When I was invited to visit Mashyiga Rocks, found in Kamonyi District, the only thing I was familiar with in Kamonyi was the highway. After years of traversing this road without a slight idea of what hides behind the scenes, it was about time I deviate from the tarmac and feed my curiosity.
For a long time, I have been bypassing attractions in the districts I usually overlook. Kamonyi is one of them. At some point during my recently launched campaign dubbed 30 Districts Expedition, I will explore Kamonyi extensively. When that time comes, I won’t be in a completely unfamiliar territory, thanks to Ikaze Rwanda Tours and partners.
On the day of the tour, I joined a group of young city dwellers eager to experience something different. We visited Mashyiga aboard Kigali City Tour’s sightseeing bus.
The organizers had a hard time making the youngsters sit down en route to our destination. As the bus zigzagged towards Kamonyi, its passengers were blasting music and struggling to control the urge to jump off their seats and dance. I can’t blame them. There is something about this double-decker bus that stirs excitement.
Covid times have been particularly hard for young people. Whilst spending most of the time battling boredom, social starvation has taken a toll on their lives. It is therefore befitting to give them opportunities to have some fun while adhering to the directives put in place to curb the spread of Covid- 19. It will be a while before the pre-Covid nightlife is revived. In the meantime, tour operators are offering alternative recreational activities while ensuring safety protocols are strictly observed.
We were not the only visitors climbing the rocks. The site attracts more than thrill-seekers. People from the surrounding communities and beyond frequent the site to meditate and connect with their Maker. I saw individuals and small groups praying in a mixture of Kinyarwanda, Swahili, English, French, Creole and Gibberish. "This is my pilgrimage site. The tranquility and peace of mind I feel here draw me closer to God." Said Nyirashimimana Emmeliene, a resident of Rukoma Sector, Kamonyi District.
While my fellow sightseers from Kigali were admiring the scenery and posing for photos, Emmeliene and the rest of the faithful contingent were deep in prayers. If I remember correctly, the flyer shared by the organizers of this trip described Mashyiga rocks as holy. Is this attraction a site of spiritual significance? I would have loved to hear from other believers but I thought it was inappropriate to interrupt their prayers.
Mashyiga is derived from a kinyarwanda word amashyiga — the stones set up as pillars that hold a cooking pot. If you are reading this from Detroit, our traditional cooker comprises three stones. Fire is made between the stones on which the pot is placed. The site we visited is called Mashyiga because of the rocks that stand together as a team to fulfill a common goal, just like the three stones holding a cooking pot in my grandmother’s kitchen.
Speaking of cooking, once upon a time, two wives of King Yuhi III Mazimpaka were burned alive on these rocks. The two queens, Kiranga and Cyihunde, were put to death after the jury found them guilty of conspiring with an unwelcome guest, King Nsoro III Nyabarega of Bugesera.
Mashyiga hill, found in present-day Karama Sector, is surrounded by other heritage sites including Igishubi cya Muganza, the natural forest of Urukaragata and Cubi hills. Other sites found in the area are Ikiryamo cy’Inzovu, Ibiti Bitanu and Ijuru rya Kamonyi. Seems like I need to deviate from the highway more often.
The author is visiting all 30 districts of Rwanda. His tour of Kamonyi is sponsored by Ikaze Rwanda Tours & Travel, The Click Creations and Exposure.