to heaven were so delicious and marvelously seasoned.
We requested 3 orders during our second visit and ate them all as well.
They were served hot!
Before I forget, they also have Veggie Samosas for Vegetarians and/or Vegans.
I highly recommend the Fish Skewers with Fried Plantains as your entree selection.
The Plantains are perfectly ripe, sweet and freshly made.
The skewers were long and enough for two to share.
I am sincerely out of words to describe how good this dish was.
All I have to say is: you have to order it.
Now, the decor at Repub was nothing like I’ve ever seen, at least in my eyes.
I also got the opportunity to meet the Owner of Repub Lounge, who was very pleasant and with whom we chatted for quite a bit.
The upper dining area has a beautiful view of the city as well.
All you need to know about Repub is that you cannot leave Kigali without dining here.
The Hut is the other restaurant I also loved!
The conference’s group dinner was held here.
Definitely recommend this venue for very large groups (we were about 100 in attendance) as they have enough sitting space.
The Passion Fruit Mojito was the perfect start to this buffet experience.
Each seat was nicely set up with cutlery and an Ankara napkin, which was a nice touch.
For starters, I tried a bit of their Pumpkin and Peanut Soup, which was surprisingly delicious.
Then proceeded for a little of everything else which were: Fish Curry, Grilled Chicken, Steak, White Rice and Vegetables.
Sounds like a whole lot but it really wasn’t, look at my plate.
This was by far thee best buffet I have every been to in my whole life, with no exaggeration.
The Hut also had beautiful views of Kigali with lovely grounds and the possibility of dining in the small garden areas on the premises, along with pool-side views.
On the third night, we hung at Onomo Hotel, which was about five minutes away from Hotel des Mille Collines.
By the time we arrived to Onomo, the kitchen was closed.
We enjoyed a couple of beers, the breeze, views and city lights.
I am not a beer drinker but I did really enjoy SKOL beer, proudly made in Rwanda.
After basking in food, drinks and great times with my colleagues, the last thing left on my list was touring Kigali and its outskirts.
We booked a city tour with Countryside Rwanda Tours, with an air-conditioned van, two tour guides, water and wi-fi onboard.
You can’t beat that!
The rain did mess up some of our plans, nonetheless, we enjoyed what we could. Our first stop was at Gahanga Market, where we purchased some beautiful fabrics.
Mama Dennis, the fabric merchant, was filled with joy and had the biggest smile on her face.
It took a trip to Kigali for me to see Fresh Cassava Leaves for the first time ever!
Both my Congolese and Sierra Leonean roots are known for eating these leaves. Of course, in Sierra Leone, they are known as Cassava Leaf.
In Congo, it’s known as Saka Saka.
In Rwanda, Sombe is what it’s known as.
Interesting our all these three cultures overlap, though they are located in West, Central and Eastern parts of Africa.
After the market, we drove around a bit, crossed over the Akagera River, visited the Uzuri K&Y Workshop, where sandals were handmade and sold at the Uzuri Showroom, located in Kigali Heights (Shopping and Entertainment Centre).
We made a quick bathroom stop at a venue called Oasis, which had such a beautiful garden.
Next stop was Rebero, with gorgeous views of Kigali.
You could see the Kigali Convention Center from here.
We hopped back into the van and descended through the hills of the Rebero suburb. We saw mansions with breathtaking views of the city.
I could see myself, sitting on one of the patios/decks, with a glass of wine, cigar in hand, just basking in amazement of the views.
Next stop on the tour was lunch, then the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre.
The tour of the Memorial grounds began with a little introductory video, which had me choked up.
We were not allowed to take photos inside the museum. I can’t explain the sights, stories, artifacts from the Genocide that were displayed.
However, we were able to take photos of the grounds, which were properly and nicely kept.
The last stop on the tour was a cup of Rwandan Coffee on the rooftop of Ubumwe Grande Hotel.
When we walked out of the elevator, OH MY!
Ubumwe’s rooftop was grand in space, with a nice vibe with smooth music playing in the background and the view!
This is the perfect venue to host a party/dinner and I can only imagine what the vibe is like at night.
Back to the coffee, (if I remember correctly) I had the Latte Macchiato and loved it!
This was a great and amazing ending to our visit to Kigali.
I am really hoping for another opportunity to visit and see even more of this beautiful, gorgeous city and country.
Feel free to drop any comments and/or questions below about my experience in Rwanda.
Hope you enjoyed this post!
M U R A K O Z E