I am writing this after a few days and things may get a mixed up in my mind. I do not want to take notes throughout the day, but simply imbibe the day.
On day 5, we drove from Kigali to Butare (southwest of Kigali)…about 2 ½ drive. The day’s site included the “King’s Palace,” a favorite for sightseeing... At this site, we saw not one King’s palace, but three homes of the king. Kings ruled Rwanda for centuries, and just like European royal dynasties, the kingship passed down through the king’s family. Other royal families had close ties to the king’s family. When the era of (new) imperialism emerged in the nineteenth century, European colonial leaders worked with the kings and their families.
The first “home” of the king that we visited was a large beehive shaped hut with a rounded entrance. We took off our shoes, as the flooring was layered with mats. The king’s sons would sleep close to the doorway and the daughters next to them inside. The king entered his bedchamber (raised off the floor) from one entrance near the fire in the center, while the queen entered from the side. The king had many wives or concubines, but he slept with only one at night. There was some sort of wooden flask or bottle always at the bed…some sort of “energy” drink. It was very cool in the house. The only light would come from the fire, but they could withdraw individual woven panels to allow in light from the door. This “older” style house was not an original, but an excellent recreation. The King of Rwanda lived in this style housing until the early twentieth century.
Once the king had seen what the Europeans lived in, he decided to have a palace built for himself. This was the second home we visited. It lay on the top of a hill (at this “King’s Palace” site) and had many comfortable rooms. (Much of the original furniture was destroyed during the genocide in 1994.)
Later in the twentieth century, the king decided to have another palace built on a nearby hill. He died two days before he could move into it. Rwanda became an independent country (freed from the colonial power of Belgium…as part of three decades of de-colonization) in the 1961 and she became a republic. The King still maintained an unofficial role for a period of time. (You can look up more on line…)
Afterwards at the same site, we visited the cattle…one baby born only a few months ago… A shepherd (that’s what I will call him) showed us how he controls the cows (long-horned cows…could easily poke out your eye…don’t ask for one for Christmas) with whistles, and he seemingly sang to the cow.
Rwanda is called the “land of a thousand hills” (we have seen about 100 so far), but it is also the land of a million smiles. We have really enjoyed the people.