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Darius in An Interview With Hear it From Locals about Kigali and Rwanda

Darius Dossantos is a full time traveller who has managed to visit over 46 countries on 4 continents and is still counting. In 1996 when he was a toddler he left home and toured Western Uganda in Rwenzori and since then life has never been the same for him. He got stuck in this thing called travel. He has guided a number of media houses including the famous BBC, New York times Journalists, famous photographers like Mark Metternich and many others. All the little money he gets is spent on his personal project called Travel With Darius TV.

KIGALI
Rwanda is a landlocked East African country also known as the land of 1000 hills. It’s highest point is Mount Karisimbi at 4507 metres and lowest is 950 metres. It is a part of Africa’s Great Lakes Region which is one of the richest regions of the continent in natural resources. The other countries which are it’s part are Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.

Kigali is the capital and largest city of Rwanda. It is considered as one of the most modern and cleanest cities in the African continent. So much so that it has recently been nominated for the first edition of the Wellbeing City Award, an award that recognizes cities placing wellbeing at the center of urban design and planning. Kigali has appeared in the Public Health category in it where it will be competing with cities like Gothenburg, Los Angeles and Vancouver.

What is the best time to visit Kigali?
Kigali is an interesting city. First of all it is build on a high altitude. When its hot everywhere, you will find it cold. When its raining and flooding in other cities, you will find Kigali dry and clean. So all year around it’s a good city. But most importantly is visiting it during genocide commemoration time which starts around April and ends around July. The first two weeks are teasers. You feel the touch of what human kind can do to the rest yet you were not there. Everything is quiet in the city. Kigali doesn’t have peak time unless unusual conferences come over.

Which is the most convenient and favored transport of Kigali?
I will start with types of transport available. Kigali has city buses which are really on time and clean. City buses use swipe cards too, so everything is a bit modernized and cashless. Swipe cards are prepaid so that you can keep checking the balance.

Besides that you will get a number of taxi cabs parked in gazetted places. But the most common means of transport is taxi motto.

Taxi motto is basically motorcycles that you can call anytime, in any place around time. This is the most favored means of transport. Some companies have invested in extra cash to make it modernized with modern apps. You can pay a motto guy using mobile money for example. Kigali is on Google maps and streets are numbered so finding you is very easy. Sophisticated and transport companies like Uber have not hit Kigali market yet.

What are the top three must visit places in Kigali
The best day trips would be Kigali city tours. You can tour on a moto or even walkable distances depending on where you are coming from. Kigali city is not that big and besides the cleanliness will give you a chance to walk with no dust. Kigali also has Nyamirambo that is best loved by urban lifestylers with mostly Swahili speakers.

Get an afternoon visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial site at Gisozi and see trauma and danger that befell humankind in 1994. It’s a hard story for me to tell. It evokes bad memories for me. Entrance is free but you can donate to help this work of preserving history go on. The Rwandan genocide has a lasting and thoughtful impact not only to Rwanda but also on its neighboring countries.

Lastly don’t miss your evening sundowner at Ubumwe grand hotel rooftop where you will have an iconic view of Kigali at night.

Night View of Kigali from Ubumwe Grand Hotel Rooftop. Image Source : Tripadvisor

Night View of Kigali from Ubumwe Grand Hotel Rooftop. Image Source : Tripadvisor

What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Kigali?
Of course everyone knows Rwanda is home to the famous Gorilla. So my number one is Volcanoes National Park (Parc National Des Volcans). Apart from being the only place with volcanoes, this Northern part of Rwanda is so contagious. You don’t feel like leaving every time you go there. Karisimbi volcano is the highest peak and will greet you with a smile. Musanze town houses this park. Gorillas, people and hiking mountains will always come number one in this area. After seeing gorillas you will be given a dessert of Dian Fossey itinerary that will show you an amazing woman who sacrificed her life to save these amazing creatures that share 99+% of  DNA with human beings.

There are various accommodation options available in and around the park. However, Bisate Eco Lodge, a luxurious and eco-sensitive safari camp, is considered as one of the world’s best new hotels. It focuses on Africa’s most immersive wild primate experience and has been recently shortlisted in the Global Ahead awards in ‘Lodges & Tented Camps’ category.

