Rwanda endowed not only with wildlife but also historical and heritage sites. Rwanda’s history dates back to the kingdoms, colonial and post colonial time that for long has never been discovered. If you are planning to travel to Rwanda for mountain gorilla tracking, never miss to include cultural experiences in your travel plan. From 2007, Rwandan government decided to focus on the value of museums and heritage sites and established the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda (INMR) as a way of bringing back the historical significance.
Prior 2007, only one museum existed in Rwanda and it was known as the national museum of Rwanda, situated in the previous Butare province that currently features as Huye district in the southern province of Rwanda. Today, the number of museums in Rwanda has increased right from one that featured in 2007 to 6 museums in 2013. They include King’s Palace Museum-Rukari in Nyanza, Ethnographic museum in Huye, Presidential Palace-Kanombe in Kigali, Environmental Museum in Karongi and Natural history museum in Kandt.
- The President Habyarimana’s House
This is one of the most incredible museums that you should pay a visit while on safari to Rwanda. The Palace features as the former area for President Habyarimana and this is also locally called Habyarimana’s house. Habyarimana was the president of Rwanda whose plane was shot down in April 1994 something that led the Rwanda genocide. The palace is currently one of the most remarkable museums that attract most travelers on safari in Rwanda. The palace is situated in Kanombe, eastern outskirts of Kigali. To have access to the museum costs Rwf 6000 for non residents and the resident visas cost Rwf 5000 and make sure you come along with your residency car. For travelers who may want to take photographs of the area, you will need addition of Rwf 2000 and you will be allowed to take photographs of the outside of the house and the gardens. Taking pictures of the inside area of the house isn’t accepted.
Habyarimana commissioned the house to be constructed in 1976 ands he moved into the area around 1980. The house was designed by the French architect. The palace’s eccentric and internal layout of rooms which comprise of everything from a secret passage to a room for practicing witchcraft and another room which was used as a torture room and for interrogation. The house alone is just strange on its own way with some rooms looking a bit in better conditions and others having extreme neglect and disrepair.
This unique home offers an insight about Habyarimana’s own sense of fear and paranoia as Rwanda’s head of state at the time of terrific moment that Rwanda was in. There are sensors widely spread throughout the house which were to inform the president in case of any attack. There is also a hidden weapons cabinet established into the television cabinet in his entertainment room. The most curious side of the house is the top floor which comprise of a chapel on one part and a room where he practiced witchcraft on the other side where he ingested magic potions and sacrificed animals of all kinds together with his in house witch doctor.
The grounds outside the house are more normal and well maintained and comprise of numerous trees of all kinds shading very pleasant patches of grass crisscrossed by stone walkways. There is also a tennis court, an outdoor bar and some playground gadgets. Around the center of the back garden there are remains of a concrete pond which once offered refuge to the president’s beloved pet, a 300 pound python whose work was mainly to fend off evil spirits and instilling fear in any of the president’s visitors who may not have been in his favor. Around each rear of the palace compound there is the most impactful feature of the museum, the remains of Habyarimana’s Falcon 60 passenger jet which was popularly shot down on 6th April, 1994 and hence the Rwandan genocide. This plane coincidentally crushed in the president’s own backyard, claiming all lives of all those who were on board plus the president of Burundi at a time. It as well damaged the python’s pond. The animal escaped and no one came across it.
- The natural history museum of Rwanda
This is Rwanda’s ancient and the only museum set for natural sciences. It is not as interesting as an average natural history museum but travelers can still explore more on the nation’s flora and fauna, geology and biological history. Previously called the Kandt Residence, this site was at first the refuge to German physician and explorer Dr Richard Kandt. He established Kigali in 1908 as a center of administration for German East Africa. The Institute of National Museums of Rwanda changed the historic residence into a museum in 2008 so as to increase Rwandan’s exposure to the natural sciences and to educate travelers from in and around the globe on diverse biological and geological endowment in Rwanda. This museum is open on Monday to Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm local time and visitors need not to be worried about any crowds.
The entrance differs, the non residents pay 6000 francs for entry and the ones with resident visas pay 5000 francs. You will have one to two hours’ walk via the museum but this is based on the times you will make a stop and read information. The north wing of the museum consists of Rwanda’s biology displays and you will find the impressive specimens of indigenous species ranging from magnificently colored birdlife to unique and exotic reptile species. There are also other numerous mammalian species, from small rodents to the skulls of mountain gorillas. The rear side of the museum is set for volcanism and you have a chance to explore more on Great Rift Valley and all its tectonic and volcanic might. You will also have a chance to explore how the volcanoes in Northwestern Rwanda were formed. In the south wing, you will find Rwanda’s natural resources and the history of how the resources were exploited from numerous hills.
- National arts gallery
This is one of the most magnificent art museums that Rwanda offers to the world travelers. It offers refuge to what was meant to be King Mutara the third Rudahingwa’s new palace. Currently, it refuges largely the contemporary paintings and stylistic sculptures on themes covering the genocide, unity and brotherhood. The museum is located on hill about 2 kilometers southwest of Rwanda. Interested visitors are however advised to have their tickets as admission to the museum offers about 30 percent discount at King’s Palace Museum, Rukari.
- Ethnographic museum
Ethnographic museum was offered to Kigali city as a gift from Belgium in 1989 to celebrate the 25 years of independence. Whereas the structure itself features as one of the most stunning buildings in Kigali, the museum comes with the perfect ethnological and archaeological collections in the whole area. The 7 display halls comprise of some amazing items. The first hall features the museum shop; second one has geological exhibits consisting of huge relief map which reflects Rwanda topography. The middle halls display items used in agriculture, animal husbandry, weaving, pottery, woodwork, hunting and many more. The Kagondo hut however makes the center piece of display on housing and living compounds in pre colonial times. The last halls consist of traditional clothing especially wicker raincoat, pounded bark garments and goat skin capes as well as information on prehistory of Rwanda. It is also from this museum that the Intore dancers and drummers perform before visitors.
In conclusion, safaris to Rwanda reward travelers with more than wildlife. If you are interested exploring more about the country’s history then there is no need to be worried as there are numerous museums for you to visit while on your safari to Rwanda.