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Burundi is a small country in East Africa, although it has some cultural and geographical ties with Central Africa. It is surrounded by Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
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The earliest known people to live in Burundi were the Twa, a short "pygmy" people who remain as a minority group there. The people currently known as Hutu and Tutsi moved into the region several hundred years ago, and dominated it. Like much of Africa, Burundi then went through a period of European colonial rule. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Germany and Belgium occupied the region, and Burundi and Rwanda together became a European colony known as Ruanda-Urundi.
This ended with its independence from Belgium in 1962. In the decades since then, Burundi has known civil wars between the Hutu and Tutsi populations (much like the better-known genocide in Rwanda to the north), and a series of political assassinations. Peace and the (re)establishment of civil democracy took place in 2005 with a cease-fire and the election of former Hutu rebel Pierre Nkurunziza as president.
Burundi in general has a tropical highland climate, with a considerable daily temperature range in many areas. Temperature also varies considerably from one region to another, chiefly as a result of differences in altitude. The central plateau enjoys pleasantly cool weather, with an average temperature of 20°C. The area around Lake Tanganyika is warmer, averaging 23°C; the highest mountain areas are cooler, averaging 16°C. Bujumbura’s average annual temperature is 23°C. Rain is irregular, falling most heavily in the north-west. Dry seasons vary in length, and there are sometimes long periods of drought. However, four seasons can be distinguished: the long dry season (June–August), the short wet season (September–November), the short dry season (December–January), and the long wet season (February–May). Most of Burundi receives between 1,300 and 1,600 mm of rainfall a year. The Ruzizi Plain and the north-east receive between 750 and 1,000 mm.
For the international traveller, Burundi offers some culinary surprises — fresh fish from Lake Tanganyika and produce from the nation's rich volcanic soil are particularly notable. There is a sizeable South Asian community, offering curried dishes alongside the more traditional rice and beans, and French-inspired European offerings. For lighter meals, samosas and skewered meats are common, and bananas and fresh fruit are often served as a sweet snack.
The national dish is beef brochettes (kebabs) and grilled plantains (cooking bananas) available almost everywhere.
Other signature dishes are:
- Mealie-Meal Porridge
- Sangala fish garnished with onions and stewed beef
Soft drinks and beer are readily available. As in Rwanda and DRC, big 72cl Primus bottles are available for between USD1-2 as well as Amstel, which is about USD2. Both are locally produced and of good quality.
Burundi is endowed with very flourishing craftsmanship, with unique delicate and attractive shapes.
Burundi has developed plastic arts only very recently. The visitor will be able to find Gitega and Bujumbura talented artist able to carve sceneries on wooden boards and paint landscapes with beautifully shaded bluish backgrounds.
The currency is the franc ((ISO 4217 code: BIF). In August 2013
- USD1 = BIF1,515
- €1 = BIF2,005
- GBP1 = BIF2,348
Banknotes in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 francs circulate
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Burundi on Wikivoyage.
Cities in Burundi
Points of Interest in Burundi
Bujumbura is in the western part of the country. Moving towards the east, travellers will be able to visit Gitega; it’s a large market held right in the middle of the town, and its Museum of Traditions (ancient utensils, pictures, commented visit). Travellers will have to make advance bookings to be able to watch an extraordinary and fascinating show unique in the world: “The Drummers of Giheta” playing in their traditional environment. Then you will be making head away towards Rutana to see the admirable panorama of the Karea Falls and the Nykazu Break, called the “Break of the Germans”, which is an exceptional lookout that oversees the Kumoso plain. You will be ending your tour by the visit of Gihofi, a booming town with its new sugar refinery in the heart of the sugar cane plantations country.
Towards the South-eastern part of the country, don’t miss by any means the visit of the Nile Sources near Rutovu. Don’t forget to take your swimming gear with you; otherwise, you may miss the benefit of the hot springs in charming and subtle surroundings. You will also be able to see on your way the last traditional enclosed villas (round habitations surrounded by wooden fences strip in turn surrounded by grazing meadows and ploughed fields).