Bisate Eco Lodge, Rwanda.

Bisate Eco Lodge, Rwanda.

Second place to me is Kibuye, a city in Karongi District, around 110 km from Kigali. It lies in the western stretch of Rwanda along L.Kivu that touches Rwanda to the west and kissing Democratic Republic of Congo to the West. It is just 1 hour’s drive away from Volcanoes national park and Gisenyi. To me this place has been underrated by all bloggers and travellers. It’s the Caribbean type of environment you will experience in Rwanda. It’s enchanting, its extremely gorgeous and one Rwanda’s hidden nature paradise. It is hard to believe that it is the same place which experienced the most killings of Tutsis by Hutus in the 1994 genocide. To learn more about things to do in Kibuye, click here.

Lake Kivu in Rwanda

Lake Kivu in Rwanda

Lastly I will not go without visiting Akagera National park. OMG. African parks in partnership with Rwanda Development board partnership have done a great deal of this Eastern Rwanda gem and tourism archipelago. Named after the Akagera river, this park is at the country’s border with Tanzania. Have a great time here by going on a wildlife game drive, fishing in lake Shakani, boat safari on lake Ihema or birding in the park. Here you can forget about being on the news for the introduction of the big five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo), but also a number of other animals, plains and luxurious resorts inside the park will never make you delete memories of this park.

Which is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Kigali?
A local brewery company called SKOL has started igniting Kigali city and its revelers. Currently they have started treating and giving back their loyal brew consumers an end of year party to beer drowns. Why not? So far my best!!

What is the most loved local food, savory and sweet of Kigali
French fries, chips or call it “ifiriti” as called in the local language. A meal without Ifiriti in Rwanda is not complete. As you move in the local suburbs you will find many small posters reading AMATA NA FANTA BIKONJE. This literally means,  COLD MILK AND FANTA. Lol. A homemade meal without milk is equally meaningless in Kigali. Vegetables are available but not common since most of them are imported from the neighboring countries.

Are there any popular markets in Kigali which tourists must visit? 
A visit to Kimironko market and Caplaki Craft Village, both local markets with art and cultural items from the Rwandan market would be ideal.

Kimironko market is one of the largest markets of Rwanda located in the outskirts of Kigali. All kinds of goods are sold here, from food to clothes to hardware. An added advantage is that it remains open every day of the week. To shop all you need is some patience and good negotiating skills. To know more about Kimironko market, click here.

Located in the Kiyovu neighborhood, Caplaki is an ideal destination for souvenir shopping. It is full of handmade fabrics, beads, baskets, carvings, ceramics and texture. It’s a great place for finding crafts from nearby countries too, all under one roof, however, almost the same items except maybe a few, can be found in Kimironko and at a much cheaper rate. Nevertheless, it’s worth a visit.

Farmers markets are organized periodically for resident foreigners especially who want to buy organic foods.

Which is the local craft or souvenir of Kigali?
Because Rwanda is a land of strong culture, you will find souvenirs which are 100% Rwandan authentic. Examples are Imigongo made from cow dung and gorilla sculptures.

Imigongo art is a type of art that is made by making patterns using cow dung, mainly in the colours red, black and white. It is a popular art in the whole of Rwanda but it first started in the Igisaka region. In this art, cow dung is given geometric shapes on a wooden board and let to dry before it is painted in different colours.

Which are the best streets of Kigali worthy of taking a stroll on?
Kimihurura. This once used to be a diplomat residential place is now full of high end classic clubs and restaurants. From local to international cuisines and dining places. This area is in the centre of the city making it easier to travel to other parts. Overall a great place for accommodation, restaurants, cafes and night life.

Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of the city?
Rebero Hill. Its known to be the highest point of Kigali and will give you a chance for a panoramic view of Kigali city. Over 70% of the city can be seen from this hill. Besides it has something else to see. Genocides heroes’ mausoleum.

Would you suggest any shows in Kigali to drama, music or art lovers? Where can one spot street art in Kigali?
Well am not an art person neither do I love music performances. However, if  you love it then Isaano Arts is an annual music festival that celebrates African music. The festival is one of the largest and most popular musical festivals in the country in which many top local and guest musicians take part.

