If there is one city with which I fell in love with in the DRC, it has to be the city of Goma in the province of North Kivu. My work involves a lot of humanitarian projects in the unstable areas of the DRC, namely the eastern region of the country. Who hasn’t heard of the multiple horror stories of war, destruction and misery in eastern Congo?
North Kivu, one of the most unstable regions in the DRC, is, however, a wonderful place to visit while being in the DRC. Obviously not all parts of the regions are advised for visits but its main city, Goma, is simply adorable. This part of the DRC is surrounded by hills and the weather, which is a bit friskier and dryer than in the western regions, is simply perfect. Goma is a city that is built at the feet of the infamous Nyaragongo Volcano, the most active volcano of the Central Africa.
After a two-hour flight from Kinshasa to Goma, I arrived in Goma; a city previously stricken by war but that was now reliving and re-flourishing after decades of conflict. As I descended the airplane I was stricken by how fresh and pure the air: the weather was definitely cooler in this part of the country and the environment wasn’t as heavily polluted by the gasoline and noise as in Kinshasa.
We were taken to a small hotel situated right on the boarder of the Kivu Lake named, accordingly, Lac Kivu lodge. It was an absolutely wonderful place: it had a beautiful savage gardens composed of gorgeous greeneries, tropical birds and a direct and clear view on the Kivu Lake. Most rooms face towards the lake, which was, during this time of the year, tainted in a gentle turquoise blue.
The apartments are very cozy and decorated with a variety of Congolese art pieces, including paintings, statues, ornaments etc. Because of the rather cool weather of the regions, some of the rooms are equipped with fans while most of them don’t have any.
My room was located in some of the furthest quarters: it was a rehabilitated mansion where the rooms where converted in hotel rooms. But I was not complaining as my room gave me a great view on the lake.
The hotel has a restaurant where one can enjoy a great mix of western and Congolese cuisine all day long. During my stay in the hotel, I enjoyed sitting in the restaurant’s patio with a cup of tea while enjoying the view to the lake and reading a book, lulled by the sounds of the tropical birds.
The city of Goma in itself is a small city where life is buzzing during the day while the nights are characterized by a soothing stillness. Because the city is built at the base of a volcano, the earth is black and, thus the most fertile in the DRC. Fruits and vegetables grow in abundance in Goma creating a city where hunger is almost non-existent.
It is also possible to buy many small local artifacts at the local markets: these artifacts go from fabric to statues imported from different parts of the eastern region.
For the last night in the city, my colleagues and I were invited to this restaurant close to the hotel called the Chalet, which served amazing local food and hosts “happy hours” on Wednesdays as a small celebration to help people relieve the stress of living in such an unstable region.
It was with regret that I took the plane to return to Kinshasa that Thursday. I only had the opportunity to visit a very small fraction of the city but the little I discovered has encouraged me to come back and experience the local life in Goma.