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The ancient King's Palace in Nyanza (now museum).
|Admin. Province||Southern Province|
|Elevation||1,792 m (5,879 ft)|
The town of Nyanza requires a turn off the main road that connects Kigali to Huye (formerly Butare). Nyanza is a 2 1/2 hour bus ride from Kigali, a 1 1/2 hour bus ride to Muhanga, a one hour bus ride to Huye, a 30 minute bus ride to Ruhango and a 16 minute bus ride to Gatagara; the bus station is in the center of Nyanza town, next to the outdoor but covered market. The main bus companies serving Nyanza are Volcano and Horizon, which leave every half hour and seat about 28 passengers. There are also smaller vans known as Twege buses that fit in as many people as possible and depart when full. Transportation within the town is via the ubiquitous moto (motorcycle) taxis or bicycle taxis, or by foot.
The road that extends from the town center to the old, no longer used, High Court is particularly attractive, being a boulevard lined with often flowering trees and shrubs. A second road from town, (known as "the stony road" because it is made of cobble stones) leads to the Institute of Legal Practice and Development (ILPD). On that road is a restaurant serving Rwandan and Cameroonian food. From ILPD, a paved road continues and then forks at a large park, with one fork leading to the King's Palace and the other to the former art museum.
The palace of the last umwami (traditional king) of Rwanda is located within walking distance of the town center and is the town’s main tourist attraction. There, one can see the former king’s traditional palace and contrast it to the modern palace built steps away by the Belgian colonizers for the king. A Rwandan woman dressed in an umushanana (Rwanda’s silky, flowing traditional dress) guides visitors through the palaces; the unusual Inyambo cattle with their enormous heavy horns and decorations are the highlight of the tour. Visitors may pet a cow and have their photos taken with the cow while a traditional herdsman sings what sounds like a lullaby to the cow. Visitors may also try their hand at grinding sorghum, which was traditionally used to make sorghum beer; the grounds are nicely landscaped. At the entrance where visitors buy tour tickets, there is a small gift shop selling Rwandan crafts, tee shirts, key chains, wooden sculptures, handbags, etc. There is a large covered outdoor restaurant and coffee shop overlooking the gardens behind the restaurant and in front of the modern palace of the king. There is also a restroom near the restaurant and a parking lot large enough to accommodate large buses and many cars.
Another tourist attraction is the Rwesero Art Museum, which is currently in transition to another type of museum and so no longer an art museum, as the art was moved to Kigali; the view from the museum of the surrounding hills is breathtaking. Currently, the former art museum has a children’s art room and many photographs of Rwandans and Rwandan life; the large building was built as a residence for the King. However, he never lived in it before he left Rwanda; the former art museum has a large parking lot and a small gift shop selling the usual Rwandan crafts, tee shirts, etc., as well as some toys and stuffed animals.
On the road to the former art museum on the left hand side is the large, multi-storied Nyanza District Office Building, overlooking the large park; the immigration office is located in this building.
Nyanza town has a number of hotels and motels; the two largest are The Heritage Hotel and Dayenu Hotel. They each have upscale restaurants and are located in the center of town; the Dayenu Hotel has an outdoor swimming pool and beautiful grounds, including an outdoor bar. The nearest motel to the bus station is The New Life Motel, which also serves food and has a bar; also close to the bus station is the Inyambo Motel. On the way into town near the Bank of Kigali is the Free Motel.
Nyanza has two banks: The Bank of Kigali located in a high rise building, on the road into town, and the Banque Populaire du Rwanda (BPR) located on the road from Nyanza town to King’s Palace and across from the Heritage Hotel. Both banks have ATMs. Nyanza has a hospital, a few clinics and several pharmacies, its outdoor market has a fruit and vegetable section, a large section of beans and a section where vendors sell live chickens and rabbits. There are also sections for hardware, fabric, shoe repair, tailors, second hand clothing, shoes, cell phone and watch repair, kitchenware, bedding, farming implements, flour, sugar and oil. There is also an area where the tailors and seamstresses work at their sewing machines. Vendors also sell backpacks and personal care items. On the streets around the market are several small office supply stores and stores selling food, gifts, cell phones and sundries. On the streets seated under brightly colored umbrellas are the many sellers of cell phone air time (MTN, TIGO or Airtel). There is also an MTN store. There are several shops where men and women can rent wedding clothing, as well as the popular women's umushanana, which is worn for festive occasions. There are several driving schools. There is a Kobil petrol station in the center of town across from the Heritage Hotel, and at least two petrol stations just outside of the town.
Nyanza town has at least two institutions of higher education: the University of Lay Adventists of Kigali (UNILAK), on the road into Nyanza, and the Institute of Legal Practice and Development (ILPD), located on the road to the King’s Palace at the intersection of the Avenue des Sports. ILPD hosts a six-month residential post-graduate diploma course, offering practical legal education for law school graduates, it also hosts short (usually one week or less) residential continuing education classes in law or law-related subjects for judges, lawyers, bailiffs and others. Students at ILPD come from many countries, including Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana, The Gambia, Cameroon, South Sudan and Kenya. Across the street from the Institute is a small strip mall with several tiny restaurants (serving food and drink), a driving school and a tiny office supply store.
Nyanza town has a large stadium, located just past ILPD. There, football (soccer) matches are held. ILPD uses the stadium for its graduations. Also, the annual Umuganura (Rwandan public holiday celebrating the harvest and giving thanks. Rwanda claims that it has been celebrated for 1,800 years) festivities take place at the stadium; the celebrations for National Heroes Day on February 1st also take place there. The road and parking lot in front of the stadium are frequently used for driving school practice or for driving examinations. Beyond the stadium is Nyanza’s cemetery, where Christians, Muslims and others are buried.
Nyanza is also home to a large, modern, multi-story building constructed to house the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which court continues to hear cases relating to the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda; the courthouse is located further down the road past ILPD, then left on a dirt road. That building also houses the High Court.
Nyanza is historically known for its yogurt and kefir (traditionally called ikivuguto in Ikinyarwanda, Rwanda's language). Ikivuguto, being a fermented beverage, was, and still is, popular for its healthful qualities. Nyanza town contains two dairies; the Laiterie de Nyabasindu is one of Rwanda's largest milk and yogurt producing companies. Many small restaurants and shops in town sell ikivuguto by the cup or in large plastic containers to take away. Several shops in town sell bottled or packaged individual servings of ikivuguto or yogurt with added sugar or flavor, such as vanilla or strawberry.
Nyanza has many churches, including Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, ADEPR (Pentecostal) and others, as well as a number of mosques.
On the last Saturday of every month, the citizens of Nyanza participate in Rwanda’s community service work projects called Umuganda, which may be road widening, picking up litter, weeding, terracing or building a house for a needy person. During Umuganda, all shops are closed.
Nyanza was the capital of the Kingdom of Rwanda from 1958 to 1962.
During the Rwandan Genocide, the town of Nyanza was the site of a large massacre of Tutsis and Moderate Hutus.
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