Around a sweeping bend turning left as you exit the palace, passing thru what feels like a dead-end lies the tomb of his royal highness and the queen. The graves are white tiled mounds with handsome portraits of the royal couple on the tombstones. They lie in a field under a nondescript field enclosed by a low barbed-wire fence in a very non-flattering aspec-needless to say the village around is more rewarding than the site itself. You will need a guide to find this place as it’s a bit off the beaten track..literally!
The Royal Palace: MODERN
The royal residence at Nyanza is north of Butare off the main road towards Kigali.
The residence is well kept and sits on top of a hillock with commanding views around. The palace is a simple art-deco 1950s Italianate bungalow residence splashed in pale green. The interior is quite sparse with some grand fire-places. The most interesting rooms are the sleeping quarters and inside bathroom which must have been splendid regalia in this part of the continent in its heyday. Hire taxi or local mini-taxis can get you here easily. You can visit as part of your day touring around Butare or as I did as a detour on my way back to Kigali. The local market in the centre of Nyanza is entertaining and well served by services to Kigali/Butare.
The Royal Palace: TRADITIONAL
Adjacent to the new structure is the old royal enclosure. This consists of a large circular enclosure whose low entrance forces all entrants to bow on entering. In the centre stands the conical dome-shaped royal hut. A central stand of nearly 8m encloses a straw weaved cushioned floor space used for socialising and meetings. A small kitchen space and a compact double bedded sleeping area, with two entrances one for the king and the other for his wife, completes the naturally lit space. This ceremonial enclave is definitely worth the detour to Nyanza Palace.
Though several museums-mostly genocide memorials-are found in Kigali, Butare houses the proud and prestigious national museum. The rooms are spacious, without the excessive clutter of distracting memorabilia. This makes the well-labelled exhibits easy to appreciate and enjoy. It starts with a geographical display and then gets down to the real treasure of royal tribal tradition, ending of course with some recent history.
Here the dancers can be commissioned to perform but this is not a good deal for a single traveller. If a group is present the price would definitely be worthwhile as shows are few and far between. Its actually easier to catch them abroad or on DVD!
The University of Rwanda is located here and the faculties are scattered over a large area. Definitely worth a visit as it is always great to mingle with the pulse of student life especially if education is your foray. It has a large forestry research centre and agricultural division with Law, Medicine and the usual gang of undergrads. Easy to reach with local transport and like any tertiary campus: all the rules apply.
If the only reason to visit Butare is to come here you will be awed by its exterior alone. That is all I saw because it was under major renovation when I was here. Its shear perimeter is as grand . Mary beckons the faithful who pray in its gardens and cluster there for social banter…adding to its great atmosphere
A different experience from the Kigali memorial in that this is a real genocide location. Visist via Butare