IF YOU SLEEPED MONDAY NIGHT, just know that you were the only one. In fact, how could you? Who knew the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) would keep us in meeting rooms during the day and on the streets at night?

Well, clearly, the delegates didn’t forget to pack their dancing shoes for the CHOGM People’s Festival, because how else to explain that the party is already on at 8:00 p.m. in different places around the city?

I arrived at 8pm in the colorful pedestrian area of ​​Biryogo in Nyarugenge district and didn’t even bother to ask for a chair as every chair was occupied. But thousands were standing too, so who was I to think of sitting down? Pushing people left and right to get to my usual restaurant was also a problem.

Everyone had their eyes on the crossroads, where the performance stage was, and for some reason almost everyone in Nyamirambo, where Biryogo is, only seemed to be part of it.

At this point, people who have been to Biryogo at least twice would know they are in this open-air dining area, even when blindfolded. The aroma of coffee and other tea herbs always draws you there.

People usually sat at communal tables outside tea bars and restaurants in the middle of the road, laughing their heads off as others strolled where they only knew.

Others, especially the elderly, constantly play board games such as ‘Ludo’ and ‘Igisoro’ in a place reserved for them informally, every day of the week.

Surprisingly, while Fridays are usually holidays in Rwanda, or at least Saturdays, this time it was Monday! And I’m not talking about “party monsters”, although at this stage the Kigaliens have silently proven what they are.

Seeing how many people were holding their cups of tea while singing some songs and dancing to others, it occurred to me that maybe the people of Kigali were closing their homes to attend a concert which is took place in Biryogo. Can Kigali accommodate more people?

Amiable Harerimana who works at the Issa cafe could not believe his eyes. He told The New Times that while things were already going well, Monday night was extraordinary.

“You can also see for yourself that things are going well. It’s normal for people to have a good time, but today it’s extraordinary because we are expecting guests. Different DJs play music. You can see people are happy,” Harerimana said.

Sonia and Thomas, a couple from Germany have been living in Rwanda for over three years.

Biryogo is their hangout from time to time, due to the quiet, food, and atmosphere that makes it easy to have a conversation. But I guess they can only mention after CHOGM, because of the loudness. Nevertheless, they could not miss the stage show.

“Today we love it even more. Usually it’s a bit quieter, you can enjoy the food and have a good conversation, but today is just amazing. It’s perfect , it’s wonderful,” Sonia told The New Times.

When I left the place an hour later, I didn’t spot any guests, that is, delegates. The locals had invaded Biryogo with their tea, kebabs and chapattis, and nothing would stop them from dancing and cheering on their favorite DJs.

Who would know that this predominantly Muslim community was where the Belgian colonialists would get rid of the Muslims from? Biryogo is an icon of the resilience of Muslims in Rwanda and represents diversity perfectly, especially on Monday nights.

Nevertheless, if the people of Biryogo thought they were having even half the fun they were having in Gisimenti, those who were there should scoff. I think people got off that cobblestone road where it rains beers on the weekends, showered, and went to sessions the next day. I pity the one who tried to sleep a few minutes later.

“Being on fire” is an understatement of what was happening in Gisimenti, which is usually a car-free zone during the weekends and has also made a name for itself, in terms of music, kebabs, beautiful happy people and alcohol, the only thing Biryogo will take when the world runs out of tea.

In fact, sources say breakfast in this car-free zone on weekends is for expats only, while evening drinks are for locals only.

I’m sure people who didn’t understand why CHOGM was held in high esteem and were there last night saw it, during the People’s Day in the two car-free zones.

Local artists like Kenny Sol and the band Symphony helped keep people entertained, and you could tell the delegates, especially from the Youth Forum, had an evening to remember.

I left a little after midnight and the party was just getting started. More people were arriving, and one of my sources says she left the place at 3am, when hundreds were still on their way.

However, the fun continues! Monday was just a preview of what to expect as several other social and networking events were highlighted for locals and delegates. With the Kigali Night Run, CHOGM Street Festival, and Exploring Car Free Fun Zones among others, it won’t let us sleep, at least while CHOGM is still going.

After the successful implementation of the car-free zone, now known as the Imbuga City Walk, Kigali City then implemented the Biryogo car-free zone and then the Gisimenti weekend car-free zone , which are the busiest meeting places, especially during the weekend.

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