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Nyamirambo Walking Tour | Ummi Goes Where?

[Last updated: November 2020]

What if I told you that you could go on a guided walking tour for 2.5 hours with a local, be personally welcomed into their community, and get treated to a traditional buffet lunch — all for only $18?

And as a bonus, by joining the tour, you also get to help provide a source of income and free education for underprivileged women and their children.

Sounds too good to be true?

Well, all of that is possible in Kigali, Rwanda, thanks to the Community-Based Tourism (CBT) that was initiated by a group of local women at Nyamirambo Women’s Center.

Nyamirambo Women's Center

Nyamirambo Women's Center, Kigali, Rwanda
Nyamirambo Women’s Center

Nyamirambo Women’s Centerย (NWC)ย was founded in 2007 by 18 Rwandan women living in a poor neighborhood in Kigali called Nyamirambo.

This project aimed to address gender-based violence, gender inequality, and discrimination faced by the local women.

Together, they have been providing free training and education to disadvantaged women, so that they may increase their chances of finding employment.

Some of the classes they provide include literacy, English, basic computer skills, handicrafts and sewing, workshops on women’s rights, as well as training on community-based tourism.

Nyamirambo Women's Center, Kigali Rwanda | Ummi Goes Where?
Items on sale at Nyamirambo Women’s Center

By the end of 2013, NWC was not only providing training for the women, but was also employing them as seamstresses.

Currently, there are over 50 seamstresses in NWC who produce a large variety of clothing, women’s accessories, and home decor products.

The profits earned through the sales are used to fund NWC initiatives, in addition to providing benefits and a fair wage to the seamstresses.

How to Book

It’s always wise to book in advance even if you’re only one person, because they sometimes get booked by large tour groups.

To do so, you can call them at +250 782 111 860 or e-mail them at nwcoffice.kigali@gmail.com

You can also visit their office at:

Nyamirambo Women’s Center, House 22, KN 7 Avenue (on the corner with KN 132 Street), PO Box 1418, Kigali Rwanda.

Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (except for the last Saturday of every month: 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.)

Nyamirambo Walking Tour by NWC

Pricing: RWF 15,000 (RWF 18,000 including lunch).

Available in English, French, and Kinyarwanda.

I arrived a few minutes before the tour started. But as the group that I was supposed to be joining hadn’t yet arrived, I had time to explore the NWC craft shop.

The items sold there were not as cheap as what was offered in other souvenir shops in the city. Upon closer inspection, you can clearly see why.

They’re of much superior quality. You can see that every piece and every stitch is carefully made, and not mass produced to maximize profit.

NWC public library
NWC community library.

The tour began in the community library, which is also another one of the initiatives started by NWC.

We were served with a traditional snack — warm chapatis — while the guides gave us a brief lesson on Kinyarwanda language, and an introduction to the Center and its activities.

Once all the chapatis were gone (which didn’t take long, honestly), the guides took us next door, where the sewing and basket-making took place.

Nyamirambo Women's Center, Kigali | Ummi Goes Where?
Seamstresses at Nyamirambo Women’s Center

There were at least 20 of them, bent over their workstations, producing their masterpieces. Because all of the items on sale are handmade, you can be sure that there’s only one of its kind in the entire world!

Nyamirambo Women's Center | Ummi Goes Where?
Nyamirambo’s basket weavers

Then, we weaved through the neighborhood of Nyamirambo, one of Kigali’s oldest neighborhoods. Along the way, we made several stops, including:

