In Botswana, There’s No Hurry
Gaborone, Botswana — where going with the flow is a necessity of everyday life. | Photo: Justice Hubane, Unsplash

In Botswana, There’s No Hurry

Someone flags down the kombi and the driver pulls over onto the shoulder. While people board, he wipes his forehead with a waslap and drinks deep from his water bottle. Once everyone is settled, he tugs the cord of the contraption he has hooked up to the vehicle’s roof, sliding the door shut. He hoots the horn a few times to attract more customers, but there are no takers — so he swings the taxi back onto the road. He cranks up the music, and we’re off again.

My morning journey to Broadhurst in Gaborone, Botswana is well underway. At a busy intersection, an agile street vendor spins towards the kombi’s open window, selling P5 guava-flavoured popsicles; but the robot lights turn green before he concludes a sale. Still, our driver does not take off immediately: Gaborone drivers know to check left, right and left again in case of someone running a red light.

The driver goes slower than the 60km/hour speed limit, honking whenever he spots a pedestrian. Some shake their heads and gesture no. Others pay him no mind. We turn into the busier section of Gaborone and the first of the capital’s ubiquitous shopping malls appears. Its walls boast names of South African chain stores. Billboards bearing faded messages of “Buy Botswana” and “Abstain. Be Faithful. Condomise.” vie for visibility with newer ones advertising state-of-the-art cellphones, fire churches preaching the prosperity gospel, pawn shops. With elections nearing, the faces of beaming politicians will be going up soon. A few cows cross the road to get to a patch of grass, halting traffic. A passenger complains, “Who owns these animals? But this is so irresponsible!”

At last, our kombi picks up speed as it merges onto the A1. We swerve in and out of lanes, as we race into Broadhurst. The driver hangs his arm out of the window, gesturing to other drivers to give way as he forces his way through the traffic. 

“Next stop!” I yell from the rear. 

After disembarking in front of Kagiso Centre, I glance at my watch. I hurry past people walking like there’s no hurry in Botswana. I must finish all my errands before lunchtime, I tell myself.  

BODY-IMAGE-Botswana Gaborone-Kombi-Stop-1024x682 (credit MO Mosielele)
Waiting at the kombi stop (public transport in Gaborone is a mix of these mini-buses and taxis). | Photo: M.O. Mosielele

With temperatures hovering around 40°C from noon to sunset, I am thankful for respite from February’s wrath. The driver expressed it better when he said, “The sun is fighting these days.” I fold away my umbrella as I enter the government building.

At the entrance to the Civil and National Registration Office, a security guard stands sentry. She asks everyone who enters to state the nature of their business. I say I’m renewing my ID. People are sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on wooden benches in the hall; others form a queue that snakes into the corridor. I thought I had timed my visit right — choosing a Wednesday, mid-month, when the line should not have been this long — but it is. 

“Dumelang,” I greet the woman at the end of the line and ask: “Ke wena wa bofelo?” “Dumelang,” she greets back and confirms that she is indeed last in line. 

Meanwhile, the floor is being cleaned. One person wields a mop, another pushes a bucket, one more waves a torn sheet of cardboard over the wet floor whilst yet another directs people to walk on the dry side, reprimanding those who dare cross the barrier.

On the TV in the waiting room, a presenter speaks animatedly in the language of now: “Fourth Industrial Revolution, mindset change, economic diversification”. The lights flicker. Go off. A collective groan fills the room, but the power returns after only a few minutes. The relief in the air is palpable. 

A man about my grandfather’s age pauses at the door as he surveys the roomful of people. He shuffles into the room with a whiff of dry-cleaning fluid following him. He is dressed as if for a special occasion: hound’s tooth jacket, grey gabardine trousers, white shirt and a Dobbs hat tilted to one side. He clears his throat and greets the room, carefully enunciating each word, “Dumelang bo mma le bo rra”. 

“Ee, rra.” “Rremogolo.” “Dumela, rra.” The responses are variations of one message — an acknowledgement that a greeting has been proffered and received.

A mother prods her teenager to stand and offer the older man his seat.


