Two hours’ drive from Kigali, Nyanza, the Rwandan kingdom’s traditional capital is a forlorn looking place with the remains of a pre-colonial royal palace, as well as a modern palace built for the king by the Belgians in 1932. The modern palace, now an art museum, is empty and in the dark when we visit.
A few miles from Nyanza, Butare (renamed Huye), is the ex-colonial capital of Rwanda, and its intellectual capital today. It is home to Rwanda’s top university, the National University of Rwanda, and to several research institutes. Butare also has an exceptionally good ethnographic museum.
In the Belgian colonial days, it was the seat of government, had the country’s first public school, its first aeroport and its first theater. Today it is a sleepy but charming town, with the distinguishing characteristic of having the country’s only cafe which sells soft serve ice cream. A major motivation for the four hour round trip to Butare !