  • A hairdressing salon, where some of the more adventurous ladies got themselves free braids. I gave this one a pass because I knew what tight braids could do to my hair — make it all fall out.
  • The water station, where all the villagers got their water from. None of them had water supply at their houses, so they had to go to this station and pay a small sum to get water for their daily use.
Water station in Nyamirambo Kigali Rwanda | Ummi Goes Where?
Nyamirambo Water Station
  • A market selling fresh produce. I had never in my life seen this many carrots in one pile.
carrots at Nyamirambo market
A bunny paradise
vegetables at Nyamirambo market
So many fresh veggies!
  • Two mosques.
Nyamirambo mosque.
  • A wall of street art done by local artists.
Nyamirambo Walking Tour, Kigali Rwanda | Ummi Goes Where?
Street art by Nyamirambo local artists.
  • A lookout point where we could see Kigali from above.
  • A local house where we got to try our hands at pounding cassava leaves. In African cooking, cassava leaves are very often stewed, or made into soup.
Nyamirambo Walking Tour
Nyamirambo Walking Tour, Kigali, Rwanda
Cassava leaves
  • A milk bar. Milk is very prominent in Rwandan culture; it is said that Rwandan people drink more milk than water. Thus, you can find milk bars almost everywhere in the country. Just like normal cafes, you can expect to find pastries and some local snacks, but the only drink they serve is milk — either fresh or fermented.
Milk Bar Nyamirambo Kigali Rwanda
Milk bar Nyamirambo Kigali Rwanda
My fermented milk

And finally, as promised, we concluded the tour with a traditional lunch. The lunch was optional, but for only an additional $3, it was a no-brainer.

Plus, it was made and served in the home of Aminatha, who is often dubbed NWC’s best cook. She’s the one who conducts cooking classes at the Center.

Rwandan buffet lunch
Buffet lunch to conclude the Nyamirambo walking tour.

I found that East African food really pleased my palate.

Although it was not as spicy as I would have liked it to be, it did have some familiar spices and some interesting vegetables that — though I couldn’t identify — tasted very good and went well with the rice.

Basket-Weaving Workshop

Pricing: RWF 15,000. Available in English, French, and Kinyarwanda.

Sisal Basket Weaving Class Nyamirambo Women's Center Kigali Rwanda
My very patient teacher

After finishing the walking tour, I decided I still hadn’t had enough for the day, so I signed up for their basket-weaving class. The basket is made of sisal, which is a type of Mexican agave with large fleshy leaves.

However, because a basket can take a whole day to complete, even for very experienced weavers, I was only to make a pair of earrings instead. It’s basically the same technique; the round earring can actually be used as the base of the basket.

The workshop began with an overview of the cultural history of sisal, followed by an in-depth explanation of the process from harvest to final products.

Then, I was given a needle and a range of different colors of sisal to choose from.

Sisal Basket Weaving Class Nyamirambo Women's Center Kigali Rwanda
The selection of sisal colors.
Sisal Basket Weaving Class Nyamirambo Women's Center Kigali Rwanda
Trying not to poke my fingers

My instructor spoke no English, so one of the guides from the walking tour had to be the interpreter.ย 

The basket-weaving technique was actually quite easy to learn, but required a lot of practice, otherwise you would end up with a lopsided basket.

Practice also improves your speed. I was so slow that both my instructor and interpreter had to help out.

This is me versus my instructor:

And finally, the finished product! I was so proud of myself even though one of the earrings looked bigger than the other.

Sisal Basket Weaving Class Nyamirambo Women's Center Kigali Rwanda
Almost done!
Sisal Basket Weaving Class Nyamirambo Women's Center Kigali Rwanda
Not that obvious but one is bigger than the other.

The Verdict

Whatever amount I paid at the Nyamirambo Women’s Center on that day was money well spent. Not only was the fees reasonable, the services rendered were excellent.

And don’t forget that by paying for the services and goods sold there, you are actually contributing to a good cause. The majority of the benefits remain within the local community.

Therefore, you can rest assured that your patronage genuinely supports and benefits your hosts.

Sisal Basket Weaving Class Nyamirambo Women's Center Kigali Rwanda
With my basket-weaving teacher
Sisal Basket Weaving Class Nyamirambo Women's Center Kigali Rwanda
With the interpreter.

Have you joined any of the classes at Nyamirambo Women’s Center? Or any tour elsewhere with the same concept? Share in the comments below.

