Kimironko Market Adventure
I’ve been in Kigali for a week, I haven’t done much exploring since I dove right into a busy work week when I arrived. On my first Saturday in Kigali two of my colleagues offered to take me to Kimironko market – the largest market in Kigali! Joss, my coworker from Burundi recommended we walk the 4.5km to the market so we can stop along the places of interest and help familiarize myself with the city. So we set off for our epic trip the market, Joss, myself and Sheila (other coworker from Spain).
First of all, I can only imagine what we looked like walking down the street – it’s almost a start of a joke – “a Spaniard, a Burundian and Indian walked down a street in Kigali”. If you have a good idea for a joke, please share with me!
The weather in Rwanda can be described only as perfect, it doesn’t matter what time of the year it is the temperature range is between 75°F – 85°F (23°C - 29°C). We walked passed hospitals, an entire street dedicated to home improvements, the Jehovah Witness compound, consignment stores, restaurants, and the national stadium. The stadium was undergoing preparations for the national marathon the next day.
The entrance to the market is small but you walk thru the gates and you have now walked into shopping paradise. The first thing I noticed this isn’t a market for tourists, it’s a local market. We were one of two groups of foreigners at the market. We got some curious looks especially when I pulled out my camera. You can hire a guy to carry your shopping bags, we didn’t hire one but I will the next time I’m at the market. According to locals, a good bag carrier knows the market inside out, he will help you negotiate prices, he knows what’s good and when it’s good. He’s on a commission from the vendors but he knows that if he takes you to crap vendors you won’t hire him again. Reputation and integrity is part of the Rwandan culture.
The central covered area is fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, dried beans, dried fish and rock salt. We started in the rows and rows of fresh fruit and vegetables – everything looked and smelled delicious! Joss guided us a recommended vendor named Erine. We spent a lot of time with Erine, her bubbly and helpful personality was contagious! She helped us pick out the best avocados, passion fruit, onions, lemons, and tamarillos. The vendors all use prehistoric scales, I doubt if they are accurate but all produce is fresh, organic and cheap so I won’t argue for a few kg weight difference.
From my perspective Erine and I had a wonderful conversation, she was very engaging. We even swapped phone numbers so I could find her next time I go to Kimironko. Sheila pointed out that my conversation wasn’t as engaging as I imagined, Erine only knew a few words of English.
After the food section of the market we stumbled upon the housewares, cleaning supplies and small tools. This market is the Fred Meyers/Walmart/Target of open markets – it’s your one stop shopping center! Our journey then took us to rows and rows of sewing machines, you pick out your fabric and they will measure you right there and make you a blouse, skirt, shirt, trousers, anything your heart desires. Further along you will find shoes, kitchen equipment, clothes, carvings and touristy knickknacks. There are a bunch of other stalls surrounding the main market including refrigerated fish, chicken and meat stalls. There’s even a radio station for the market playing mostly gospel music and making announcements to stall holders and shoppers in Kinyarwanda (local language).
I look forward to doing my weekly grocery shopping at Kimironko. Either I go myself or the house manager goes for me! A bit spoiled in Kigali.