As Rwanda becomes an increasingly popular tourism destination, we think it’s important to shed a little light on one of Kigali’s gems.
Heaven is a restaurant located on the side of Kiyovu Hill overlooking Kigali. It was opened in 2008 by American couple Josh and Alissa Ruxin. The inspiration for opening this establishment came from an empathetic and compassionate place. The couple was interested in health and poverty in Africa and was searching for a way to have some sort of sustainable impact on a local community. They stumbled upon Kigali and decided to apply what they knew about the social and political structure to owning and operating a local business.
Rwanda’s major draw for tourists is the gorillas that live on the volcanoes and mountains (find out more about gorilla trekking here). Tourism has brought jobs and income to the country, however many of these jobs and attractions remain in remote areas. To access these beautiful forests, tourists must usually go through Kigali first. However, travelers have often been underwhelmed by the dining options in Kigali. Kigali is a very clean and safe city, yet their restaurants can often lack flavor and pizzazz, and the service tends to be slow and inadequate. Josh and Alissa saw this as their big chance for change. They decided to open a restaurant in Kigali that offered an extremely high standard for food and service by teaching, employing, and empowering locals in Kigali. And they created something that isn’t exclusive to tourists either. One of their missions was to create an environment that provided Heaven as a local hotspot as well.
Their food and cocktails have proven to be real crowd-pleasers. A past client of ours who regularly visits Kigali for work enjoys the food and atmosphere so much that he eats at Heaven every night of his trips. Their new Spanish chef offers fresh fusion, ever-changing specials, and although the menu is not terribly extensive, each dish is incredibly thoughtful without being pretentious. They are known for their Heaven Mandarin Mojito and for having the best guacamole in town. Everything is served with a warm smile, including blankets if the temperature drops on the expansive balcony in the mountains overlooking the city.
Thus far, Josh and Alissa’s project has proven to be a great and growing success. By supporting local farmers and using locally-grown ingredients, by hiring young Rwandans to help finance their education, and by bringing some life and color into the lives of recent genocide-survivors, Josh and Alissa Ruxin are beginning to see some of the benefits that they set out to accomplish.
You can read more about Heaven, the couple who built it, and the mission behind the establishment in owner Josh Ruxin’s book A Thousand Hills to Heaven. We encourage you to visit Rwanda, and when you do, don’t overlook Kigali and its special gem that is Heaven.