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Posted in Rwanda

60 Comments

    • ummi

      Ya, Farhana. Lebih kurang seni tenunan kita jugak. Saya tengok cara hidup orang di Afrika ni ada banyak persamaan juga dengan kita, contohnya dari segi makanan. Cassava tu dalam Bahasa Melayunya ubi kayu, jadi daun tu pucuk ubi la kot. Sebenarnya pucuk ubi pun saya tak kenal. ๐Ÿ˜†

    • ummi

      Ya tak ya jugak, kan. Saya pun tak terfikir nak tanya. Masa saya pergi tu ada 2 orang tengah nak refill air. Agaknya yang lain tu tunggu turn la kot.

    • ummi

      Haha nak kirim pun dah tak sempat dah, Salina. Kita dah balik dah. Tapi memang serious produk kraftangan kat sini memang cantik. Di pusat bandar Kigali ada je kedai2 cenderamata dan kraftangan yang murah2 tapi kualiti tak sama macam kat NWC ni.

  1. Ruby

    Kak Ummi! Akak memang berani la. Tempat macam ni jarang saya nampak traveller share. Selalu yang indah-indah aje. Suka la tengok industri kampung buat macam-macam seni. TQ kak share pengalaman camni. See the World with Ummi. hehehe.

    • ummi

      Terima kasih, Ruby. Saya cuba seimbangkan tempat-tempat yang saya lawati, kadang-kadang teringin juga nak pergi tempat2 yang popular dan selalu jadi tumpuan pelancong. Tapi ada masanya bosan juga bila semua orang pun pergi ke tempat yang sama dan pos gambar-gambar yang sama. Secara peribadi, saya lebih suka tempat yang jarang orang pergi. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Shreya Saha

        That’s a great experience you got in NWC. I am surely going to include this in my tour to Rwanda. Loved how they are teaching their local women to be independent. I would like to know what was actually there in the buffet lunch, the food looked delicious though. Loved the earrings you made out of the basket weaving class.

        • ummi

          Thanks, Shreya! I really loved the walking tour, buffet lunch, and basket-weaving class. I hope you’ll get to try them too when you’re in Rwanda. If you’re interested to know more about what’s in the food, perhaps you could join the cooking class as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Sis Lin

    Kreatif mereka kan, barangan kraf tu mereka jual ke luar ke Ummi? Atau jual untuk pengunjung situ aje.. lagi satu tak pernah terfikir ada tempat sebegini kalau nak travel.. Ummi banyak kongsi yang ramai tak tau..

    • ummi

      Yang tu saya tak berapa pasti, Sis. Kalau tak silap, rasanya mereka jual di situ saja, belum lagi dihantar ke kedai2 atau tempat2 lain. Terima kasih atas sokongan yang berterusan, sis.

  3. Fafa

    Best nya bila tengok hasil dari women centre ni. Kita pon suka kumpul barangan kraftangan dari negara yang kita pegi. Paling berbaloi kalau dapat experience macam ummi ni

    • ummi

      Memang berbaloi, Fafa. Lebih baik beli barangan macam ni untuk dibuat cenderamata. Sekurang-kurangnya, dapat juga sokong produk tempatan. Daripada beli key-chain atau magnet yang kebanyakannya made in China.

  4. Yaya Natsumi

    Seronok tengok hasil kraftangan unik macam ni. Bukan senang nak buat. Even generasi sekarang kat Malaysia pun tak ramai yang pandai buat kan. Seronok baca pengalaman orang pergi travel hee

  5. Liez

    Wow bestnya klau dapat travel tempat macam ni. Boleh tahu mcmยฒ tentang tempat orang. Suka la tengok patern tenunan tu.. ada je org kl ygjual batik afrika ni

    • ummi

      Ye, Liez. Kat KL ni pun ada je jual kraftangan dari Afrika, tapi tu kebanyakannya barangan pukal. Yang di Nyamirambo Women’s Center ni lain sikit, sebab semuanya handmade, jadi takde dua yang serupa. Hasil kerjanya pun nampak lebih halus. Kalau nak bagi hadiah istimewa kat seseorang, memang sesuai beli kat sini la, lebih berkualiti.

    • ummi

      It was actually not that hard, Liz. Of course for a first timer, you might take longer to finish it and it may not look as tidy, but the technique itself is pretty straightforward. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Ildiko

    What a unique and amazing experience! The fact that it benefits the local community and Rwandan women is certainly a big plus! I love the earrings that you made. Very cute!

