Experiencing Local Life at the Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village in Rwanda

After trekking in the rainforest to spend time with the gorillas, we then went to visit the Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village where we spent time learning all about the local life in the Rwanda countryside. It was a very interactive experience as we were given the opportunity to play drums, grind sorghum for banana beer, and test our archery skills. As we walked among the huts, our local guide explained to us all about daily lives of the people that have lived in this part of the country for hundreds of years.

Medicine Man
Drums Upon Our Arrival
Learning the Cultural History
Dramatic Dancing

From the moment that we entered the village, we were warmly greeted by the music of drums and the local villagers dancing in their authentic ceremony garments. The men wear dramatic blonde wigs, which they flip dramatically around as they dance making for quite the impression. We also had the opportunity to visit the king’s hut with its large bed and learned of the local traditions and rituals. Whether it was making banana beer, creating bee hives, or learning about the role of the medicine man, each hut that we visited was fascinating.

Sorghum to Grind
King’s Hut
Quite the Performance
Cultural Village

As with many villages that provide these types of cultural experiences, there is also the opportunity to buy handmade goods created by the villagers. The money goes towards the community, which is important as it encourages the local communities to embrace tourism and keeps them from poaching wildlife from the surrounding national park. Prior to tourists coming to Volcanoes National Park to trek to the gorillas, many of the villagers would trap gorillas to sell their hands as well as trap the mountain elephants and other animals to sell to people outside of the country. Rwanda has made great strides in reducing the number of poaching incidents and ensuring that the local people make enough money without needing to resort to trapping animals.

Bee Hive
Making Fire for Banana Beer
Wedding Ceremony Dance
Small Hut

Although spending time with the gorillas is clearly the highlight of going to Volcanoes National Park, visiting the Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village was certainly still a wonderful experience. Considering we did both the trekking and the village visit on our first full day in Rwanda, we were certainly off to a tremendous start to our time in this interesting country. We definitely slept very well that evening before getting up early to move on to our next adventure within Rwanda.

Another Cultural Lesson
Watching the Ceremonial Dancing
Greeting as We Arrived
Our Guide at the Cultural Village

Relaxing Stay at the Canyons Village in Park City, Utah

There are two resort options when visiting Park City in Utah. The first is the Mountain Village located right next to the historic downtown area and the other is located outside the heart of Park City in Canyons Village. The selection that you make will likely be based on the type of experience that you are looking for in a stay in Park City. The Mountain Village has lots of activities and has plenty of lifts as well, but is busier due to its proximity to downtown. For a more laid back experience, Canyons Village would be your choice since it has everything that you need in a ski resort without as many people to contend with.

Part of the Canyons Village Central Area
View of Canyons Village from Holly’s Trail
Resorts, Chair Lifts, and Views
Heading Towards Red Tail Grill
Golf Course at Canyons Village

During our recent visit to Park City, we stayed at the Canyons Village and certainly enjoyed our time there. Although not all of the restaurants were open since it is considered low season in the fall, there were plenty of options for us to choose from and it is easy enough to either take a bus, Uber, or drive the twelve minutes to get into the historic downtown area. What we liked most about staying in Canyons Village was the fact that there were fewer crowds, with the exception of a few conventions, and it had everything that we needed. In addition to hiking and biking, there is also an excellent golf course located in Canyons Village with incredible views of the valley below.

Shops in the Courtyard at Canyons Village
Grassy Area with the Umbrella Bar
One of the Many Lifts in the Village
Spectacular Views from the Resort Area
One of Our Favorite Restaurants

Canyons Village was under some heavy construction while we were there as there is a new resort with multiple restaurants getting ready to open in November in time for the ski season. Despite the construction, everything was quite walkable in the village and there are hiking trails that start at the base of the mountain. In addition to the restaurants, there are also several shops selling the typical items that you would find in a ski resort area. We were there for a week, so we became friends with the wait staff at a couple of the restaurants including Drafts Burger Bar and Red Tail Grill. It was certainly an enjoyable stay with stunning views of the mountains and the changing leaves.

Mountains Surrounding the Resort
Resort Rooms Overlooking the Courtyard
More Shops and Restaurants
Looking Down at One of the Resorts

Visiting a Traditional Maasai Village in Kenya

One of the things that we were hoping to do during our safari in Tanzania and Kenya was to visit an authentic Maasai village. Due to COVID restrictions, we weren’t sure whether it was going to take place, but we were pleased that we were able to do it before leaving Maasai Mara to head to Lake Naivasha. The fee that you pay to visit the village goes to help with the costs of education and other needs that the village might have. There is also the opportunity to buy handmade items from the people of the village, but it is not required.

Demonstrating the Horn
Women Greeting Us
Warriors Dancing Around Us

Our visit started with our Maasai guide, one of the son’s of the chief, telling us about the people of the village and about their daily lives. There was a demonstration of how they used the horn of an antelope to use for communication as well as to make music. Afterwards, several of the men gathered to perform a ritual warrior dance where they would jump as high as possible to prove their bravery. Of course, the men were encouraged to participate, so we did the best that we could, but definitely could not jump as high as the Maasai. Before entering the village, the women gathered to do a welcome dance and song for us and again the women were encouraged to participate.

Warriors About to Start Jumping
Joining in on the Warrior Dance
The Maasai Definitely Jumped Higher

Once inside the village, we saw many different villagers, including some of the youngest Maasai boys and girls. We were taken inside a traditional Maasai home and learned about how they were made from mud, straw, and cow dung. The rooms of the homes are small, but there is a living area, bedroom, and even a guest bedroom to welcome guests and family members. Once the children of the house reach a certain age, they move out of the house to stay with other family members.

Women Doing the Welcome Dance
Making Fire
Inside of the Village

The Maasai men are not monogamous and we learned that the chief of this particular village had twelve wives. The men with multiple wives were not to spend more than a single night with the same woman before staying with another wife. Most wives are chosen for the men and the dowry is always the same number of cows and goats that must be paid to the parents of the man. If a man wants to choose his own wife, he must pay his parents cows and goats in order to do so. Our guide had a single wife that he chose himself, laughing with us that having more than one wife would be too much trouble.

Inside of the House
Typical Maasai Home
Cute and Adorable Maasai Children

We were then shown how they could start a fire with a stick, flat piece of wood, and a knife. They are so skilled at making fire this way that they can get some of the grass to start on fire in less than a minute. After watching the men making the fire, we continued on to the market area where the villagers had a variety of artwork, jewelry, and other items for sale. Even though we knew that we weren’t obligated to buy anything, we did buy a couple of items in order to reflect back on the experience in the future. Prices are not set and they make you an offer and a slight amount of negotiating is expected, but not to the point of being insulting to them.

Woman with a Child
Making the Fire
Warrior with Knife

We have been to several different traditional villages throughout our travels and we find each of these experiences to be very special and rewarding. We believe that learning about the culture and history of a place is part of one of the most important aspects to travel. Visiting the traditional Maasai village was certainly one of the highlights of our time in Kenya and Tanzania, just as we’d hoped that it would be.

Another View Inside the House
Items for Sale
The Maasai are Very Tall
Village Market
Warrior with Headdress
Looking for a Souvenir