culture_mainRwanda Culture Guide

Three (pretty useless) facts to know before your first visit to Rwanda.

Fact #1: Gorillas > Humans

It costs $750 USD to see the gorillas here. The joke in Rwanda is that gorillas make more than the humans. In fact, they say, if the government was asked, “Who should we save: the gorillas or the humans?” They would say, “The gorillas! Gorillas provide more income!”

When foreigners come to the country and are approached by ministries or NGOs to feed the poor or help the Rwandans, they shake their heads with a sad frown, pull out their empty pockets and say, “Sorry!” But when you take them to see the gorillas? It’s $750! People will donate any amount of money to help the gorillas! The gorillas require visitors to book an appointment far in advance to see them, and a magnificent naming ceremony is held each year to celebrate new gorillas births and to name each baby. It’s a black-tie event, and celebrities are invited from far and wide.

I’ll be honest. I DO wish we could see the gorillas. They’re just so mysterious and wild out there on those volcanoes. But yeah. They cost $750 to see. And I didn’t pack my evening gown.

Fact #2: Eating goat gives you facial hair

Things women traditionally don’t eat in Rwanda because it is an abomination: chicken and goat. Goat especially, because it will cause facial hair. If a woman is seen with facial hair, people whisper to each other, “That one has eaten goat!” They tell me women in the Congo eat goat, and that’s why so many of them have beards.

Fact #3: Rwandans switch the sounds for “R” and “L.”

Rwandans interchange “r” and “l” at random. Also “k” and “ch”. For example, Cyimbili is pronounced Chimbili or Chimbiri, and Kigali can be pronounced Chigali. ALARM is sometimes pronounced ARARM and Road is pronounced Load. You can imagine my surprise to hear all the talk lately about the Kenyan elections.

-Brooke Hartman