The holiest place in Africa

By | Category: Travel destinations
As Rwanda normally promotes itself

As Rwanda usually promotes itself

This month the Pope will visit the small Rwandan town of Kibelo. Why? To visit what some people call the holiest place in Africa.

More than 150,000 people a year visit Kibelo, the reason being that it was here – just 33 years ago – that people began first seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Since that time, the apparition has been seen many times. So big an attraction has it become that the catholic Church is planning to build a basilica and amphitheatre that would allow 100,000 people to be there at any one time. Called The Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows, thew visit by the Pope will widen the appeal of Kibelo – and Rwanda – to not just Africa but to the world as a whole. Apart from the fact that papal visits stimulate a lot of visitors whilst his visit is on, it also encourages people to visit afterwards to find out for themselves why he visited.

For those who only consider Rwanda as a destination for wildlife viewing and safaris, then the fact that it is fast becoming a religious tourism destination will surprise some. the mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park has been where most visitors have headed but Kibelo and a new national park, Gishwati-Mukura National Park is likely to spread tourism more widely. Both of the areas that make up this new national park have been where illegal activities have taken place of many years. the hope is that now that a national park – and the added protection that that offers – will mean that yet more of Rwanda can be preserved for future generations. Only 7% of the forest that once covered the area still remains so one of the first things is an attempt to reintroduce forestation so that the 130 species of birds and monkeys of many types who live here can expand and limit the possibilities of in-breeding. Eventually it is hoped that the new forests here will merge into those of the Volcanoes National Park and one giant park can be set up.

Last year, 1.22 million of us visited Rwanda which was an increase of 9% over the year before. Now that news about the shrine and a new national park will be broadcast to a wider world when the Pope visits, Rwanda may well become one of the must-see destinations for the next few years.

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