All You Need To Know About Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

If you are a wildlife junkie like I am, gorilla trekking should be on your bucket list. Most people go on a wildlife safari to Africa, starting with the Masai Mara in Kenya or Kruger National Park in South Africa. Over the years, I have done many safaris and game drives through Africa and seen more lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebras and giraffes in person than I imagined I would. But only in Rwanda, was I able to see mountain gorillas!

If you have watched the movie King Kong, you may be familiar with fierce giant gorillas portrayed to be monsters destroying cities. But in fact, gorillas are very docile and human-like. These gentle giants share 98.3% of their genetic code with humans. Therefore, their behaviors are very human-like. The large great apes are our third closest cousins after chimps and bonobos.

mountain gorilla of Rwanda

Where can you see gorillas in the wild?

Only 1063 gorillas are left in the world, of which 604 are in the Virunga Massif. Mountain gorillas are only found in equatorial Africa, in the dense jungles of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. So, if you have never visited any of these three countries and been on a gorilla trek, then you have only seen gorillas in captivity.

Rwanda is perhaps the best option of the three for beginner gorilla trekkers. The country is well developed to support tourism infrastructure, so you can find good roads, high-end hotels, and well organized tours. The terrain is also relatively easier to navigate on Rwanda’s side.

What is the best time of the year to go gorilla trekking?

Since the gorillas live in these jungles year-round, there is technically no bad time of the year to see them. However, the wet season (from October-May) can be more challenging for hiking as the trails get muddy and steep. September is perhaps the best time to visit Rwanda if you want to trek and also watch the gorilla naming ceremony.

gorilla naming ceremony

Kwita Izina is the largest event in Rwanda, where baby gorillas born in the last year are officially named with lots of pomp and show. A big stage is set up at Volcanoes National Park where world-renowned performers energize the guests with music and dance. Over 50,000 visitors gather to celebrate the gorillas and Rwanda’s commitment to their conservation. Everyone from the president of Rwanda and international dignitaries, to business owners and community members attend. In 2022, 20 baby mountain gorillas were named by celebrity artists, sportsperson and philantropists. His Royal Highness The King of Wales also named a baby mountain gorilla virtually.

gorilla naming ceremony

Where does the gorilla trek start?

You will need to book a guided tour to trek with the gorillas in Rwanda. Once you arrive in the capital of Kigali, travel by a safari vehicle to the region of Musanze (about 3 hours drive). The road is windy, going through mountains and tea plantations. Plan to take medication if you tend to get motion sickness.

In Musanze, you can check in to Virunga Inn Resort and Spa, a lovely boutique or if you want to splurge, book a night at the ultra-luxurious One & Only Gorilla’s Nest.

The gorilla treks begin at the crack of dawn, so make sure to get a good night sleep before.

gorilla painting

In the early morning, you will drive to the visitor center of Volcanoes National Park, to receive further instructions and paired with your trekking party. Here, soak in the breathtaking scenery with morning mist rising about the Virunga volcanoes at over 4000 meters. There is lots of festivity at the visitor center with live music and dance performances, free tea and coffee vendors, as well as art and souvenir shops. You will have about an hour to walk around, get your gear on, enjoy some snacks and use the toilet facilities before heading out on your hike.

driving to the gorilla trek

What’s it like to gorilla trek?

Once the guides receive update from the rangers about the exact location of the gorilla families, it’s time to get going. Groups of eight people are formed and you may be given the option of taking a an easier or a more difficult hike. If you have a preference of which of the 10 gorilla families you prefer to see, that will determine your path. The mountain gorillas live in family groups of 5-50, led by a dominant male or silverback. The family may have more than one silverback in the group but only one is designated as the leader.