Further south, you will be able to cross a line of villages succeeding one after the other and wedged between the lake and abrupt mountains. Fortunately, you will be able to stop and have a rest, or go for nautical sports and have a meal in restaurants or simply stop for a drink, on nicely arranged fine sand beaches. Still further south lays the Nyanza Lake. Why not to take a boat and go to Tanzania on the other side of the lake and visit Gombe Natural Park?
Towards the north just before reaching Bugarama, there is an important market for high quality fresh foodstuffs. You can walk across the primeval forest of Kibira the access of which is still very difficult but which is in a process of beaconing. Carry on towards Kayanza and Ngozi, two big agricultural production and trade villages. At Kirundo, near the border with Rwanda, you will discover the small lakes of the North, the peacefulness and serenity of their jagged borders. Take a boat and drift on the Rwihinda Lake to admire numerous birds’ species entirely free on the lake (crested cranes, wild ducks, fishing eagles, etc.).
On the road from Muyinga to Cankuzo, the visit of the Natural park of the Ruvuvu Rivers is a must now that is endowed with accommodation infrastructure; there you’ll be able to admire Burundi protected remnant buffaloes and dorcas (gazelles). The surrounding primeval forest will no doubt leave you with an unforgettable souvenir.
Landmarks and Monuments
In Bujumbura, climb to the “Belvedere” on the top of the hill, a dominating point of the town. You’ll be able to visit the mausoleum of Prince Louis Rwagasore, founder of the Uprona party and hero of the independence of Burundi.
Ten kilometres south of Bujumbura at Mugere is the Livingstone-Stanley Monument, a stone marking a spot where the two famous explorers David Livingstone and H. M. Stanley spent two nights on 25-27 Nov 1871 as guests of Chief Mukamba during their joint exploration of the northern end of Lake Tanganyika, following their first meeting at Ujiji, Tanzania 15 days previously.
114 km away from Bujumbura, on the Bujumbura-Ijenda-Matana road lays Rutovu, a town where a pyramid was erected at the southern most source of the Nile, at an altitude of 2,000 m.
It is impossible to make a list of all the places worth making a stop, as Burundi is a real Garden of Eden defying weather and exercising on people an irresistible attraction. When arriving in Bujumbura, for all your circuits, itineraries and tours go to the National Office of Tourism where a great choice can be made available to you. You will be able to see everything: the Nyakazu Break to the east, the Karera Falls, the Tanganyika Lake panoramas at Vyanda and Kabonambo, the tea plantations of Teza or Rwegura. The reservoir built at this place is surrounded by beautiful sceneries. In a nutshell, a synthesis of curiosities worth devoting part of your holidays allowance.
There are two museums in Bujumbura and Gitega.
The second largest town in the country, Gitega, has the National Museum founded in 1955 where there is an exhibition of a magnificent ethnographic collection of objects owned by the Crown and that could be seen at the Court in the first part of the 20th century, together with an archaeological collection and historical photographs.
You will enjoy the old photographs of our kings, princes and queens of the 19th century, surrounded by lot of objects owned by men and women of those days; jewellery, baskets from all regions, earthenware for many uses, calabashes to keep water or for churning, war and hunting spears, ploughing instruments, iron-working and sculpting instruments.
In Bujumbura, the Musée Vivant near the lake presents a great part of the treasures in a wider place surrounded by magnificent gardens. Old and modern crafts are presented in beautiful small cabins. However, the masterpiece of this museum is the reconstruction in real dimensions of a royal habitation. The entire surrounding courtyard can be visited and the main hut topped by an interlaced dome covered by a think thatched roof.
The Musée Vivant also keeps up a bird house, where few local species can be seen and a Herpetological Centre, where there are displays of snakes and many species of reptiles. This living museum was regarded as one of the most renowned in Africa since its collection was opened to the public in 1988.
Not all visitors will enjoy it, but it is possible to feed the crocodiles, leopard and some of the snakes in the Musée Vivant. For BIF2,000 you can buy a (live) guinea pig and select the lucky diner.
Watch out for Tina the chimpanzee when visiting the Musée Vivant; she frequently escapes from her cage and can follow visitors around, this can be misconstrued as chasing. Her handlers assure me she is not dangerous and just wants to play.
Prince Louis Rwagasore Stadium - Bujumbura
Ruvubu National Park - Kayongozi
Kibira National Park - Bujumbura