Although Rwanda is well known for mountain gorillas, it also has one of the unique cultures and heritage attractions one can ever experience. The good news is that the institute of national museums of Rwanda is currently working hard in conjunction with the Rwanda development board to identify, preserve and conserve the available cultural sites in order to promote cultural tourism. Many cultural heritage sites are now being preserved and conserved to protect the intangible attractions – myths, traditional beliefs and legends as well as tangible attractions like carvings, fossils, sculptures, crafts and many other artistic hand products and pictorials.Rwanda’s culture and heritage is now a complete tourism package because many tourists today visit the country to discover more about culture; learn and even participate in outstanding cultural events and activities. Let’s briefly look at the major cultural and heritage attractions in the eastern province plus the myths and beliefs the local people attach to them.
Urutare Rwa Ngarama
Also locally known as Ibare rya Ngarama meaning stone of Ngarama in Rukiga language, theremarkable stone is located in Gatsibo district just 20 km from the Kigali-Nyagatare main road. It covers an area of about 3 hectares and has outstanding footprints- like features, accredited to King Ruganzu Ndoli. It’s really hard to explain how foot print marks can be on a hard rock which this keeps many people wondering. Some people think the foot prints were for Ngarama a courageous man who killed a vulture that had been disturbing the people many years ago, while others think the foot prints were for king Ruganzu as a land mark for his knowledge and greatness.
Surprisingly, this stone also has an area that does not vibrate or release any sound even when hit by a strong or hard metal. Many people go with various metals tools but even if they hit the stone as many times as they can, it does not release any sound and vibration.
This former king Mutara III Rudahigwaresting and meeting place is located in Rebero village Nyagatare district. The heritage site is made up of a group of five houses built using metal sheets. They were constructed by king MutaraIIIRudahigwa in the 1950’s who often visited the area to hunt or meet his chiefs to discuss the matters of the kingdom. During those early years, it was hard to find any house in a small village constructed using metal sheets and therefore the site portrays king Rudahigwa’s desire for modernity. Of the five metal sheet houses in the area, three of them were built in a circular shape whereas the two were built in a trapezoid form- a four sided flat shape with two parallel sides. All these portray Rwandese’s great architecture and crafts. A visit to the site can give you a chance to learn more about king Mutara III and his kingdom
This heritage site is also located in Nyagatare district on top of the hill with a stone cut reservoir and three earthwork structural features. Ryamurari is believed to have been occupied by cattle keepers and farmers basing on the cattle bones, dung and grinding stone fossils that were discovered by researchers in the place.
According to the native Rwandese, Ryamurari was Ndorwa kingdoms capital and trading center before Ndorwa had been annexed to Rwanda. This site has two main local names- Mukama and Mu Bitabo Bya Gahaya; Mukama means king or God and Mu Bitabo Bya Gahaya means clay curved figured shape that was constructed before the entrance of a hut a prominent person called Gahaya. The locals believe that the reservoir had been constructed for the kings’ cattle. The Ryamurari heritage site can enable a tourist to learn more about the relationship between the Rwandese and Ugandan cultures.
Utubindi Twa Rubona
Located in Gatsibo district, Utubindi Twa Rubona are seven curving clay pots without necks and rim structures on a hard granitic rock. The carving’s are of different sizes but the formation and structure of all the seven clay pot like pits is almost the same.
Utubindi means pots and this is why the heritage site is called Utubindi Twa Rubona meaning the small pots of Rubona. The local Rwandese believe that the small pots ‘Utubindi’ were dug out by king Ruganzu II Ndoli and his soldiers on their way from Karagwe- present day eastern Tanzania as water drinking points. They say that when the king and his soldiers reached here, they were thirsty and the king used his mystical magical spear to dig out the pot like structures and then the water rose up.