Whenever the name Butare is mentioned, I think everyone’s mind conjures the National University of Rwanda (NUR). And indeed, there is no Butare without the National University of Rwanda. The NUR was the first University in Rwanda and it is still the biggest, with a whopping population of over 10,000 students and staff.
These numbers have been the factor behind the rise of this town since 1962 when the University was inaugurated. The shops, restaurants, hotels, and most especially the bars and Night Clubs are always in recess whenever University breaks off.
Imagine going to a joint and the only person you find is the bar attendant and his stools, benches, chairs and a sombre mood? That is complete boredom that even the Amazon forest wouldn’t entertain.
Anyway, students here party. They make the night life so good, that if you are visiting, you will cherish the place and want to stay or come back for another weekend. It’s also very important to note, at the back of your mind, that night clubs and bars here happen only on weekends.
Maybe the students try to catch up with their books during the weekdays. A good journey to this town in the south of Rwanda takes slightly over two hours, minus the unexpected happenings. There are many buses travelling along this way every 30 minutes, namely; Volcano, Horizon, and Sotra Tours.
Atraco Express is another major transporter though the ones named above clearly outmatch them. When you arrive in the town, you will find a variety of Hotels, Motels and lodges to settle in, take a quick nap and prepare for the night ahead.
The prices for the rooms range from Rwf 5,000 to 20,000, depending on your taste and the particular hotel, motel or lodge.
By 9:00p.m, you should be ready and in the fold of things. It’s even better when you have friends around to guide you. However there are times when experiencing something without anyone’s guidance ends up more adventurous and for that matter good.
The good thing about a guide is that he will show you around the important and relevant places. And the babes here, they are the true meaning of the word belles. Mostly from the NUR, some are from neighbouring Burundi.
Now, the relevant and important places in Butare are mainly the Night clubs and a few bars. Melo Twist is by far the most happening place and the most frequented night spot. It is located in Hotel Faucon, just at the entrance of Butare town.
The other is Safari Club, somewhere inside the trade centre. If you’ve seen the way shops in Kigali’s “Mateos” are arranged, then fix this club somewhere around there. Hope you get the picture. Actually, it was first called “Akamodoka” (a tiny car).
This is because the Disc Jockey a.k.a DJ sat high up in Volkswagen that was redesigned to handle the DJ’s machines. Then, with its increasing popularity and lack of competition or alternatives, the ever creative NUR students appropriately called it “Sauna” because of the heat and lack of air conditioning resulting from the huge crowds.
Currently it looks like a fallen king; all that is left is its history. But the music is still great and might be great to just relax in. It’s always advisable to ‘rock’ a night club, after visiting one or two bars. For the case of visitors, you can visit as many as you can. Just have the feeling that the night is still young!
In any case, Butare is far smaller than Kigali. I can’t imagine any borough in Kigali smaller than it. Visiting all the relevant bars in Butare will take you a few hundred francs worth of transport fares. Some of them are just a stone’s throw away from the other.
In fact, the major spots; Faucon, Aux delices, Amafu ya Huye and Ibis have less than 100 meters between them. The rest of the bars Gichumba’s, Hotel Credo and Motel Gracia, are also not so far from each other.
Sometimes a long hard night requires some stuffing in the tummy, and Butare can’t disappoint here. Every joint at least has something to offer, be it snacks and buffets.
Hotels Ibis and Faucon will provide nothing other than the best a restaurant could offer. They are large enough to fulfil your every need. You should however expect nothing from them past 11p.m.
The best spots for food in the wee hours of the morning are Aux Delices and Gichumba’s. Aux Delices is open every hour of the night, morning and day. The other good point about this place is that it is directly opposite the club-Melo-Twist.
All this mentioned, don’t you ever make a mistake of visiting Butare and miss out on the pork. This town has the most delicious and softest pork I have ever tasted. Famous joints for this treat are Gichumba’s and Motel Gracia.
Enough on the food, now that we know where to go and see the night off, it’s high time we hit the club. Unlike Kigali where bars rock until morning, this place by morning every night person has proceeded to the two clubs I mentioned earlier (Melo-twist and Safari Clubs).
However some bars like Aux Delices and off course the Hotels are open to revellers. Entrance to the clubs ranges between Rwf 1,000 and 2,000. Being a University town, students pay less than the rest after showing their school cards.
This is common at Melo-Twist. Safari club doesn’t give such privileges to the students, and indeed Melo- Twist has become the favourite spot for the University guys.
Drinks in the Butare’s clubs are slightly cheaper than those in Kigali’s night clubs. Shots of liquor and spirits range from Rwf 1500 to 2000.
Soda goes for Rwf 500 francs while the popular Miitzing (small sized bottle) costs between Rwf 600 and 1000. That should be pocket friendly for most!
There were days when Kigali joints were offering Happy Hours for customers to fully quench their thirst but that’s unheard of today. Butare still does its Happy Hour sessions, and they are indeed a catch.
Hotel Credo’s Saturday Happy Hour is most looked forward to though the University canteen has one and new entrant Hotel Barthos.
Revellers, mainly students and town residents, flock Hotel Credo at 5p.m guzzle the weekend away. Music is played throughout the night as the revellers slowly gather around the hotel’s swimming pool.
By 7:30p.m, it’s party time and everyone is really having a blast. Some people try their antics in the pool most probably to cool off the amounts off “swallow” they’ve had!
By 8:45p.m, service is strained because revellers want to get their last bottle before the Happy Hour gates close at 9 pm. Despite the now increasing prices, the place remains in a party mood until around 10 pm.
Later groups are seen leaving the hotel (Credo) and the destination is always the Club. Some of them however prefer ending the weekend here and proceeding to their humble homes because they have to go to Church or have other engagements the next day.
Those who invade the clubs usually shake their bones until the wee hours since there is no particular time for clubs to shut down. It’s very hard to get enough of the fun because everyone seems to be having a blast of a life time.
The music just like the ambience is very urban. DJ Karim and Fabrice are the main DJs in Butare, though Melo-Twist owner Melomane is another force to be reckoned with when it comes to music and entertainment in this town.
You cannot have such life without ample security, and all the clubs and bars that operate late into the night employ guards from reputable security firms to ensure the peace is not ruffled.
Soccer! Butare Town is not exempted from this madness. In fact there are enough sports bars to house the ever increasing number of football fans and fanatics.
The University club is the main spot to watch all your Premiership and Champion League Games. Others are Hotel Faucon and Gichumba’s.
Most of the students prefer the University’s Grand Auditorium as it is next to their rooms and free of charge. All this said, Butare town has also proved to be an attraction for Rwandese Musicians and other entertainers.
Last year, the University hall was fully booked by entertainers. Foreign musicians like Professor Jay of Tanzania, Kidumu, the Goodlyfe crew of the Radio and Weazel fame have done their thing there.
For all the fun there is, stand warned, better come check this place out on a weekend for maximum fun. Any other day, for the party animal, might make you want to stay out of this beautiful place called Butare.