Monday, May 3, 2010

Off the beaten track: the Nyanza market

If you’re traveling in Rwanda and want a unique local experience, you might consider visiting Nyanza at about noon on a peak market day. Peace Corps Volunteers and our fabulous trainers come from all over the country, and everyone agrees that the best and cheapest second-hand clothes shopping is found in Nyanza. On Monday and Thursday, the back section of the market is crowded with women sorting through clothes heaped on tables or piled on tarps on the ground.

Brand names abound: Gap, H+M, American Eagle, Zara’s, J Crew, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, etc. Just be sure to inspect for stains, holes, and missing buttons. Counter intuitively, silk and other blouses are cheapest, as low as $.09 (RWF 50), while T-shirts and tank tops (Old Navy and Target abound) might cost you as much as $.70 (RWF 400). On the male side, Armani and other designers can be found for $.90 (RWF 500). In addition to great clothes, you are sure to find some laughs at relics of errant fashions past, be they neon or ruffled.

Nyanza is also home to the former King’s residence and the Rwesero Arts Museum, both worth a visit.

The district capital, the town of Nyanza lies just off the main Kigali-Butare (Huye) road, with buses directly from Kigali (2 hours, RWF 1400) and Butare (40 minutes, RWF 500). The Volcano bus station is across from the market in a courtyard with the Nyanza Sun buffet, a solid post-shopping lunch option (RWF1000). If you’re feeling like Western food, head just uphill from the Kobil station to the Hotel Heritage ($2.50-$5; croque madame and ham sandwich recommended but avoid the “Pizza”).

And if you feel like making a detour on the way to Nyanza, be sure to check out Gatagara Pottery.

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