Azizi Life Experiences is a social enterprise established to give visitors an opportunity to connect and gain an insight into the day-to-day life of a rural Rwandan. This is done through active involvement in a wide range of economic activities and cultural practices.
Azizi Life offers 6-day packages. However, a visitor is free to ask for an itinerary that fits his specific interests and availability. Through Azizi Life Experiences, tourists take part in weaving, construction, brewing, cooking, dancing and exploration of Rwanda’s stunning landscapes.
Visitors are involved in household chores like cleaning and fetching water. They also milk cows, gather grass for livestock and engage in other agricultural activities while sharing meals and stories with members of their host families.
For a long time, rural women in Rwanda have been engaged in subsistence farming. Land is scarce in this densely populated country and the rapid increase in population presents further challenges in land management. For generations, African women, especially those living in rural areas have been struggling to execute viable income-generating projects. Lack of skills and access to capital are hindering improvement in the standards of living among rural women in different parts of the continent.
Through tourism, Azizi Life supports artisans in an effort to boost their income and transform their lives. Women across the country are weaving their way out of poverty.
Visitors who opt to spend a day with artisans are taught how to harvest materials, prepare natural fibers and create their own souvenirs.
In the construction department, participants fetch water and gather soil. With help from experienced builders, they produce mud bricks and lay foundations of houses. Then they raise walls. Finally, construction workers collect banana leaves out of which strong ropes are made. The ropes are used to lash wood and produce roofing materials.
Traditionally, banana wine is served during weddings and other functions. In this excursion, visitors participate in the process of converting a fruit into a drink. In the beginning, bananas and leaves are collected. Then a hole is dug and bananas are buried and left in the hole for four days. Guests do not have to wait for four days to complete the procedure. There are always previously buried bananas ready for extraction. Ripe bananas are dug out of the ground, peeled, mashed and strained before the final product is brewed.
A cooking day is kicked off by a visit to the field to harvest fresh ingredients for the meal. Food preparation involves washing, peeling, pounding and grinding components using traditional methods and tools. A visitor does the work under a watchful eye of the local instructor.
Good food and wine are complemented by music. Entertainment begins with a mini performance from a troupe of traditional dancers. Then visitors enjoy their own share of dancing in traditional outfits.
"As a seasoned traveler, I am always looking for ways to experience local cultures but this was truly the first time I was able to do so in a hands-on way." Says Ashley from the USA. "The entire day is led by charming hosts and facilitated by an equally friendly translator. It is heartwarming to know that my presence helped to empower these amazing women who in turn, inspired me to live a more fulfilling life. Through working with artisans, I learned to appreciate simple things in life. I recommend Azizi Life Experiences to any person traveling to Rwanda for an unmatched, memorable and life-changing experience." He added.
Julia from the UK is grateful to Azizi Life for giving her an opportunity to experience what she had always been looking for in a holiday. In rural Rwanda, she found friendly people who introduced her to a different lifestyle and answered all those questions she had always wanted to ask.
This experience is also useful to Rwandans who have never lived in rural areas and even those who have been detached from their rural roots for a while. It is a unique opportunity for them to connect and acquire valuable skills.
"I have been to 25 countries and this is the most I have ever learned about a different culture in one day." Said Mark from the USA. Mark recommends Azizi Life experiences for whoever wants to experience the real life of a rural Rwandan. Akeem, also from the USA, noted that women do so much with very little. Like many other Azizi visitors, he was inspired.
It is also encouraging to see societies embracing unity and reconciliation. It is evident that divisions along ethnic lines are history. Rwandans across the board are working together to achieve their shared goal and ensure that their children inherit a unified nation.
The author is an adventurer on a mission to discover what Rwanda has to offer. Follow his awe-inspiring journey on Twitter @ExposureRwanda."