A young person strides into the room. He does the unthinkable and neglects his greeting to the assembled, moving directly to the reception window. His voice carries; he speaks with the authority of someone who has a two o’clock appointment. I do not have to hear the receptionist’s response to know what she’s telling him: “You see all these people? They’re here for the same thing as you”, and with that she disappears into the inner chambers of the office, leaving the man tapping out his agitation with his fingertips on the counter top. He gives us a desultory glance, shakes his head, and sits, becoming one of us. 

He proceeds to tap furiously on his iPad.


Were it not for the “No Cellphones” signs and computer screens, one could be forgiven for thinking this is the 1980s. Botswana, the country of my birth, still has a ‘no problems here’ — a ga gona mathata — rhythm. I was raised on it and accepted it as the pace of things. I have surmised that it must be rooted in an era when we measured time by the tilt of the sun, not from watches ticking seconds — when the earth was still soft, as the Setswana saying goes. But this slowness has birthed a pejorative term, “African Time”, that has no place in a country that harbours aspirations of becoming a high-income country. 

Still, we begin with dumela. The greeting is expected. It affirms that we are human. It opens the way to conversations about why the queue is so long. We learn that the IT system has been down again — hence the backlog. We lament why the rains are so long coming; we question what changes in tribal land allocation really mean; we learn where to find potatoes that are in short supply. 

We laugh sometimes as the hours evaporate, and the wait does not feel as long.

It is three o’clock when my turn arrives.

Wame Miriam Molefhe


Wame Miriam Molefhe was born in Francistown, Botswana. She has two short story collections, Just Once (2009) for young adults and Go Tell the Sun, first published by Modjaji Books and subsequently republished by the author in 2018. She is a Fellow of the Civitella Ranieri Residency, Italy (2015). She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Rhodes University.

    Time to Read:  5 Minutes
    Storyteller: Wame Miriam Molefhe
    28 April 2023
    Local Stories - In This Moment

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    What I Learned From Bavaria About Being an Artist
    ”I eventually found my way to the lake and learned the tricks of the forest.” | All photos: Miriam Calleja

    What I Learned From Bavaria About Being an Artist

    ‘And then the pandemic happened’ is a phrase we’ve come to expect in personal essays lately. However, I’m here to tell you about how the year 2020 brought a surprising and unexpected experience that took me out of the small island I’d been living on for all of my life. You see, sometimes life happens slowly, then all at once.

    Earlier, around 2018, I’d been invited to attend a poetry festival in Munich and consequently won a scholarship and grant for an artist residency in Feldafing, Bavaria. When 2020 rolled around, and my residency date got closer, the world was effectively shutting down. You can imagine my surprise when I received an email saying that the invitation to Villa Waldberta was still open. It was, after all, an ideal place to isolate in. 

    The residency would allow me to create in a new space, while (temporarily) not worrying about where the money would come from. It sounds ideal when I say it like that. And in fact, it was. However, something that’s not a new feeling for artists, especially female artists, is the imposter syndrome that comes along with this. 

    Imposter syndrome whispers that there must have been some mistake. Not only are you unqualified (underqualified? completely fake?) to be here, but soon THEY will find out. The whole world, or at least those few people who know you and have been playing along with this farce, will know that you’ve been caught. You will need to go back to doing something that obliterates your will to live. There will be no joy in your life anymore, and you will definitely be embarrassed about it until you die.

    After a couple of days of elation, of wonderment and awe at my surroundings and the feeling of the possibility of time and space stretching ahead of me, I felt myself deflating. With the way things had happened, I hadn’t dared make a concrete plan for my time there, thinking I’d get ahead of my inevitable disappointment when the residency got COVID-cancelled.

    So when it didn’t, and I found myself with a gorgeous surreal villa to my left, Lake Starnberg ahead of me behind a curtain of lush late-summer forest, and snow-capped mountains to my right, I was frozen with fear. Who else was in on this ruse? When would they tell me it was one big joke?

    When there was nothing to do but get on with it, I did. The villa was eerily quiet and museum-like… and apparently filled with benevolent ghosts. The town of Feldafing moved at a slow pace. With one pharmacy, one bakery, one post office, a couple of restaurants with the same menu and so on, it felt like many decisions had already been made for me. A train could take me into the next town, or all the way to Munich. A 20-minute hilly walk would take me to the supermarket, where I equipped myself with all I could carry to make my meals for one. 

