I arrived in Kigali, Rwanda on May 12th 2017 for an incredible summer job that would only last 92 days. When I first got here, culture shock hit me and missing my loved ones became painful, both physically and emotionally. I had started to countdown the days until I could return to my home in Canada.

That night on May 12th 2017, I clearly did not know that I was stepping foot onto one of the greatest countries in the world today. 92 days has now become an honor and a privilege.

Rwanda is one of the greatest countries in the world and I am happy to be the one to tell you.

I have never stepped foot onto a more clean, more safe environment in my 20 years of living. Rwanda’s development in comparison to several African countries, is breathtaking. The roads are wide, smooth, well kept, lined with beautiful hedges, and stretch for hours outside the capital city of Kigali. Every car ride, I am able to see how wonderfully put together the city is. While there is lots of construction happening, you can tell that they are progressing and working towards better. You can feel the hope in the air as you walk from place to place.

Now, many of you probably have heard about Rwanda’s nickname. It is not known the “Land of a Thousand Hills” for a random reason; you will feel the burn in your thighs if you have to walk up any of those hills. There are houses that fill every space!

Kigali is full of tall sparkly buildings and so many projects all resting on Rwanda’s many hills. In Kigali, I have noticed that there are amazing restaurants that serve amazing food (can’t forget the ones with rooftop pools), and bougie coffee shops with delicious Rwandan coffee.

Here is a photo of one of the bougie coffee shops I got to hang at with some friends (Shokola). Best Vanilla Latte EVER!

Right next to this cool coffee shop is a beautiful glass and steel public library that you’d expect to see in Berlin. Most noticeably, everything is so clean! Kigali is considerably cleaner than most European or American cities that I have traveled to.

In almost every one of Kigali’s restaurants or coffee shops, there is a gorgeous view of the city. There is no such thing as “patio season” in Rwanda because there are available patios all year long– lucky humans!

Then there’s the most perverse acts of humanity– the genocide that happened over a decade ago. In just 100 days, over one million people were killed. I wrote a paper about the genocide in my international relations class, but to visit the memorial is completely different. You step into a solemn space where Rwandans come to grieve and remember.

I will not go into detail about the events that took place over the 100 days, but I want to shed light upon something very important:

THIS IS THE SAME COUNTRY, 22 YEARS LATER. THESE ARE THE SAME PEOPLE.

They didn’t somehow incarcerate or exile every one of the thousands and thousands of people who contributed to the genocide. There haven’t been enough years for the offending generation to have passed away. They still live together — victims and perpetrators — in the same country; and frequently, from what I’ve heard, still as neighbors.

There wasn’t some grand reconciliation and reconstruction plan by the international community to help brutalized Rwanda back onto its feet. What they’ve achieved is a legitimately awe-inspiring accomplishment of healing and growth.

My best friend gave me her perspective on the 1994 genocide and said that Rwanda’s current situation is “no longer about retribution it’s about rehabilitation clearly demonstrating the beauty of rehabilitation”. “It shows how humanity can come together and grow in the absence of punishment and in the midst of acceptance and truth”. – Ikram Handulle.

Rwanda lost a million people during the time of devastating hatred, and 22 years later, they are the jewel of sub-Saharan Africa.

I’ve never witnessed something so profound at such a large scale. It is not a single extraordinary person, but an entire society. Rwandan people have triumphed, not only through their political and economic successes, but by creating a cohesive society that was not as likely to grow and become something great.

Like a tree full of beautiful flowers,  Rwanda is growing into a beautiful safe haven for both citizens and visitors.

If you ever have the chance of stepping foot into Africa, Rwanda is a must visit place. Do yourself the favor and visit one of the most puzzling, remarkable human accomplishments in the world.

If Rwanda did not inspire you before, I hope it does now.

Lots of hugs,

Lila Ibrahim