    • ummi

      Thank you, Ildiko! I feel a special pride when I wear those earrings, knowing that I made them myself. ๐Ÿ˜ It was truly an amazing experience. It’s not often that we get to join tours while contributing directly toward the local community.

  7. Danik the Explorer

    Paying to learn about the locals way of life, to experience their culture is a real true experience. To see what they can bring to their community. My wife says she would be interested in seeing this when we eventually get to Rwanda and love to check out the local crafts and jewellery.

    • ummi

      I’m sure your wife would love this, Danik. Other than the sisal workshop, there are also cooking classes available, if she’s interested. You’re right – paying to learn about the local way of life is a real true experience.

  8. Clarice

    I think that is 2.5 hours well-spent. That is seriously cheap considering that lunch is already included. I would love to do this if given the opportunity. It would be nice to support their community. I love projects and initiatives like this.

    • ummi

      Yes, Clarice. It was a well spent 2.5 hours with the Nyamirambo walking tour. The original price of the tour ($15) doesn’t include lunch, but for only another $3 for that kind of buffet spread, it would be silly not to take it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Linda (LD Holland)

    I would definitely do a 2.5 hour walking tour in Nyamirambo. A great way to learn more about this local area and get a traditional buffet too. I am sure the view of Kigali from above was worth a stop. Love that the money stays in the community.

    • ummi

      Yes, Linda. This tour is a great way to learn about the local community in Nyamirambo. And the traditional buffet is amazing! If you ever go to Rwanda, make sure you include this in your itinerary. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Paul Healy

    I love doing cultural things like this when we travel, really helps to understand the local community. Such a great idea and that food looked incredible. Even if it wasn’t spicy enough, that’s probably a good start for us British travellers!

    • ummi

      Ah yes, of course! Now I understand why the food is not spicy enough. How selfish of me to think that everybody can take spicy food like I do. Haha! Anyway, you’re right — the food is incredible, and the tour really helps you to understand the local community. Do join this tour when you go to Rwanda. ๐Ÿ˜€

  11. Subhashish Roy

    I love these walking tours with locals as that gives the best opportunity to experience a new place just like a local. Rwanda looks such an exciting place to visit. The sight of fresh veggies, the street art and learning the art of basket weaving would be a great way to spend the day.

    • ummi

      Yes, Subhashish. It was really a great way to spend the day in Rwanda. To be honest, I had never even heard of the country, and it was a rather last-minute plan as I had some extra days to spend in East Africa. I’m glad I went. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Agnes

    I love the idea of walking a tour for 2.5 hours with a local and be personally welcomed into their community. It’s a perfect way to see how people live, what are the customs. And also it is great that it is possible to eat traditional dishes. You have an amazing adventure with Nyamirambo Womenโ€™s Center. It’s an amazing project that supports women.

    • ummi

      You’re absolutely right on all counts, Agnes. On this tour, not only will you get to learn about their culture, see how they live, and eat traditional dishes, you also get to support the women and children in the community.

  13. Yukti Agrawal

    Nyamirambo tour looks nice cultural tour and to understand the locals more deeply. I loved your trip and would surely go for these kind of trips when I came across such tours in future. Basket weaving technique really looks interesting to me.

  14. Trisha Velarmino

    Ummi, Rwanda is my dream! Have you had the chance to explore some women communities there? I heard most of their rulers are women now. I am doing women’s work and currently looking for my next stop. Can I go to Rwanda without problems? If you have any information about women centers there, I would like to know, please. Thank you!

    • ummi

      Hi, Trisha! Yes, Rwanda is the first country in the world to have a majority of women (64%) in its government. I’m not sure about the visa situation though — I’m assuming you’re planning to get a work visa? I personally had no problem but mine was a tourist visa obtained at the border between Rwanda and Uganda. The only women’s center I had a chance to visit was Nyamirambo (contact details in the article), but there is also the Rwanda Women Network. Perhaps you could reach out to them through their websites. All the best!

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