    My walks got longer than they needed to be because I wandered, I stopped to take in beauty and newness, and changing nature. I eventually found my way to the lake and learned the tricks of the forest. You had to walk through the third bush just across the highway, and walk straight through the golf course (they will get cross with you on occasion for being in the wrong place at the wrong time; do it anyway) and finally you’d get to the water. 

    And then I stopped to listen. And my surroundings spoke. Bavaria pulled me earthwards, until I not only began to feel its heartbeat but also its no-nonsense practicality. Do what you’re made to do, it seemed to say.

    I embraced the rhythms of the mountains and succumbed to their influence. I was down with a headache, with all the artists in the house, when the Foehn arrived — a dry, warm, downslope mountain wind. I hung my underwear on a tree branch to enjoy a refreshing spontaneous swim in the lake. 

    nature in Bavaria

    I basked in beauty until I was moved to tears. I noted the movements of artists who gave their whole being to doing what they were made to do. They keep inspiring me to embody my poetry to this day. Together, we created Luftmeer, a publication of my words and their photography, but more than that we created an experience of synchronicity, of being part of the planet.

    Has beauty always been this strong around you? Has the air always felt so crisp? Were there always all these connections but you just didn’t see? When you live in a house with artists, art is everywhere. Nature arranges itself in such a way that you can see it. Birds form patterns just for your eyes, and leaves fall off trees in the wind just so. A line traverses, connects, sets ideas alight.
    (Luftmeer, 2021, together with Anne Buscher and Sanne Vaassen)

    The changes in me were less of a transformation and more of a homecoming. As a poet, and a writer, what did I do? I observed, I noticed, and I lingered with my focus to make a connection. I could write a book about what poetry is and what a poet does, but really that is what I’d be saying in essence. 

    On my second day there, I found a handful of pebbles that someone had lined up so that their pattern formed a full line. It spoke to me about the significance of art and how artists lived with this sense of purpose that simultaneously plagues and blesses them. 

    Slowly I shed my self-imposed constraints. I look at my selfies from those days and I see wildness creep into my eyes. I became in tune with the Villa, with its waking (earlier than I was used to) and with its changing light. I looked forward to golden hour, when the expansive warped glass of my room created a cabaret of ideas on the walls until the sun set and I stared into the night, becoming comfortable with its stillness, its animal howls. 

    And with these patterns and routines, I began to understand and get in tune with something deep and unsayable. With something almost unwritable.

    Miriam Calleja


    Miriam Calleja is a prize-winning Maltese bilingual wordsmith and poet. She has three poetry collections: Pomegranate Heart, Inside, and Stranger Intimacy, and a collaboration titled Luftmeer. Her work appears in Sentinel Quarterly, Indigo Dreams Publishing, and The Gloucestershire Poetry Society, and is forthcoming in Modern Poetry in Translation. She hosts creative writing workshops and enjoys writing about health, food, and travel. Miriam believes that storytelling encourages unity, connection, and understanding. She has great faith in collaboration as a key to communication.

    Time to Read:  5 Minutes
    Traveller: Miriam Calleja
    28 April 2023
    Travellers' Tales - In this Moment

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    Meet the Women Artisans Preserving Tradition in Nigeria
    Keeping African pottery techniques alive through dedication to handcrafting. | All photos: Halima A. Abdullahi

    Meet the Women Artisans Preserving Tradition in Nigeria

    Ilorin is known for having the longest pottery heritage and the largest concentration of female artisans in Kwara State (and Nigeria as a whole). Despite the rise of modern technology and its resulting focus on mass production, the women of Dada Pottery have kept the art of handmade pottery alive — and thriving — with their distinctive pieces.

    Located in Okelele on about an acre of land is the Dada Pottery, a mainstay of cultural preservation and Nigeria’s oldest and largest traditional pottery workshop. Continuing a proud pottery-making practice said to be as old as Ilorin itself, Dada is busy 24/7 with over 100 women scattered across various sections, skillfully creating handmade wares in an array of colours, designs, shapes, and sizes.

    The busy creative community, which doubles as a pottery market, beckons visitors from far and wide to witness the meticulous artistry of the Dada women potters. That’s why you’ll always find tourists and locals flocking here to purchase these special items, each with its own story to tell.

    The Dada community’s diverse artisans work tirelessly to preserve traditional African culture through their unique vocation. While the community is home to several skilled traditional weavers, it is perhaps best known for its mastery of pottery, a craft that has developed particularly strong roots in the area.

