Vacations to Butare, Rwanda

For most, travel to Rwanda conjures up images of getting close to gorillas on misty mountainsides. But natural beauty is just one facet of this stunning country. Its complex history and burgeoning contemporary academic and cultural scenes are unmissable for those who really want to understand what Rwanda is all about, and nowhere is this more appreciable than in Butare.

Still growing into its newer name of Huye, Butare (as it is still known by its residents) is one of the country’s most important cities and undisputed cultural and academic capital. Home to Rwanda’s oldest university and arguably the best national museum in Africa, Butare also offers a myriad of opportunities for immersion in local culture: from dance groups to Rwandan cuisine. A small and easily explorable town, its green streets are brimming with craft shops and restaurants selling local fare.

The Ethnographic Museum tells the complex and captivating story of the country’s history, artfully illustrating the details of pre-colonial life and culture that are often sadly overlooked. Reconstructions of traditional dwellings, knowledgeable local guides and captivating traditional art provide a unique hands-on learning experience.

Another important site, but perhaps more difficult, can be found at the Kigali Genocide Memorial – and looks at Rwandan history during this dark time. Around 250,000 individuals are buried here in mass graves, and the guided tour gives a deeply moving insight into the tragic occurrences of the 1994 genocide by the Interahamwe army, which saw a million individuals slaughtered over just 100 days. The memorial and exhibition are beautifully created and profoundly affecting.

But while a difficult past does not go forgotten, Butare is also alive with joyous celebration of Rwandan culture, perhaps most palpable at an intore dance show. Traditional song, costume, percussion and dance come together in a captivating performance held at the Ethnographic Museum.

Highlights

  • Explore one of the continent's best national museums

  • Feel the energy of a traditional intore dance ritual

  • Discover the difficult history of Rwanda's genocide

Jamie
Senior Travel Designer
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I grew up near the picturesque fishing village of Rye, in East Sussex. However, my heart has always been in Africa since I was a young girl. Having a South African father meant my love for the history and colour of this fantastic continent has been a prominent part of my life, and so getting to travel to seven different countries over the last few years has been a dream come true. One of my highlights was flying in the famous yellow bi-plane across Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya.

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