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Travelling in Kigali- home away from home

'The balmy weather at Kigali International Airport reminds me of the resort feel of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. I felt at home'

Masego Seemela Online journalist
Actor Anton Jeftha with Martell’s Nigerian brand ambassador Jeff Nweke affectionately known as Jeff Bankz at the Trace Awards.
Actor Anton Jeftha with Martell’s Nigerian brand ambassador Jeff Nweke affectionately known as Jeff Bankz at the Trace Awards.
Image: Supplied.

As the plane touches down in Kigali, Rwanda, my heart started beating faster, it dawns on  me – I’m 2,698km away from my home. 

I pause: “Hold up, Masego, You’re finally in a different country?” Perhaps those who know me would assume I’ve been a travel girlie all this time but that’s not the case – Rwanda is my first  international trip. Shocker right? At my big age! 

But, I’m not embarrassed, I’m honoured of the beautiful landlocked that lies in the south of the equator in East Central Africa, which boasts a breathtaking scenery of a thousand green hills is the first stamp on my passport. 

It’s just after 7am on a Saturday, the sun is out and its rays warmly touch my skin – the air is fresh. The balmy weather at Kigali International Airport reminds me of the resort feel of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. I felt at home. 

I then proceeded to the luggage pickup section of the airport. I waited over 40 minutes to get my suitcase… but fortunately, I wasn’t alone, I was with one of the Trace Awards assistants who kept me calm and reassured me that my luggage wasn’t lost but delayed. 

When I wheeled out of the airport, I meet a tall gorgeous lady, “She’ll be driving you to the hotel,” he said, my heart is overjoyed. She proceeded to educate me about the beautiful capital city. The first thing I noticed was how super clean it was, there was no litter on the roads and every road signage seemed new – this city was a perfect emulation of Cape Town but on steroids, that’s how clean and systematic it was. 

“Do you hike?”, she asks next. “No,” I respond. “I’m more of a shopper. Where’s the best place to shop around here?”

“Town is the best place”, she answers. “But we have beautiful plains and hiking trails”

I laughed and decided to stick to what I know.

DJ PH on the Trace Awards red carpet.
DJ PH on the Trace Awards red carpet.
Image: Supplied.

As we continued to drive to the Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Centre that my host and alcoholic brand Martell booked me into, I notice an influx of scooter drivers with passengers on. I later learn that they ate e-hailing drivers.

“We have arrived”, she informs me, driving through what seemed like the biggest scanning machine, but for cars.  Yep, a whole car got scanned!

“Rwanda takes its security measures very seriously especially when we have tourists”, she says.

I didn’t pay her much attention. I got to the hotel, there was another scanning machine. 

Finally, I got checked in. Walked to my hotel room and then went straight to the restaurant for breakfast. Being a picky eater, I just went for meat and vegetables.

I joined another group of media friends, we exchanged our travel stories and shortly after we were done eating, we had to get ready to visit the local flea market. 

Our drive downtown had interesting sights, from the posh side of Kigali to the dusty yet still so clean flea market. It looked like a hustler’s playground much like Small Street in Johannesburg. Every vendor there wanted to sell you something, eagerly wanting you to visit their shop so that they could show you their wonderful designs and custom bags. 

After a walk-through, I finally spotted the bag that I wanted, a colourful multi-coloured handmade bag. We shuttled back to the hotel to get ready for the inaugural Trace Awards. 

My outfit choice was a striking bold pink v-shaped feathered top and wide-legged pants.  I matched my look with a high pony and pink kitten heels – since I was scheduled to be on the red carpet for two hours, I needed to be comfortable.

Nigerian superstar Davido.
Nigerian superstar Davido.
Image: Supplied.

Upon our arrival at the BK Arena we are scanned once again. The red carpet was rolled out neatly, the VIP guests, artists, and local as well as international celebs were dressed to the nines. I was impressed. They were punctual and walked the red carpet swiftly. However, to my amazement, there wasn’t any media from Rwanda, only television presenters and photographers. 

As the celebs kept walking through, I spotted our faves, Anton Jeftha and DJ PH, also guests of Martell.

My biggest highlight on the red carpet was interviewing Nigerian superstar Davido.

The main show was four hours long. The production was top-class, but I was tired. Around midnight, I went to my room to rest ahead of the activities scheduled for Sunday. A group of us went quad-biking, zip-lining and archery. I must add, I hit a bull’s eye at my fourth attempt. 

After all the fun and games, we dined over the yummiest and freshest chicken I’ve had in years.

As the shuttle transported us back to the airport, the sunset on the beautiful plains of Kigali, I looked back in awe at the beauty of this very clean city.

*Seemela was a guest of the Martell and Trace Awards. 

Actor and model Anton Jeftha at the Trace Awards
Actor and model Anton Jeftha at the Trace Awards
Image: Supplied.

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