    The unmistakable prominence of pottery in the community is a testament to the remarkable skill and passion of the Dada potters, who have become renowned for their exquisite creations that exemplify African heritage and ingenuity.

    When you step into the pottery market, your senses are instantly enveloped by a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and scents. An array of handcrafted pottery pieces are meticulously arranged on top of each other, forming an impressive mosaic wall of carefully formed shapes.

    The most popular items in Dada Pottery are Isaasun (cooking pots), Ikoko Agbo or Oru (concoction/herbal pots), Fitila (clay lamps), Amu (water pots), and other utilitarian clay wares. These timeless pieces not only serve as functional household items but also as cherished works of art that embody the essence of traditional African culture. 

    Crafting pottery items in the market is an intricate and time-consuming process that demands both patience and skill. Yet, the Dada women potters have developed a deep love for every step of the process, as evidenced by their unwavering passion for the craft.

    Their devotion to traditional pottery-making is immeasurable, from sourcing clay to pounding, soaking, kneading, and shaping it into the items that express their creative minds and inventive spirit. As they work their magic, the potters seem to be in a world of their own, lost in the joy and satisfaction that comes from creating something truly beautiful and useful with your own hands.

    WOMEN-POTTERS-Artisan-at-Work in Nigeria

    When it comes to tracing the origins of how pottery started in the Dada community, there is little concrete evidence to indicate where or when it all began. However, the beginning lies long before the era of Ladi Kwali, recognised as the pioneer of modern pottery in Nigeria. 

    Despite the lack of historical records, one of the oldest potters in the market, nicknamed Hajia, sheds some light on the community’s pottery heritage. “I can’t say for sure when this market started. We’ve been in the pottery business since childhood. I learned the art of pottery making from my mother, and she learned it from her mother before her. It’s a generational trade that’s as old as the city of Ilorin itself.”

    Adding to the enigmatic origin story of the pottery market in Dada, another elderly potter shared her perspective. “Legend has it that this market was started by a woman and her family,” she said. “But we don’t know much about who she was or where she came from.”

    Her words deepen the mystery surrounding the market’s origins, and demonstrate the powerful role of women in shaping the cultural identity of the Dada community. Despite the unknowns, the market remains a vibrant hive of activity, a testament to the enduring spirit of creativity and resilience that has sustained the Dada potters for generations.

    As the women of Dada Pottery continue to work traditionally, advancements in modern technology and the use of machines in making clay, ceramic, and steel items have impacted the demand for handmade wares. 

    But the Dada potters are determined to keep their traditional craft alive despite all hurdles. For these women, pottery-making is not just a source of income, but a way of life and a cherished tradition that has sustained their families for generations. Pottery is what they know, and what they do best. 

    That’s why they’ve developed innovative techniques to produce handmade pottery that remains relevant in today’s world. From ready-made to customised wares, the market boasts experts who excel in crafting pots, plates, drinking cups, and flower pots. Their dedication produces high-quality pottery items, whether they ultimately represent a piece of African tradition or simply a functional item for everyday use. 

    According to Hajia, “The market is organised into different sections, each responsible for producing various pottery wares. Visitors need to only express their requirements to be directed to the right section for their desired item.”

    While the low-income surroundings of Dada Pottery may not be visually striking at first glance, the pottery wares themselves captivate visitors. As you tour the market, you will find a dazzling array in various colours and sizes, painstakingly stacked and arranged. 

    Nigeria, pottery

    When you go further, you will see heaps of newly crafted clay wares smouldering on fires in the local industrial estate of Dada Pottery, adding to the market’s unique atmosphere. You can also witness firsthand how the pottery-making tradition has become predominantly hereditary and vocational. Children learn to create clay items from their mothers, and pottery interns learn the craft from various women in different sections of the market.

    “I learned from my mother and I’ll teach my children to keep the tradition alive. They can go to school and still learn pottery to show that potters can be educated too, contrary to what many people think”, said one young woman potter.

    Hajia chimed in: “Many schools across the country visit Dada Pottery on an excursion and some students from tertiary [third-level] institutes also come here for their IT [industrial training] placement where we teach them the art of pottery making. We also receive visitors regularly from different parts of the country and abroad.”