I opted for an easier hike. My only goal was the see the mountains gorillas, babies would be nice too. So we first drove about an hour and a half from the visitor center to the top of a mountain, crossing dirt paths, farms and villages. Our safari vehicle got stuck in the mud pool at one point and some farmers helped us get out.

trekking through the farms

Then we met with armed rangers and porters to start the hike. We walking for about an hour through potato farms and enjoyed beautiful views from the top. There were few golden monkeys too. We saw gorilla claw marks on eucalyptus trees, which was exciting. The gorillas had been in the area! As we made our way through the entrance of the national park, the foliage got thick and thorny. The bushes rose up above my height. Stinging nettles brushed my legs (yes it was painful but only lasted a few minutes). The rangers use machetes to clear out the path for us to maneuver through. My porters were very helpful in pulling me up the steep slopes and helping me manage my steps. Having more familiarity with the terrain, they could pinpoint where to step and which plants to avoid touching.

gorilla trekking at volcanoes national park

Once the rangers confirmed we had neared a gorilla family, we left our backpacks and walking sticks with the porters, and walked a few more steps to get closer to the apes. Only us eight people on the tour and the guide could get near the family. Everyone else has to stay back.

And when you finally see them

When I first saw the gorillas, I was dumbfounded. It felt like I stepped into my television set and got into the National Geographic documentary I keenly watched. Perhaps I was having a 5-D experience? It was surreal! The Susa family I saw has 18 members, including 3 silverbacks and 2 babies. They were rolling in the bushes, scratching their heads, covering their eyes, and taking long naps. At one point, a mommy gorilla picked up her baby, brought it close to her face and gave her a big gorilla kiss. It was the cutest thing I had ever seen!

The Susa family is one of the most difficult ones to spot as they live in the higher altitude that is challenging to trek. Susa is also famous for having the first set of surviving twins in the history of mountain gorillas in 2004. However, today they had come down the mountains, so I got very lucky. The two babies in the group were – Muganga Mwiza named by Mr Laurene Powell Jobs, and Baho named by Dr Frank Luntz.

The gorillas seemed oblivious to our presence. They were seeing us. We made eye contact, but they didn’t seem to be bothered. My guide told me that sometimes the gorillas come and put their arm around you or play with you. I would have loved that!

gorillas in Rwanda

Maintain a 10-foot distance from the gorillas but they can get closer to us. Of course, you must not touch them.

You can spend up to an hour will the gorillas, but the hour goes by very quickly. I must have taken a thousand photos and videos during that time.

Then it was time to say goodbye to the Susa family and trek back down. Our entire tour lasted about 6-7 hours and we were back at the lodge for a late lunch and shower. Other groups who opted for more difficult hikes were out for about the same time, but returned back muddier and more tired.

view from the trek

How difficult is it?

Comparing notes with other trekkers I found that every gorilla trek is different. Some can last entire day, others only a couple of hours. You may have easier walks or cross steeper slopes, but you are guaranteed to see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda.

One thing is for sure, Gorilla trekking is not for the faint hearted. You need to be in good physical shape to endure bumpy roads, long hikes, changing temperatures and come face to face with the giant apes. If you are afraid of getting close to wildlife, this may not be the right adventure for you.

How much does it cost?

Visiting gorillas is more expensive than other African animals safaris. Because of their delicate habitats, the government of Rwanda limits the number of visitors to protect the welfare of the gorillas and their homes. The entry fee to Volcanoes National Park is $1500 per person and limited to 80 people a day. That allows you to visit the gorillas only for up to one hour. It does not include your accommodations or meals. You also have to pay for rangers, drivers, guides and porters. Add to that, international flights and other tours, and you are looking at a few thousand dollars for an adventure of a lifetime.

It is worth noting that 20% of tourist revenues from gorilla trek permits go to the local communities surrounding the park. The rest is used for the maintenance of the infrastructure in and around the national park.

Packing and preparing tips

In terms of packing for your trip to Rwanda, there are no luggage restrictions unless you plan on taking the jumper flights between cities. You definitely need to bring a waterproof backpack, a rain jacket, lots of layers and good hiking boots. Wear long pants and shirts to protect against the cold, sun, bugs and nettles. The weather in the mountains can change drastically. It was actually quite cold the first day I was there. Carry a winter hat and fleece.

Because gorillas and humans share the same genetic makeup, they can pass on respiratory diseases (including flu and COVID-19) to each other. You may need to get tested and have to wear a mask while visiting the gorillas.

porters for trekking in Rwanda

Make sure to visit an ATM or convert currency to Rwandan Franc and carry loose change to give as tips. You should pay $15-20 to each trek leader, guide, tracker and porter for the service they provide. The rangers have tough lives. They live in the remote jungle for 5-10 hours each day, guarding each gorilla family and tracking their locations. Tourism is the biggest source of employment for locals in this area. The locals depend on the limited number of travelers who visit the area. Many of the guides are former gorilla poachers. By creating alternate sustainable sources of employment, it helps protect the environment as well. My two porters were farmers and carried bags for the treks as a second job.

