Known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills,” Rwanda rests just below the equator and its small size has a rich geography with mountains, savannas, and many lakes. This landlocked country is at a high altitude of 4,800 feet (1,463 m). The capital city is Kigali – one of East Africa’s fastest growing cities with an estimated population of over 1 million people. Rwanda’s economy is based on the subsistence agriculture and the people grow enough food to feed their families. With a presence of volcanic soils, steep slopes and high altitudes, Coffee & tea are the main cash crops also one of the country’s biggest exports.
Rwanda’s tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors. Rwanda is also lucky to be one of the three countries where tourists can get to visit the endangered mountain gorillas. There are three national parks found in this small country i.e. Akagera national park, Nyungwe forest national Park and Volcanoes national park. Most of the large mammals found here, include the Elephants, Lions, Rhinos, Giraffes, and many more.
The National Language in Rwanda is ‘Kinyarwanda’ spoken by most people. English, French & Swahili are the Official languages.
Currency used is Rwanda Francs, and 1 RWF is equivalent to $ 0.0012 USD.
Rwanda is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. The country is divided by great peaks of up to 3, 000m (9,842ft) which run across the country from north to south. To feed the people, almost every available piece of land is under cultivation, except for parts of the Akagera (along the border with Tanzania) and the higher slopes of the Virunga volcanoes. Since most of the country is mountainous, this involves a good deal of terracing. The Virunga volcanoes rising steeply from Lake Kivu in the west slope down first to hilly central plateau and further eastwards to an area of marshy lakes around the upper reaches of the Akagera River, where the Akagera National Park is situated.
The country’s scenery is much mountainous and the Mt. Karisimbi is regarded as the highest peak at 4,507m on the Virunga Volcanic ranges and the lowest point in Rwanda is the Ruzizi River, at 950m (3,117 ft.) above sea level. Lake Kivu is the country’s largest main fresh water body and one of the deepest lakes in Africa. Ruzizi river valley forms the western boundary with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and constitute part of the Great Rift Valley. There also other small lakes and Rivers such as Ruhondo, Burera, Muhazi, Ihema, Mugesera and River Akagera. Rwanda is also located on the eastern edge of the Albertine Rift which is a western wing of the Great Rift Valley and all these places attract a number of travelers’ whole over the world to Rwanda to explore more about the country.
Even though Rwanda is located only two degrees south of the equator, Rwanda’s high elevation makes the tropical highland climate. The average day time temperature is 24°C with a possible maximum of 30°C. There are four noticeable seasons, the long dry season is from mid-May to September and the short rains from October to mid-December to mid-march. Heavy downpours occur almost daily, alternating with sunny weather. Rainfall is generally heavier in the western and northwestern mountains than in the eastern savannas. The summit of Mt. Karisimbi at 4507m, is often covered with hail or snow.
Culture & People of Rwanda
Rwanda is a country of mainly three tribes and these are the Hutu, Tutsi, and the Twa. The Hutu dominates other tribes with over 84%, Tutsi with 15% and the Twa 1%. Rwanda is now a unified state unlike in many other African countries and it’s mostly populated by the ‘Banyarwanda’ people who share a single cultural heritage & language. An essential part of most ceremonies, social gatherings in Rwanda is the traditional music & dance also known as ‘umushagiriro’ (Cow dance) performed by women. The dance of the heroes is performed by men and this involves drumming on drums known as ‘Ingoma’.
In Rwanda, there are great items produced in the Art & Craft sector and these include woven baskets & bowls, wood carvings, customary housing styles. The women are the most gifted under this field and they normally use Imigongo, a unique cow dung art which it is produced in the southeast of Rwanda, with a history dating back to when the region was part of the independent Gisaka kingdom. The dung is mixed up with natural soils of various colors and painted into gorgeous ridges to form arithmetical shapes.
In Rwanda, agriculture is a crucial sector and is the backbone of the economy. 90% of the country’s food needs come from what they planted in the farms. Coffee & tea being the main cash crops for export, the staple foods include bananas, sweet potatoes, beans, corn, peas, millet, fruit, cassava, plantains and many others.
People in Rwanda prefer to eat simple meals cooked with locally grown ingredients. Agriculture in Rwanda itself employs about 70% of the labor force. Common factors like having very fertile soils have contributed to this. Also livestock is another growing sector.
Rwanda Travel Information
Passport and Visas:
A valid passport with visa is mandatory when travelling to Rwanda. The bilateral agreements allow nationals of the following countries to visit Rwanda without a visa for a period up to 90 days i.e. USA, UK, Germany, Canada, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sweden, Mauritius, South Africa and Hong Kong. Also recently the East African tourist visa was introduced and this allows you to travel within East Africa with a single document. The Rwanda Visa can be applied for online or bought upon arrival.
When to Visit Rwanda
Rwanda can be visited throughout the year. Gorilla trekking and other forest walks are less demanding during the drier months. The European winter is the best time for birds, as Palearctic migrants supplement resident species. The rainy season is from March to April and from October to November, but the gorilla’s habitat is in the rain forests and it can often rain any time of year. Travel can be slower in the rainy season but the views are often better. Gorilla tracking can be muddier but not impassable. In the mountainous areas it is much colder than on the plains and the rainfall is greater. One can travel when it is most convenient for themselves as the rain which is often for short periods, is part of the great experience.
Rwanda has an excellent cell phone network covering almost the entire country and the major telecom companies are MTN, Tigo&Airtel. International phone calls can be made easily and SIM cards for the network are readily available everywhere, even in remote towns. Cell phones can be purchased or rented from major shops in Kigali.
Common Kinyarwanda words are;
- ‘Amafaranga’ meaning Money
- ‘Amakuruyawe’ meaning how are you?
- ‘Ni Meza’ meaning Fine
- ‘Mwaramutse’ meaning Good morning
- ‘Murakoze’ meaning Thank you,
- ‘Mwirirwe’ meaning Good afternoon/evening,
- ‘Muramuke’ meaning Good night ,
- ‘Oya meaning No and ‘Yego’ meaning Yes
1 January (New Year’s Day), 1 February (National Heroes Day), 7 April (Genocide Memorial Day), 1 May (Labor Day), 1 July (Independence Day), 4 July (National Liberation Day), 15 August (Assumption Day), 1 October (Patriotism Day), 25 December (Christmas Day), 26 December (Boxing Day)
NB: Good Friday and Easter Monday are also recognized in Rwanda though they fall on variable dates.