    “We only need the government to support us by developing our community and putting adequate infrastructures in place to make our jobs easier and more convenient,” Hajia concluded, ever mindful that it takes an unrelenting effort to keep their precious tradition alive and prospering in today’s Nigeria.

    Halima A. Abdullahi


    Halima is a freelance travel, food and real estate content writer, copywriter and avid researcher with many years of experience. She is a writer who is passionate about helping businesses and websites gain visibility and generate profitable leads through engaging, informative, and high-quality writing services. Aside from writing, she loves helping budding writers learn how to effectively hone their writing skills. She’s also an unapologetic foodie and a travel enthusiast who dreams of travelling around the world and trying out different delicacies from various parts of the world.

    Time to Read:  5 Minutes
    Storyteller: Halima A. Abdullahi
    24 April 2023
    Game Changers

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    Can We Ever Travel Without Plastic?
    By taking our own steps and encouraging businesses to do the same, we can drive change and move away from single-use plastic.

    Can We Ever Travel Without Plastic?

    It’s a stretch to think that everyone can enjoy holidays and travel experiences without encountering single-use plastic along the way, although we’re edging closer to that possibility. There are many things we can do ourselves to avoid single-use plastic when travelling — and thankfully, more and more businesses are realising that people want to be able to do this and are making it easier — but there’s still a way to go.

    We try to travel as light as possible nowadays and single-use plastic certainly facilitates that, which is why it can be such a challenge to overcome. Not to mention that once you have consumed a product wrapped or served in plastic, you can simply throw the packaging away. It´s less to carry and less to worry about, particularly when travel can be stressful enough without trying to find the water refill point in an airport or somewhere to wash your reusable straws and cutlery. However, those of us that are determined to do this, can employ several strategies to do our very best to travel without plastic.

    Be prepared. Just as you might make a shopping list before heading to the supermarket, make a list of items that you can pack or things that you can do to help you to travel without plastic before you set off on your journey. For example:

    • Find out if tap water is safe to drink in the destination(s) you are travelling to and prepare accordingly (see ‘Eating and Drinking’ below).
    • Pack your own shopping bags — those that fold up really small and are often attached to a keyring are great in terms of size and weight, and you can clip them to your trousers/shorts/backpack so they’re always easy to get at.
    • Invest in a reusable cutlery and straw kit and add a small refillable bottle of washing-up liquid or powder to this kit, so you can easily wash any reusable items on the go. Powders are great as you won’t need to remove them for security checks. 
    • Take your own solid bar toiletries, rather than packing travel-size toiletries or using mini toiletries provided in hotels. They are really lightweight, and they don’t need to go in a clear bag at security control; so they come with lots of additional benefits. As well as solid shampoos, you can take solid face wash bars, and even solid bar moisturisers. Carrying these in cork containers is a good idea, so that if you need to pack them when wet you don’t have any problems. Take care with solid deodorants and moisturisers if you travel in hot climates as they may melt and spill when you open the container.

    Eating and Drinking

    In some cases, bottled water might still be recommended because tap water is unpleasant to drink, but you can overcome this by travelling with a reusable filter bottle of your own or by carrying a SteriPen to treat the water. This also saves a lot of money — after using your reusable bottle around 10-15 times you will have already paid off the investment, especially when you think of the price of a bottle of water in an airport!

    You can check the website of the accommodation where you are thinking of staying to see if there are images of water dispensers on site, or if they talk about making refill easy — you might even consider emailing them to find out. 

    Or you can also download the local refill app to find restaurants, bars, cafés, hotels and transport hubs that offer water refills in your destination. As a rule, locally-based apps usually have a lot more information on them. This one by The Cleanwave Foundation is a good example in Mallorca. 

    Travel without Plastic

    The world consumes billions of single-use coffee cups a year, and because 99% of them are lined with single-use plastic (this prevents the contents from leaking out), it means that they are not usually recycled as this is a very expensive process. Most single-use coffee cups will go to landfill or incineration even if you have separated them. Carrying your own reusable cup for hot drinks means you can be part of the solution. When travelling in some countries, the large reusable cups don’t fit under the coffee machines in airports, so it might be wise to carry the smaller size. Collapsible cups are also great for saving space in your hand luggage. 

