The questions on everyone’s lips is whether or not Kicukiro is part of Kigali. The answer is yes. Now, is it part of the town centre? Undisputedly not. Is it some sort of suburb then? Arguably so, yes. Is it out in the middle of nowhere? It can indeed feel that way during a freezing 15 minute moto ride back from town. Is it its own village? Well now, there at least we can draw the line!
For three years, I called Kicukiro home. For me, she had it all: beautiful views of the hills, walking distance to bus stops, an inexhaustible array of dodgy brochette joints, a fairly modern hospital, an established fruit and vegetable market and, of course, the infamous Kicukiro bicycle taxis. That’s right, Kicukiro and I were pals.
Like the rest of Kigali, Kicukiro is growing. Quickly. Today’s Kicukiro, thanks in part to the new airport being established just south of Kigali in Nyamata, has many paved roads and established businesses. Kicukiro is proudly home to Bralirwa, NPD Contraco and Kigal’s first fast food joint, Mr. Chips.
If you like “off the map” type places, Kicukiro is a great spot to live, work and explore.
All in all, Kicukiro is a more authentic Rwandan neighborhood than many other in Kigali, but with the growing interest in properties out here we would not be surprised to see more expats in years to come. Already, numerous modern villa’s have popped up along the hillsides, and considering the beautiful views over the city, who can blame people for wanting to live here. The price to rent a nice house in this area will be considerably cheaper than in more central locations like Kimihurura.
The expats living in Kicukiro are few and dispersed, and though we do occasionally see the odd group of jolly volunteer workers or tourists gone astray, the area remains distinctively Rwandan. You’ll get the stares and pointing, the ‘muzungu!’ and the ‘good morning how are you give me money’, but apart from the occasional horde of kids running up to hug you, the unwanted attention is easily ignored with a headphone in each ear.
Kicukiro sector has two main centers of commerce. From eggs to plumbing supplies, you can find pretty much anything you need from vendors at Sonatubes roundabout. If you’re out of power, there’s an Electrogaz kiosk where you can fill up. Sonatubes boasts two gas stations which have gas… sometimes.
If you’re looking for fresh produce, head up the road to Kicukiro’s burgeoning market. Here you can find the basic staples, fresh from the farms of the southern province. Prices range seasonally, but I’ve always found prices to be a bit cheaper than Kimironko Market. The vegetable section is especially impressive, with everything from apples, pineapples and passion fruit to green beans, beets and eggplant. Kicukiro Market does not carry specialty items such as coriander, basil or broccoli, but they normally carry a nice selection of those delicious Burundian mangoes. There are mountains of flour and spices, and mounds of little dried (incredibly stinky) fish from Lake Kivu. As in any respectable isoko there is of course several aisles of fabric, used clothes, and vintage purses. A trip to the Kicukiro Centre Market should be on every expat’s to-do list.
Besides the market, Kicukiro is also the location of Gayaha Gifted Hands – a fair-trade company seeking to empower local women through professional work training. It’s definitely worth visiting , but do remember to bring enough francs to purchase all the baskets, purses and jewelry that you’re guaranteed to fall in love with.
Getting to Kicukiro is a piece of cake from all points in the city. Now, it won’t be cheap, but Sonatubes is a main area between town and Remera. All motos know both Sonatubes roundabout and Kicukiro Market (Kicukiro Centre). Motos will range in price but generally you’ll be paying around Rwf 800-1000 from Kicukiro to town.
With a car the drive into town centre is no more than 15 minutes. If you’re braving the bus, you might end up spending a good twenty minutes waiting in the scorching sun (or beating rain), but you won’t pay more than around Rwf 200. The buses run in two directions here: one bus line running to town or Nyabugogo and another line heading to Remera bus park. Expect delays when riding the bus on the way to town. The traffic bottlenecks at certain areas on the route, especially at rush hour. If you secure a window seat the 25 minute matatu ride isn’t all that unbearable.
One of the wonderful things about Kigali is the amount of restaurants integrated throughout residential areas. It’s a brilliant pattern that is accentuated nicely throughout Kicukiro. Pick almost any side street and you’ll find a thriving place to grab a cold beer, watch a football match and try out a few brochettes. It is probably best to be in the company of a Rwandan, or else they may try to charge you Rwf 600 for the ketchup, and possibly claim you need to pay for the straws.
- Chez John - Located at the Sonatubes roundabout, Chez John is one of the mainstays in Kicukiro. Chez John is a great place to watch a match, eat some goat and have a few drinks with your friends. Game nights are by far the best evenings.
- Stonehouse - This place has a massive open garden where you can sit and watch the airplanes take off and land while enjoying your drinks and food. Stonehouse does a wonderful job preparing pig so order up. On the weekends, Stonehouse fills up quickly and the party stays strong throughout the night.
- Googlebar - Google bar is a quiet watering hole on Niboye Road. Stop in for a drink and wait for the regulars to show up around dusk. They’re great company.