During a trip to Rwanda, though there are many activities to do and beautiful sights to see, shopping should be at the top of any traveler’s list. Home to many souvenirs unique to the region and of very high quality, Rwanda has a lot to offer the avid shopper. Check out our guide to the unique souvenirs you should pick up on your next trip.
Rwandan coffee and tea is famous for its delicate and pleasantly fruity taste. Though it can be found globally (and likely at your local Starbucks), support Rwandan farmers and the coffee industry by buying in the country itself! Any major grocery store will have good coffee and tea options, but for the best of the best, check out Question Coffee in the Gishushu neighborhood of Kigali. Their coffee beans are out of this world.
Though Rwanda is not traditionally a place renowned for jewelry craftsmanship, that is quickly changing. Jewelry design is on the rise, as traditional and modern styles have been merged into beautiful new designs. Check out the work of fashion designer Teta Isibo and her brand Inzuki for bright, bold, and colorful jewelry options. Visit Abraham Konga’s store in the Kimihurura neighborhood of Kigali, which sells recycled and handmade brass necklaces, rings, earrings, and bracelets. Also look up Gunura, a small business that produces high quality and handmade jewelry inspired by Kitenge fabric – pieces from Gunura can be purchased at Inzora Rooftop Cafe.
These unique and geometric art pieces and wall hangings are made using, quite literally, cow dung. The dung is mixed with other organic materials to produce bright colors, resulting in truly beautiful designs. This art form is traditional and unique to Rwanda. Pick up Imigongo at Kimironko Market, or any other artist cooperatives around the city like the Caplaki Craft Village in the Kiyovu neighborhood.
Rwanda is famous for its colorful and intricate basket selections. These baskets are woven from natural fibers and grass, and can take several days to complete. Hundreds of cooperatives around the country produce the famous Agaseke basket and peace baskets, and they can be found at any market or craft cooperative.
Often spotted hanging in markets across the country and in the homes of many Rwandans, Calabash gourds are undoubtedly unique. Hollowed and dried out, these gourds were traditionally used to store dry beans and similar products, but are now just enjoyed as home decor. Find them at major markets in Kigali and around the country.
Though not unique to Rwanda, Kitenge fabric is ubiquitous in East Africa. All markets in Rwanda have rows and rows of Kitenge options, with the fabric originating from all over the continent – including countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, and Senegal. These beautiful, colorful, and patterned fabrics can be transformed into unique clothing, bed spreads, bags, aprons, and more – just buy a piece of fabric at the market, and ask the resident seamstress to design whatever you may want. For lovely pre-made Kitenge items (like wallets and pouches), and an assortment of lovely Rwandan souvenirs all in one place, check out the Go Kigali boutique at the Marriott Hotel.
Pottery in Rwanda is traditionally handcrafted by the small Batwa population. The pottery pieces – including plates, bowls, mugs, and more – come in classic blue and grey hues, and are both sturdy and stunning. If you have time to venture outside of Kigali, head to Gatagara Cooperative (located less than two hours out of the city) for shopping and pottery classes. If you are short on time, visit the Kigali Pottery Collections in the city or Inzora Rooftop Cafe for all your ceramic needs.
Souvenir collection at Inzora Rooftop Cafe | Courtesy of Leah Feiger
Rwanda’s fashion scene is on the rise. Designers around Kigali are creating some of the region’s most unique clothing and accessories for very reasonable prices. Check out House of Tayo, Sonia Mugabo, and Haute Baso for beautiful dresses, spiffy bowties, statement jackets, and more.