Besides travel I love comedy and my Friend ARTHUR NKUSI in the same names on social media makes me laugh my ass out. He does his commedy at Camp De Kigali. Seka Live is a show of all times.

For street art check out the work by Rwandese organization, Kurema, Kureba, Kwiga – which translates in English to “To Create, To See, To Learn”. They create works of art that transform spaces and places through color and creativity.

How hard is it to travel in Kigali without knowing the local language?
You need a guide. Almost hard. Unlike other countries in East Africa, people in Rwanda don’t direct anyone like that. English is a problem. Maybe use cops on the roadside. They are friendly than ordinary citizens. Cops will direct you with ease or else get a guide.

Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Kigali?
Yes!! Hello food, Jumia food for food delivery at your doorstep.

Yego moto and Safe moto for motorcycles and taxis. But I would advise you to get out of the gate and whistle at the moto. The only thing these apps would help you is if you are not good at bargaining, here the price is set. Remember if you don’t get a set price you will get muzungu price. Don’t ask me what that one is. Smiles……

Good bye till next time.

source: Hear it From Locals

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How Marketing Tourism in Africa Remains a Frustration to Local Journalists

Besides the cost of doing business skyrocketing am this kind of guy who always wanted to give a push to my country and African dream in particular. Way back in 2012 I became a guide of a popular TV reality show on BBC TRAVEL CHANNEL that finally became an eye opener for me about a world westerners had enjoyed for long and to us were busy enjoying writing political stories without showing the best side of Africa. I hate to see only negative on TV and pictures

Am a passionate blogger and video blogger (VLOGGER). Having applied for Journalism at Makerere University and my passion was frustrated by PUJAB (Public university Joint admission Board) a body mandated to admit students into public universities in Uganda. The passion of writing and presenting positive vibes remained in me even after going for a marketing degree which was even better to use my skills and sell the better side of Africa.

Not so long ago it birthed into one of my most creativity child of all times. Travel with Darius TV show. A reality show that’s meant to market destinations especially in Africa my homeland. But listen if you are planning to grab that simple camera like a phone or even big ones I tell you Africa is not the right place to start that. Am serious on this.

From partners, authorities to your neighbors and friends you look like it’s a crime to capture images of videos of even my home country. Actually people resist than animals. While you have a task of zooming in that antelope, you also have a task of fighting security agencies grabbing your cameras or your belt. Today I will narrate to you few instances I have met only in the two countries I call home. Maybe next time I will add DRC story, CONGO BRAZZAVILLE story where I bought a tourist visa and they told me its meant for Land not air arrival. Hhahahahahah funny indeed !! when I gave the guy 10 dollars it changed it into Land arrival visa. But save this for my next blog.

I have traveled over 46 countries and out of these 33 are in Africa. Its where I have meat a lot of challenges than anywhere else.  On my recent trip I was tormented by my own country mate at Katuna boarder that happens to be the main entry and exit of Rwanda and Uganda. For some of you who have never been to this point, this is the only busiest point I guess we should be marketing with passion because it connects to Gorilla highlands of western Uganda, where Tourists who connect form Rwanda pass to go and truck the famous Gorillas. Its Uganda’s international airport for cars in a layman language.

While I grabbed trailers that were parked and the billboard that said welcome to Uganda, a plainly clothed man I have always seen seated there grabbed my camera. I didn’t release it and he pulled me to his cabin. Introduced myself and it’s a very long story.

Despite my efforts to explain to the guy am not mentioning here for the case of my security, he insisted I delete all the footage and I had captured from Kisoro where my trip began, to Rwanda and then to Uganda. If you were me, I bet you would lay your head to be chopped than delete. Finally, we settled on removing my card and he retained it for good. He actually told me to go get a letter from LC1, LC3, RDC and attach my national ID and work ID before I come back for my Card. Holy cow !!!!!!

