I’m doing a video interview today with the Friends of Rwanda, and this prompted me to dig into my Rwanda files to see what I had yet to publish.
After my week traipsing about the countryside, I returned to Kigali for four days. The first couple were spent holed up in my hotel, thanks to my imminent book deadline. Though I did make the occasional outing, like to the swank Hotel Milles des Collines (the famed former Hotel Rwanda)…
…and the Genocide Memorial(s), which was one of the more sobering experiences of my life.
On my final day, when I was home free as far as book deadlines are concerned, I hired a driver to take me all over Kigali.
Unfortunately, I saw the city from just this means: outside a dusty car window. (In other words, forgive the drive-by-shooting nature of these shots.)
My impressions of the city: It’s clean, tidy. Like, spotless. There’s a reason it was given the moniker “the Switzerland of Europe.”
Similarly, it’s green. I’ve probably said this before, but Rwanda is at the forefront of environmental causes; organic farming has been the norm there for much longer than it has here in California, and the government has gone as far as to ban plastic bags (if seen carrying one, you’re granted a hefty fine). I challenge you to spot a piece of trash anywhere in these photos.
It’s tolerant. Tutsis and Hutus lived side-by-side. I can’t say that, even after 16 years, I could be neighbors—and friendly at that—with someone who murdered my family in cold blood, but Rwandans do just that each and every day. It’s admirable. Holding on to hate never benefited anyone.
Like other African nations, Rwandans live, breathe, sleep and eat football.
The city center was well-developed and well-manicured, too, a departure from the photos you see in the media about other East African capitals.
After we spent an hour driving around the Muslim Quarter, my intrepid driver pulled right up to one of the opulent mosques. There were gates preventing non-Muslims from coming in, but that didn’t stop him.
He spoke to the attendant in his native tongue—apparently being a journalist grants you brownie points, at least in Rwanda—and the gate flew open to reveal a lush oasis in the middle of the dusty roads surrounding it.
Hundreds of Muslim children congregate here each day to attend school.
Of course, we had to speak to approximately seven people before getting access to actually step foot inside the mosque (and also to take pictures…I didn’t want to invade their territory and then be disrespectful), but in the end, the director of the entire compound invited us in for tea and allowed me to roam freely as I pleased.
And then, just like that, it was off to South Africa to meet my mom, my first daytime flight across the jaw-dropping landscapes of the continent below.
**For more Photo Friday fun, visit Delicious Baby.