    Whilst it’s tempting to save time by eating and drinking on the go, this creates waste that is very unlikely to be recycled. Choosing to sit down and ‘eat in’ should mean that you are served with reusable crockery and cutlery, and it’s a great opportunity to unwind, watch the world go by, create some content for Instagram and savour local flavours. In some destinations, takeaway food comes in local ‘packaging’ like banana leaves which can be disposed of with organic waste, or you might even choose to travel with your own wax wraps or reusable food containers so you can ask cafés and restaurants to avoid using packaging altogether by placing the items directly into your own containers. 

    Responsible Disposal of Waste

    Whether you’re moving around various countries and municipalities or you’re staying put in one particular place, the chances are that the way waste is disposed of is going to be different to how you do it at home. Make an effort to find out what types of waste can be separated for recycling and if there are different coloured bins in the destination; find out what is supposed to be deposited into each of them so you can play your part. 

    If there are no recycling facilities, take every opportunity to make sure that your waste doesn’t become pollution — so for example, dispose of lightweight plastic items into bins with lids so that the plastic can’t easily blow away. 

    You might even go a step further and join a clean-up activity. Many destinations have charities and organisations that arrange regular beach and environment clean-ups. Ask around during your travels to find out if one is happening that fits into your schedule. It might also help to be aware of ‘World Days’ such as #WorldEnvironmentDay (5th June) and #WorldOceansDay (8th June). There are always activities going on somewhere themed around dates like these, and there are lots more in the annual calendar. You can download a free World Days calendar here

    Be a Driver of Change

    Finally, let businesses know you don’t want to see single-use plastic. Many hotel managers truly believe that guests still want things like miniature hair combs, cotton buds and shower caps in rooms when more often than not, people would prefer not to have them. Rather than checking out without saying anything, you could leave a polite note or have a conversation with staff to let them know you would prefer hotels to avoid single-use plastics if possible. You can also express this through on-site or online feedback forms. The more often accommodation providers hear this from their guests, the more likely they are to consider changing. 

    When you travel, if you see good or bad examples, share them on your social media to raise awareness with other travellers and businesses — and use this influence for good by getting the message out that we would all prefer to travel without plastic.

    Jo Hendrickx

    Resonate Team

    Jo Hendrickx started out life in tourism as a holiday representative over 20 years ago and progressed into a health and safety role before becoming Sustainable Destinations Manager at the Thomas Cook Group. Jo worked with overseas teams and project managers to bring sustainability to life through local excursions and also supported hotels in preparing for sustainability certification. In 2017 she founded Travel Without Plastic to focus on helping the travel industry to reduce unnecessary waste. They have created a range of downloadable resources for accommodation providers; they also provide personalised support for hotels and tour operators as well as project managing destination-based activities.

    Time to Read:  6 Minutes
    Resonate Team: Jo Hendrickx
    16 April 2023
    Responsibility in Focus

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    Trekking with Gorillas, Breathtaking Scenery, and Local Culture in Musanze, Rwanda
    Unforgettable encounters with gorillas at Volcanoes National Park in Musanze, Rwanda.

    Trekking with Gorillas, Breathtaking Scenery, and Local Culture in Musanze, Rwanda

    Nestled in the lush hills of Rwanda’s Northern Province, Musanze offers culture, history, and natural beauty. From stunning lake views to the traditional dance performances of its people, this charming destination provides a glimpse into a vibrant way of life. And with an emphasis on responsible travel, Musanze maintains a delicate balance between tourism and conservation; here, adventure meets sustainability the African way.

    ~ This guide is a collaboration between local expert Greg Bakunzi and frequent visitor Susan Onyango ~


    Upon Arrival

    After a visitor arrives in my city, I always recommend going straight to Red Rocks, an intercultural exchange center and home to authentic community tourism, which offers a range of accommodation options from traditional Rwandan huts to more modern lodges. Here, visitors gain a deeper understanding of the culture and natural beauty of the country. Additionally, its proximity to Volcanoes National Park and a range of outdoor activities makes Red Rocks a convenient and exciting destination.

    The best time to be here is during the dry season (mid-May to mid-October and mid-December to mid-March), also known as Gorilla Trekking Season. That’s when the weather is typically sunny and dry which makes it perfect for outdoor activities like hiking, and the gorillas tend to be more active during this time of year. Also, trails are less muddy and easier to navigate.