Another case had happened to me in Rwanda. For some of you who are conversant with Kigali, I was found filming the oldest post genocide catholic church in Rwanda near Kigali CDB lower Kiyovu near Airtel round about. This man who spoke fluently in Kinyarwanda approached me and asked me what I was doing. I pretended I didn’t know Kinyarwanda and he called a friend who spoke to me in Luganda after establishing am a Ugandan. I explained myself to the intestines and lungs and showed them all my IDs and relevant documentation. A minute later they were 3 surrounding me. They held a private talk in Kinyarwanda which I heard well and then came back to me with a  unanimous conclusion that I delete all the footage I had taken. I repeat I did not and I don’t want to tell you where the story ended but will tell you abit huh. A man turned up in a V8 land cruiser and found us arguing, he asked what it was and my purpose. I explained to him and he said, ohhh ohhhh I have watched your show on TV. Some sight of relief. I nodded in agreement with tears rolling on my cheeks. He instructed them to leave me film and go. The boy is doing a good cause. I was later told by the Luganda speaking operative that he is a minister.  I don’t love politics and politicians but We need more of him. What a Christmas gift this minister gave me.

On the last incident was again in Gatuna. Katuna is the Ugandan side and Gatuna is the Rwandan side. So I will use Gatuna to mean Rwandan side. I have used this boarder point for ages since I was a toddler. To me this should be actually a place I call home. So on another fateful day I was capturing a selfie. As a blogger I always want to update people on where I am and road network, weather etc. A different man dressed in civilian attire approached me and taped on my shoulder. Please first watch video from my phone below.

He called me to come to police offices. When I reached there he asked to explain why am capturing a selfie. I explained to him and he didn’t buy the idea. It took me almost an hour for him to browse my phone and make up his mind and return my equipment. So basically he saw everything in my phones including my kid’s nakedness just to mention a few. In Rwanda if you are a foreigner, you are treated more nicely, save the fact that even communication wont be easy for you between that civilian man arresting you and whoever comes into your situation.

But well the question that lingers on my mind is whether it’s a crime to hold a camera when you are black to black. If you know you know. Whites capture these guys even holding guns in our home continent but for us we can’t even film the exit to a national park.

Think of the lame reasoning this man gave me that I should stop filming videos of Uganda because terrorists will follow me and know where to pass and do whatever they want. Does this soldier on the Ugandan said know what tourism efforts in marketing like mine have made his life much better really? After frustrating my day, he was driving a car in front of me from Katuna to Kabale on a good road made from Tourism revenue.

After frustrating my day, he was driving a car in front of me from Katuna to Kabale on a good road made from Tourism revenue.

Are African governments really aware of such hooligans who spoil and frustrate our individual efforts like mine to market this continent or that’s what they are trained to do? If I have all papers that show am a responsible citizen why frustrate my efforts to do my part of keeping the African dream really?

I have more experiences but let me stop here for today and go back to my positive vibes. I have forgiven all that have my memory cards, cameras and content. Keep it and we shall meet when I have bought new ones, you take them again and we market Africa together. Its our home

Please share your experiences while holding that camera…..

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EVERYDAY IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN

By Edmund Kagire

When I got an invitation to attend the Global Conference on Primary Health Care in Astana, Kazakhstan the week running October 21 to 27, 2018, I was a bit hesitant to accept it but then I said what the hell, let me just take it on. After all I am the adventurous type.

I set off on October 21 to what turned out to be a whirlwind week of new experiences, exposure and new human connections. The journey was smooth, taking Rwandair from Kigali to Dubai & then Air Astana from Dubai to Astana. I had never heard of the airline. It is a very pleasant airline with good service -one of the best in EuraAsia, if not the best. It boast of over 30 aircraft in its fleet and operates in at least 64 destinations.

Interesting. In Kinyarwanda they say “Akanyoni katagurutse ntikamenya iyo bweze”, literally meaning that a bird that never flies will never know where the millet harvest is. I had been told that racism is rife in Russia and all Slavic countries formerly linked to the Soviet Union. I expected to be ‘unwelcome’ but it was not the case in Kazakhstan. Kazakhs are very hospitable people and will do anything to help you even though you might struggle to communicate if you don’t speak Kazakh or Russian. Right from the airport to the conference centre and malls, they would go out of their way to make sure that all is well. Occasionally, they will talk amongst themselves and laugh but it all seemed in good faith (I didn’t read much into it) and in line with helping you to get what you wanted. Kazakhstan is a very organised country. The discipline and time keeping is impressive.

