Rwanda wants to attract more culture enthusiasts

August 2008 -

The number of tourists in Rwanda increased by twenty per cent in 2007. This made tourism the most important source of foreign currency, displacing coffee and tea from first place. Virtually everyone comes to see the gorillas or to enjoy the spectacular natural beauty of the 'country of a thousand hills'. But the government wants more than eco-tourism.

On 26 May 2008, Minister Joseph Habineza (Youth, Culture and Sport) opened the Museum of Rwandan Ancient History in Rwanda's former capital, Nyanza. He took the opportunity to make an appeal to attract more culture enthusiasts to the country. Rwanda has a great deal to offer. A variety of museums, most of which are housed at historical sites. For example, the Museum of Rwandan Ancient History is housed in the palace of King Mutara III Rudahigwa. It focuses on the pre-colonial period. A stone's throw away is the Rwesero Art Museum of Modern Art, also housed in a former palace. A little further away one can visit royal tombs.

According to the Minister, various other nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century palaces are also worth visiting. Not only the buildings, which are frequently constructed of traditional indigenous materials, but also their furnishings. The National Museum in the city of Butare houses ethnographic and craft collections and a collection of old black and white photos that are among the best in Africa. Music and dance are also part of the country's cultural legacy. The Intore Dance Troupe of the museum has existed for centuries, but in the past it only performed at the royal court. Finally, Rwanda has five impressive monuments commemorating the genocide of 1994.

The first step the government has taken to promote cultural tourism is to better inform potential enthusiasts and to stimulate the private sector – travel agencies, car rental companies, et cetera. Cultural tourists are attractive. They frequently have means and stay longer than other tourists. Now the government is waiting for the results.