If you are (for some reason) looking to get as far away from Kinyarwanda phrases, babies wrapped around their mothers, and curious looks as possible, Nyarutarama is the neighborhood you’re looking for. This is probably the only place in Kigali you’ll see people (of all colours and ages) walking their dogs, jogging with their iPod, or walking with the baby stroller.
In the near future, we can see an increase in tourists and newly arrived expats to Nyarutarama, mainly due to the many new restaurants and hotels opening, as well as a much anticipated expansion of the MTN Centre (now only housing one clothing store, a pharmacy, Le Galette, and a couple of restaurants.) For those wishing to find a place to live here, there are several new apartment buildings under construction (with a monthly rent of 800-1000 USD), as well as possibilities of renting a room in a house (usually around 500 USD per month). Most of the houses, though, are owned by foreigners (especially Kenyans), or serve as residential housing for embassies and NGOs (the US Peace Corps owns a hill filled with strange Spanish-looking apartment complexes. Go figure).
This is where humongous villas with pools are hidden behind towering fences guarded by armed personnel and security cameras; where the majority of cars passing you are Hummers, Range Rovers or even the occasional convertible; and where President Kagame sends his kids to private school. In short, it’s where all the rich people live. Well actually, that’s not entirely true. Dispersed among the white chalked walls, are pockets of low mud houses with the random goat and pant-less boy running around.
Several NGOs and embassies are located in Nyarutarama, as well as a range of upscale hotels and restaurants, including Select, Zen and The Manor.
If you’re looking for preppy ways to spend your Saturdays, this neighborhood is where you’ll find the only golf course in town. If golf isn’t your thing then try the Nyarutarama Sports Club with its tennis courts, a swimming pool (3000 RWF for a day for non-members) and a crappy gym. It also has TV screens if watching sports is more up your alley.
For a weekend stroll, may we suggest the path along the lake – a slightly overgrown dirt road shaded by majestic trees, winding across an area of marshlands and untouched forest. There were once plans to develop this green pocket into a proper park but when the Indian corporation owning it went bankrupt all construction was abruptly stopped in its tracks, leaving (among other things) an amusement park eerily placed in the middle of shrubbery (another site worth taking your camera to). The other side down the hill (into the valley towards Kibagabaga) also makes a nice spot for a stroll through mango and banana trees.
The MTN Centre is located pretty much in the middle of Nyarutarama and is the area’s main shopping area. It’s the usual bizarrely designed shopping centre with few actual shops and a lot wasted space. The top floor has Bourbon Coffee and a couple of restaurants, the middle has a hair dresser and lots of random useless space, and the bottom floor has an MTN shop, pharmacy, travel agent, money changer an La Gallette which is one of the more interesting supermarkets in Kigali with a nice selection of meat and cheese. Woodlands supermarket is probably closer to Gacuriro but it’s a larger option if you don’t mind heading a bit further up the hill. The Manor Hotel has a nice (but expensive) clothing shop it in it as well as a decent bakery and I think it also has a salon.
Restaurants & Cafes
Being the swish part of town with big houses, Nyarutarama is also home to some of Kigali’s better (and more expensive) restaurants.
- Zen - This is one of Kigali’s few restaurants that serve sushi and Thai food – so I guess you could say it’s a mix of Asian cuisines. Nice outdoor seating and good service.
- Sakae - A Korean/Japanese place with a great view. The atmosphere inside isn’t great as it can feel a little cavernous if there aren’t many people there, but the food is good! You can get sushi here as well and it gets better reviews than at Zen. The service is very good here.
- Select - Saying this is in Nyarutarama might be a bit of a stretch but it’s on the road leading to Kacyiru which is sort of in no man’s land and it’s a fancy place – so we’re sticking it there. A boutique hotel with a restaurant, a three course meal will cost around Rwf 14,000 to 16,000 but it’s worth every penny.
- Manor Hotel - This hotel has four restaurants, at last count. O’Connell’s which is supposed to be an Irish pub but is nothing of the sort. An Italian place called Marco’s and Asian and Indian restaurants whose names I don’t know. The Indian restaurant has a giant circus-looking tent over the top of it which is worth a trip there alone, I think.
- Bourbon Coffee - The city-wide chain has a cafe at the top of the MTN Centre. It has great views, lots of space (so you don’t get angry looks from staff members wanting you to eat and leave like you do at Bourbon UTC), and is one of the most reliable places in town for free wifi.
K Club has opened above Woodlands Supermarket which is located on the way up the hill to Gacuriro. It gets lukewarm reviews but if you want a late night dance session then it’s your only spot in this area, so you’re stuck with it. As this is mostly a residential area you won’t see much action at nighttime, apart from perhaps a late football game playing at Virunga Sports Bar (upstairs at the MTN Centre), dinner at one of the restaurants or a few beers at one of the rare local bars.