The stench hits you ten metres after Sky Hotel, coming from the poor sewage system of a nearby school; and this might turn you off in the first place.
But as you proceed through Gitega and the infamous Biryogo, you will get the first welcome to Nyamirambo, or Nyamijos as is the common speak around here.
But before that, stand warned that if you are commuting by public means and board minibuses that use that route, the catchphrase is ‘never complain about the loud music in the taxi.’
Once you do this, you will be automatically asked to get out and wait for one that has no music, and I am afraid you will not get any because it is an unwritten commandment if you want to explore the beauty of this oldest and arguably the most happening suburb of Kigali, you have to brave the ear-shattering music from these taxis that have even been given names like Air Force 1, Jay-zee, Dr Dre, Fifty Cent and the like.
Upon entering Biryogo, don’t be put off by the ramshackled houses which are early 20th century because these houses are home to almost all the goodies you can find in this one hundred year-old Kigali City.
It is from these clumsy houses that all the city chart-hitting songs are recorded and you will not miss hordes of youths clad in the infamous ‘bling bling’ style with massive chains and ill-fitting attire that you will mistake with Hollywood stars like Fifty Cent and the like.
All these youths are roaming around studios with their compositions, with a dream of making it big one day in the music world.
It is also in Biryogo that you will find all up to-date attire in shops that interestingly you will seldom find open during the day---perhaps City mayor Dr Aisa Kirabo and the commerce minister would have considered launching the ‘24-hour business street’ in this area which gets hot at night instead of taking it to Quartier Commerciale!
Biryogo is also known to be an area predominantly inhabited by the core Muslims in the city if not all over the country, because while walking on the rundown narrow streets of this suburb, you wont miss the words ‘Wallahi’ (swearing in Arabic) echoed at every corner you will turn.
The most engaging scenes in Biryogo are the sheikhs who are lined up in front of the houses, clad in flaring white tunics, sipping at tiny cups of coffee and small kettles placed in front of them; holding sparkling beads known among Koran believers as ‘Tasbhir.’
At first glance, you will think that the white bearded sheikhs are waiting for the call to go to the mosque; but when you stay around for a bit longer and keep an eye on them, you will see them with their eyes glued on the main Kigali-Nyamirambo road, carefully watching others - actually noting the number of times a taxi passes on the road.
These old men who are all referred to as sheikhs, are doing nothing other than counting the number of times their taxis pass by.
The essence in this is that it is these old men that own almost all the disco-on-wheels, loud music-playing minibuses that commute this road, and drivers are ordered not to commute to any other route lest the old men lose count on the turns their taxis make, and subsequently fail to hold them accountable by the end of the day.
The other side of Nyamirambo
When you creep through Biryogo, it will start with a big Adventist church just next to the road and here you will be surprised to find the environment completely different.
In Upper Nyamirambo, you will find nicely built and furnished bungalows and bars that operate twenty-four hours a day.
Among the prominent bars is the famous Vata Vata.
This bar, whose patrons who are mostly people with a background from the Democratic Republic of Congo, is known for its flexibility when it gets to the cost of beers and other assorted drinks.
To the convenience of their regular patrons, they gave names to days that they call special and on all these days, beverages have different price tags.
It starts on Monday which has been tagged by this bar as ‘lundi mechant’ loosely translated as fateful Monday.
On this day, patrons are assumed to have spent all their fortune over the weekend and prices are low, even lower than those prescribed by the national brewer Bralirwa!
Other special days are Wednesday and Thursday which have been dubbed semaine douceur’ or slow week in English, and here, prices have been slightly increased because they assume people have started amassing some money.
The climax is the weekend and here, prices will skyrocket to almost double the previous days.
There are other bars like the Capri, which, I must advise you if you have hopes of visiting, you have to be patient; when you order a beer, do not be quick to grasp the beer because you may cost someone his or her job.
There are some ‘rituals’ that are supposed to be performed before it is served to you.
First, the waiter will expertly propel the bottle over you before opening it with arms shot upwards together with the glass; the waiter will then lower arms as he pours the beer until they all reach the table when the glass is full and … votre soif! (to your thirst)…
Another warning to anyone who may feel attracted to Capri, you will get someone fired if you pour the beer from the bottle to your glass…that is the duty of the waiter who will be patiently standing next to your table during your entire stay.
The ‘Upper’ Nyamirambo is not only famed for the bars, there is also a place called Umumena w’abeza! Meaning Umumena, the home of beauty, which is said to have the most beautiful girls that Kigali produces and you will not miss the city’s most luxurious wheels branching off the murrum road that branches off St Andrew’s College in search of these gracefull beauties of the night!
The climax of Nyamirambo night life will be found at Ryanyuma (the Turning Point), where you will find an assortment of night hang-outs including those that will have live band karaoke shows. Some of the greatest hits in the seventies and early eighties commonly known as Karahanyuze will be found in these places, where you will also find fellow oldies shaking their creaking bones.
Eh! Before coming back don’t forget to pass by the Green Corner to taste Kigali’s greatest chicken roast.
Welcome to Nyamijos!