The Palace of Independence where the meeting was held is a beautiful piece of architecture and hosts thousands of people. The organisation was top notch. The Astana Opera House experience was out of this world. The opera house, which was right opposite my hotel, was breathtaking. It is said to be the 3rd biggest opera house in the world in terms of capacity. I haven’t seen anything well built as that architectural marvel. The performances were overwhelming. Astana is a young city. It turned 20 recently in June but it looks more established than most cities that are over a century old. The architecture in Astana is unbelievable, almost science fiction stuff. I am working on a travel piece for The East African, you will read more details there.

All in all, I just wanted to say that everyday presents us an opportunity to learn and be more informed on what the world has to offer. My perception of Kazakhstan has forever changed for the better. The more we learn, the better we become as human beings. We just have to be open minded

Views expressed in this blog are 100% an experience of the traveller or writter not of Travel With Darius TV Blog

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DARIUS SEMEI KAKUNGULU EXPERIENCE Part 3

SEMEI KAKUNGULU COMMUNITY SCHOOLS

Some Baganda chauvinists believe and think Kakungulu was a great philanthropist who took religion and education in that area. They sometimes go as far as saying he took civilization in the area. In a distance of 2-3 miles away is a primary and secondary school that was put in memory of Kakungulu. Steve says these are community initiatives to keep the name of the great statesman far high. I passed by the school to see if I can meet anyone who had an idea of what their school name was and whether they could have had an idea to see the man whose banner shines on each corner of their school, they replied me with a big no. From the head teacher to the gateman, they had all studied him in history just like me. At the school you can enjoy drama and plays about Kakungulu if you came at the right time.

SUNRISES AND STUNNING VIEWS AT SEMEI KAKUNGULU COUNTRY LODGE
Besides being a country home and natures’ hidden paradise, it’s a unique experience of its own. Camping in the middle of the bush with birds singing for you has never been enchanting more than that. To be honest it was my first time to pitch my own tent and I lost a finger nail while pinning screws to hold it. But its worth an experience you should never miss on top of Gangama hill. I cannot forget when heavy rain came at night and my cameraman kept joking Semei Kakungulu has come to visit us. Am not a fun of such jokes but well it scared the hell out of me and have since loved camping even the more. For a photogenic like my friend Mark Metternich, I guess it’s a perfect place for natural photography environments. Sunrises are things to hold onto. When you are seated right in the gardens early morning with all sounds of nature making melodies, you will still see across MT Elgon highest point saying hello handsome.

On the other hand close to Kakungulu’s old home you can view the whole of Mbale town and the whole of Wanale ridge peeping like a beautiful Bamasaba cow.

MWANGA AND KABALEGA INCECERATION PLACE
In March 1899 Kakungulu joined Major Avatt in the operations that captured Kabalega and Mwanga in Lango. Kakungulu himself was responsible for capturing them as they tried escape from the village of Oyam in current Dokolo County. Kabalega had been so wounded that his arm had to be amputated. Kabalega’s three sons were with him. That was Jasi who died of bullet wounds, Andereya Duhaga who later became the Omukama of Bunyoro. Before Kakungulu and Mwanga were handed over to Major Avatt they were incarcerated on this this stone and later went into Exile. Mwanga died in Exile and Kabalega died in Uganda after Omukama requested for his release.

Am not doubting that you can have a full package filled with learning and adventure at Gangama hill in Mbale. I highly recommend you take a trip and you will come back with your own story.

Please note that all views expressed in this blog are my own and from my experience. They not the views of my sponsors or my partners.
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DARIUS’ SEMEI KAKUNGULU HERITAGE EXPERIENCE. Part 2

In my previous episode https://bit.ly/2RerFfu I narrated how I had stepped my foot on Gangama hill. It’s on this hill that Mwanga and Kabalega were incarcerated, it’s on this hill that Semei Lwakirenzi Kakungulu finally settled, it’s on this hill that he died and was buried. In this episode I take you straight to what to see on this hill in the Semei Kakungulu Heritage Experience with Kakunguru Safaris a local company that has taken time to develop the itinerary.