    I tell first-time travellers to learn basic Rwandan statements such as ‘muraho’ (hello), ‘murakoze’ (thank you), ‘mbabarira’ (sorry) and ‘murabeho’ (goodbye) among other simple phrases. I also advise them to avoid any intrusiveness or sensitive questions, especially queries regarding the genocide and its cause, or asking which tribe an individual hails from. 

    People from here know better than to wake up to a lazy morning. Instead, they would rather go to their farms and till amidst rough volcanic pebbles embedded in the rich red soil that yields food baskets for their loved ones.

    The best museum to start your journey and get a good sense of this city is the Dian Fossey Gorilla Museum — named after the American primatologist and conservationist — because it’s dedicated to conservation of the mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park, home to around half of the world’s population of these endangered primates. Here, you’ll learn about the history of gorilla conservation efforts in Rwanda, the current state of conservation, and the importance of protecting these incredible animals.

    Parents should take their kids to Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village because it’s perfect for families and provides an immersive experience for learning about Rwandan culture, history and traditions. Children can participate in traditional dances, try on traditional clothing, and learn about local customs such as basket weaving and cow milking.

    Food from the Heart

    Among the dishes my city is most proud of, isombe, a traditional Rwandan dish made from cassava leaves and spinach, is an absolute must. Cooked with onions, garlic, and tomato, it’s usually served with a side of rice or ubugali (a starchy porridge made from maize flour). To really enjoy it, I like to go to Abana Club, located about 1.5 km from Red Rocks.

    When we get together to celebrate the harvest festival or just meet up with friends, urwagwa (a local brew made from bananas) is what people here traditionally drink. I like to gather my friends and go to Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village for a round of urwagwa and other traditional drinks while enjoying the live performances of traditional music and dance.

    When I eat completely local, I go to Volcana Lounge restaurant where I not only support a local business but also encourage the local economy. Usually frequented by locals, it provides a window onto Rwandan culture and daily life. I know the food here is honestly made, using locally sourced ingredients and traditional cooking techniques.

    Another two classic, iconic restaurants include La Paillote, popular for French and Belgian cuisine, and Hotel Muhabura which offers a variety of Rwandan and international dishes served up by exceptionally friendly staff. 

    The part of town where locals come for traditional food is the marketplaces, small local restaurants and cafés to enjoy traditional Rwandan food, including dishes such as isombe, ubugali, nyama choma (grilled meat), and brochettes (skewered meat).

    Shopping Locally

    My city is known for making a variety of unique traditional handicrafts that are great for souvenirs and gift giving.

    The best food market is Musanze Central Market. And the best market to buy everyday items like high-quality handmade crafts is Red Rocks Art Center which is not only a shopping destination, but also a community project committed to promoting sustainable tourism and empowering local artisans.

    To buy real, local souvenirs I always take visitors to the stalls with a range of paintings, sculptures, textiles and other artwork depicting cultural themes. The products are handmade by local artisans and the vibe is warm and genuine as they take pride in preserving and sharing traditional techniques and designs. And we know to avoid street vendors because they may sell counterfeit or low-quality goods. 

    Getting Deeper Into Musanze

    A great book to learn more about my city is Rwanda – The Bradt Travel Guide by Philip Briggs, the world’s leading writer of guidebooks for and about Africa.

    Most people know about Volcanoes National Park, but Karisoke Research Center, established by Dian Fossey and dedicated to the study and conservation of mountain gorillas, should also be a must-see because visitors get to learn about Fossey’s work and the ongoing efforts to protect mountain gorillas.

    My city is a place people are attracted to because of its unique combination of natural beauty, cultural experiences, outdoor activities, history and heritage… and the annual Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony that now lasts a whole week!

    Most people think of my city as a place to stop over near Rwanda’s capital city, but really this is a destination to experience the great ambiance, the culture, community-owned lodges and eco-tourism initiatives that provide sustainable tourism opportunities while supporting local communities.

    This is one of the best places in the world to experience gorilla trekking. Locals are proud of that because it has brought economic benefits to the area while also contributing to the conservation of these remarkable animals and their habitat.

    Getting Around Musanze

    One thing you should know about getting around my city is that you can walk safely and freely in any part of the country, day or night, as Rwanda is ranked as the safest country in Africa.

    The best way to travel in my city to have as little impact as possible is through walking or cycling. 

