King’s Palace Museum – Rukari

Situated on a hill 2km southwest of town, this fascinating museum is less about ancient history and more about royal residences. The displays centre on a replica king’s ‘palace’. Inclusive in the ticket price is a guided tour that helps explain some of the architectural idiosyncrasies inside the royal compound, including why the royal beer brewer’s hut had an entrance without a lip, and other curiosities such as why the woman who looked after the king’s milk was never able to marry.

Behind the royal compound are the inyambo (sacred cows) with their super-sized horns. In some, the span between horn tip and horn tip exceeds 2.5m. Despite their fearsome appearance they seem to like nothing better than having lullabies sung to them!

Crowning the hill itself is the royal residence of King Mutara III Rudahigwa, built by Belgium in 1931. This colonial-style home served as the royal palace until he died. Unfortunately most of the furniture and gifts he received from visiting dignitaries were stolen during the genocide, but it’s still an interesting home to wander through, with its peculiarities including three sitting rooms, the best of which was reserved for receiving white people. There are also excellent panels (in English) about Rwanda’s history. Mutara was the first mwami (king) to convert to Catholicism and in the beginning was so enthralled by the Belgian rulers that he once thanked God for having sent them to Rwanda.

Keep hold of your ticket, as admission to this museum entitles you to a 30% discount to National Arts Gallery – Rwesero.