TOUR SEMEI KAKUNGULU GRAVE.

Semei Kakungulu grave at Gangama Hill in Mbale.

Kakungulu died on 24th November 1928of Tetanus. Kakungulu is buried in a short distance from the main Abayudaya synagogue behind the unpretentious home which he lived during his last years of his life. He was buried inside a house. I asked Steve my guide why he was buried inside a house. “He built this house before he died and instructed his relatives to be buried there” Says Steve the soft spoken man with a lot of simplicity. We were allowed in by the care taker of Kakungulu’s grave and old house Mr. Hamis Nambale who looks like he is in his old 60s. As you enter, the immediate site is a front stone on the grave with words……..

“SEMEI LWAKIRENZI KAKUNGULU A victorious General, Saza Chief in Buganda, Administrator of Eastern province 1899 – 1905, President of Busoga 1906 -1913. Died 24th 11 1928”

His grave is surrounded by his tools of work that include spears that he used to take on his battle fronts. Each spear or tool there has its own meaning according to Steve.

SEMEI KAKUNGULU ANCIENT HOUSE

Darius – Show Host and Steve – Kakungulu Safaris standing infront of Semei Kakungulu House

VISIT ABAYUDAYA COMMUNITY

Under pressure from the British who wished to limit his holdings, in 1917 moved his residence a short distance further from Mbale town into a short distance in the foothills of MT elgon to a place called Gangama. It was there that he started a separatist sect initially called Ekibiina Kya Abayudaya abesiga Katonda (the community of Jews who trust in omnipotent God) which is made up of mostly Kakungulu’s Baganda following as told to us by Steve. When I visited the site, I could easily tell the difference with rest of the community.

In 1922, at Gangama, Kakungulu published a 90-page book of rules and prayers as a guide book for his Jewish community. “The book set fourth Jewish laws and practices as Kakungulu found them in the old testament as well” Says Rabbi Garshom Wambede who is the current Mbale Jewish community leader or teacher. I found out that despite this interest in Jewish practices, there does not appear to have any contact between Kakungulu and the Jewish practices before 1925.

According to Steve, many European engineers and mechanics who were employed by the British had a chance of meeting the Christian-Jewish community in Mbale in what appears to be chance encounters and then out of this Kakungulu was told about Orthodox Judaism. As a result his other Cristian values and customs were dropped and he adopted Judaism including practices of baptism.

From these encounters the community learned of citing Hebrew prayers, observing Sabbath on Saturday, slaughter meet in Kosher manner and also speak some Hebrew.

After Kakungulu death local sources say, the Abayudaya community was divided into those wishing to retain a toehold within Christianity and those wanting to break it completely. The Bayudaya remained a mixture of both Christianity and Judaism, with faith in Christ remaining in Kakungulu’s faith and beliefs.

Some of the young Abayudaya community members performing local dance for Darius

SEMEI KAKUNGULU UNFINISHED PALACE

Just few meters Steve leads me through a maize plantation walking through a small footpath with visible stones across on the same hill. “This man was ambitious, both in wars and establishing his dynasty” Says Steve as he looks at me firmly on the face. I nodded in agreement. I tasked Steve if he knew some of Semei daughters or sisters surviving and he told me there is one sister who stays near former president of Uganda Amin’s ware house in Lunguja, Rubaga Division, Kampala but they seem to have lost touch. If one of his children were still alive probably he would have finished this palace and ascend on the throne of Bamasaba, Steve re-affirmed me.

SEMEI KAKUNGULU COMMUNITY SCHOOLS

A kid traverses through Semei Kakungulu road that goes to the community school.

Some Baganda chauvinists believe and think Kakungulu was a great philanthropist who took religion and education in that area. They sometimes go as far as saying he took civilization in the area…………………. To be continued in the next episode

 

Please note that all views expressed in this blog are my own and from my experience. They not the views of my sponsors or my partners.

Feel free to share this and follow us on social media for more insights of Darius travel experience.