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Rwandese Architecture: A Visit to the King's Palace

Hello! I’m Oluwalanu and if this is your first time on my blog, I am an African culture enthusiast, traveling around the continent to learn and experience the ancient culture of our ethnic groups. Today we are talking about the monarchy and traditional architecture of the Rwandese people.

Before I left Lagos for Kigali, I knew the first place I wanted to visit was the king’s Palace museum in Nyanza. I knew it would be a great chance to hear about the pre-colonial history of Rwanda and see the traditional architecture of the Rwandese.

The palace was about two and half hours out of Kigali so of course, it was quite expensive to get there. It was like getting a taxi from Lagos to Ibadan and then coming back to Lagos the same day. I don’t regret coming to Rwanda but it was definitely my most expensive trip so far and I will be drinking garri for the next month lol.

Before we get to the palace and architecture, let's talk a little about the Bantu Kingdom that became known as present-day Rwanda. It was under the Nyiginya dynasty that the kingdom was first constituted into a nuclear state. The kingdom from there continued to grow by conquest, stretching into parts of present-day Uganda and Burundi. The Mwami ruled all. The palace was moved around the kingdom for a while but when the Mwami decided to pick a capital, Nyanza was the obvious choice because of its commerciality.

Anyway back to our tour. I arrived at the King’s palace at about 2 pm. I went to the reception and paid for the tour, which was 10,000 francs (roughly $10). As we began the tour, I pulled out my phone to start recording when the tour guide told me that only pictures were allowed and that if I wanted to record, I would have to pay $100 extra. Whew, I tried to explain what I was doing and how it wasn’t for commercial purposes but she said that was the rule. So on the spot, I thought, okay, that means I’ll have to create picture videos for Instagram.

Before we entered the palace, the first thing that the guide told me was that shoes were not allowed inside. So we took off our shoes on the sand before stepping onto the entrance of the palace. Of all the African traditional houses I have seen, this was the first one with a kind of porch if I could call it that. The guide explained that people would kneel to greet the king while he sat on the stool at the entrance. The person would greet by kneeling and clapping their hands.

On the roof of the palace were three sticks. On the roof of regular people’s houses, there would be only one stick in the middle but the Mwami’s house had two extra sticks in front to symbolize the horns of the Inyambo (cow).

Between the entrance of the palace, there was a pole the guide called, the pole of forgiveness. Anyone who touched it would be forgiven for their crimes. There was also a stool where the King would sit. The guide said I'm the King today hence me sitting on the stool lol. Afterward, we entered the palace. The first thing I noticed was the beautiful woven mats that covered the floor. The guide explained that the first part of the palace was a sitting room where the mwami entertained his male guests.

There was a wall with raffia, dried grass, and bamboo sticks. The guide pulled aside one of the blinds to show me that it served as a curtain to the sitting room of the King’s bedroom. In the sitting room in front of the bedroom, I was surprised to see a fireplace, then I remembered that it gets colder at certain times of the year in Rwanda, especially at night. After staring at the fireplace for a few seconds, I looked up to see the magnificent roofing. I really thought the woven roof held up by bamboo sticks was really beautiful. After taking a few pictures of the roof, my guide showed me the mwami’s bedroom.

The door of the bedroom was decorated with traditional spears and shields, along with some imgongo symbols. Right in front of the door was the bed with a cloth specially woven for the Mwami and queen called impuzu. There were also many agaseke (baskets) lined up along the sides of the bed. My guide explained that the Mwami and queen used them to store their clothes.

At the back of the hut was the queen’s private sitting room where she entertained her female guests and it also led to her own entrance to the bedroom.

Hope you enjoyed the mini tour! Check out more on the blog to learn more about Rwandese culture.



Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I am a writer and illustrator from Lagos, Nigeria.


In 2015, I started a company called IheartLagos with the aim of showcasing Lagos culture in a unique and fun way.


That journey took me down an exciting path, discovering and learning so much about Nigeria.

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