Rwanda’s Hidden Historical Landmark: Imbabazi, a Center For Hope

We are opening the last week of our “Regional Attractions” theme with Rwanda’s hidden jewel, the home of the famous Roz Carr presently known as Imbabazi — a Center For Hope.

This is a historical landmark not to miss when you travel between the Virunga volcanoes and Lake Kivu, especially if you’re cycling or hiking. It’s located a bit off the tarmac road (20 minutes of driving on a rough road) but exactly on the route that bikers and trekkers use. Because Imbabazi isn’t right on the main Rubavu highway and is not active on social media, very few Rwandans — let alone visitors — know about its charms.

Imbabazi offers a peek into Rwanda’s colonial and post-colonial past but most importantly, this is an incredibly pretty site. On the outside, it is like one stepped into a bit of rural England with extensive gardens and an old house positively covered in greenery. Inside, it is not unlike a living museum.

Imbabazi is one of the highlights of the Gorilla Highlands Mega Trek in December 2021, and an overnight on our Thriving Countryside hiking route.

It used to belong to Rosamond Halsey, an American lady who was born in New Jersey, but eventually spent 57 of her 94 years in Rwanda. In 1942 she married Kenneth Carr, a British hunter of exotic animals and producer of video documentaries, who took her to Africa. In 1955 they divorced and she decided to stay on, living at the plantation they bought a couple of kilometres away from the Congolese border. There, the exceptionally fertile volcanic soils feed the whole of Rwanda with Irish potatoes, maize and carrots, but she devoted a number of decades to another industry.

She grew flowers that make pyrethrum, a natural insecticide, until the 1980s when it stopped being economical. After the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis, she transformed her compound into an orphanage that operated until 2012. That was the year when the government of Rwanda decided that it was best for all the orphans in the country to return to their homes and reunite with relatives.

Roz didn’t live to see it, as she passed away in 2006. Seven years earlier she had published Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda, an autobiography. Roz and her house also feature in Gorillas in the Mist, as Roz was a lifelong friend of Dian Fossey.

This extremely good-hearted person left behind a welcoming home with a chef who has been cooking there since 1999. He can serve you European or African cuisine, on beautiful plates and cutlery right from your (great)grandmother’s times. It is recommended you enjoy a meal from Imbabazi, but you can as well just stop to see the exhibition in a modern building behind Roz’s home.

To fully immerse yourself in the times of Roz Carr and Dian Fossey, you can even camp for the night in their garden — or sleep in one of the rooms! There is a fireplace, an extensive VHS video library and an inviting collection of old books.

IMBABAZI PRICE LIST

USD 20 lunch with house tour
USD 20 tour of the house and the museum only
USD 70 camping in your tent (negotiable for groups of 5 or more people)
USD 500 usage of all rooms in the main house
USD 100 usage of rooms in the small house

For bookings call/WhatsApp David on +250 788 743 595.

photos by Miha Logar

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