    Luckily this method of transportation also allows me to exercise and stay healthy while getting where I need to go and fulfilling my travel experience.

    Outside The City

    To get away and into the outdoors, I like to nature walk in the foothills of the Virunga Mountains which also provides me with an opportunity to spot other animals such as golden monkeys, chimpanzees and birds.

    For a day trip just beyond my city, I like to visit the Twin Lakes of Burera and Ruhondo, located about 20 kilometres north of Musanze. These two lakes offer breathtaking views of the surrounding hills and volcanoes and are also home to a variety of bird species. 

    Many people will head to Volcanoes National Park because of its popularity, but locals know not to miss a visit to Kinigi Cultural Village located about 10 minutes from the entrance to the National Park, where they go to enjoy traditional music, dance and cuisine.

    I really enjoy the view of my city from the top of peaceful Mount Bisoke, also located in Volcanoes National Park. Last erupting in 1957, the peak offers stunning panoramic vistas of its crater lake and the neighbouring area. 

    Connecting with Locals

    When I want to have fun and celebrate being out in my city, I attend a cultural performance, a great way to connect with the locals. Musanze has a rich cultural heritage, and there are often performances of traditional music, dance, and storytelling. 

    To hang out with my friends and go to a real insider spot, I go to Birwa Island on Lake Burera, where there’s a small community of people who have a cultural tradition of making pottery using traditional methods. Here I can take a boat ride to explore the island’s rugged shoreline and hills and take in the view of the lake and mountains. This is also a great place to see some of the local birdlife including kingfishers, as well as watching local potters at work and even trying your hand at making a pot.

    The best resources for finding out what’s going on around town (events) is the official website of the Rwanda Development Board and its tourism site, Visit Rwanda, where visitors can find a comprehensive list of events and activities taking place in and around Musanze, as well as throughout the country. 

    When I want to enjoy my city without spending much (or any) money, I take a city tour on foot lasting about two hours. I start with browsing the stalls of the city markets to check out the local art, fabrics and decor. I continue onward, sampling the local food and fresh fruits while enjoying the lively atmosphere. I finish with a visit to Nkotsi Village located at the base of Mount Muhabura. The village is home to a number of community projects, such as a women’s sewing cooperative and a beekeeping programme. Visitors can learn about these initiatives and support them by purchasing locally-made crafts or honey.

    Kinigi Village is my first choice for music or when I feel like dancing because of its unique presentation of music and dance styles deeply rooted in Rwandan culture. The music is characterized by its use of traditional instruments such as inanga (a traditional harp), umuduri (a traditional drum) and ikembe (a thumb piano). 

    Finding Solitude in Musanze

    When I want to go somewhere to sit and relax near my incredible city, I go to Lake Ruhondo especially during the early mornings or late evenings to relish the sight of the crystal clear water reflecting the lush vegetation and hills.

    The place that makes me proudest of my city is Volcanoes National Park because it’s been a major conservation success story, with the mountain gorilla population increasing over the past few decades. This is largely due to the efforts of conservation organisations and local communities who have worked together to protect the gorillas and their habitat.

    Trekking with Gorilla

    When the Seasons Change, This City Shines

    The rainy season (March to May, October to November) is the best time to visit the natural hot springs located near Musanze. The warm water can be especially soothing on a chilly, rainy day. I always recommend visitors carry water-proof and breathable rain jackets and shoes at this time of year, and fast-drying clothing — whatever the season, the right clothing and gear will help them to stay safe, comfortable, and healthy while exploring this beautiful region.

    The dry season (June to September and December to February) here is magical when you explore the Musanze caves as the water levels are lower and the caves are easier to navigate. It’s also a great time to take a day trip to Lake Kivu where you can swim, relax on the beaches, and enjoy the lovely scenery of the lake and the surrounding hills.

    Susan Onyango

    Local Expert

    Susan Onyango is a young African woman hailing from Kenya. A travel enthusiast and a responsible tourism ambassador passionate about tourism in East Africa, Susan has an academic background in Mass Communication with a major in Public Relations. For over a year now, she has been working in the tourism industry in Kenya. Her most recent professional engagements have been with Ecotourism Kenya, Tierranjani Africa and Kenya Utalii College

    Time to Read:  9 Minutes
    Local Expert: Susan Onyango
    14 April 2023
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