Also worth noting, is 20% of tourist revenues from gorilla trek permits goes to the local communities surrounding the park and the rest for the maintenance of the infrastructure in and around the national park.

Things to do while in the area

If you go gorilla trekking in Rwanda, plan to spend at least a week or two to visit other national parks, lakeside towns and cities. In Musanze, learn more about the mountain gorillas at the brand new museum located at the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

enjoy Rwanda culture after a trek

The Red Rocks Intercultural Exchange Center is also a good place to learn about Rwandan culture. Here you can stay overnight in the modest hostel. Or book day time organized touristic workshops such as banana beer making, music and dance. There are also many art galleries and fair-trade shops around Musanze town.

Get Lucky! Have the Most Amazing Safari Experience

Are you addicted to those National Geographic documentaries on Wild Africa where they show lions hunting down a buffalo or thousands of wildebeests migrating across the Serengeti? I have probably exhausted the entire selection on big cats and wildlife shows found on Netflix. So, when I planned my trip to Masai Mara in Kenya with The Village Experience, I was very excited to get up close to the animals, this time in reality.

What I didn’t know was that I would be so, so close! And there would be animals everywhere! We (meaning my guide and I) really didn’t have to drive around looking for them. From the moment we were driving on the highway close to Lake Naivasha, I saw zebras running around. Over the next 24 hours, I saw 70 lions, 3 cheetahs, 1 leopard, and thousands of giraffes, zebras, elephants, wildebeests, impalas, gazelles, hippos, and buffalos!

Some people may think that this is an everyday sighting at a game drive in Kenya. But in fact, I was truly lucky. A few of my friends have been on safaris 4, 10, even dozens of times, and seen only a fraction of what I saw! Some of it may just be luck, choice of season, or my wonderful presence, but there are things you can do in advance to have an amazing african safari experience.

Stay close to the reserve

There are all kinds of tented camp accommodations around the animal reserves, some offer more luxury than others. My lodging at Sekenani Camp were comfortable and luxurious. I had hardwood floors, a deck overlooking a creek and a en suite bath tub with hot shower. I could hear hyenas, lions and birds from my bed all through the night! Don’t worry, there is always a security guard who accompanies you from your tent to the restaurant and around the property so you never walk alone at night.

Sekanani Camp was a 20 minutes drive from the Masai Mara park’s entrance. Being so close to wilderness meant, we really didn’t have to go very far to spot the animals. Zebras and giraffes were roaming right outside our camp.

Hire an experienced guide

I cannot emphasize enough how much a good driver and guide can make or break your safari experience. My guide, Danson Kahuria, was born and brought up near Masai Mara so he was quite familiar with the territory. He had also gone to college to learn about birds and animals, and conducts workshops of other guides.

Danson had a keen sense for knowing where the animals would be and how they typically behave. He could predict when a lion cub was about to yawn, which direction a leopard would walk towards, and which animal a cheetah was about to hunt down. As a result, I got to saw the big cats in action – eating, sleeping, mating, hunting – all in just a few hours!

A good guide will also maneuver the car (following park guidelines) in such a way that you can get the best photo opportunities! Since Danson knew which was the animals were going to turn, we were always ahead of their game.

Have some patience

If you have limited days, (I only had one) it is best to leave early morning for a game drive and plan to stay till sunset. Animals behave differently at different times of the day, so you want to be able to see their moods. My advise is to wear comfortable clothing, carry sunscreen, bug spray, a light jacket and lots of snacks and water for the day. I have heard stories of people going in a group and one of them was hungry so they left the park after a couple of hours. Remember you have to pay hefty entrance fees ($80-200/ person) so make the most out of it! Also, pack lots of extra batteries and memory cards. I took 500 photos and videos in less then a day!

Depending on your vehicle, you may have open roof or sides, to allow good viewing. But it also means more sun, heat and bugs, so be prepared.

Sunsets in the mara are spectacular. Don’t miss it.

Respect the animals

Remember, you are in the habitat of wild animals. Take every precaution to respect that by not getting out of your vehicle, feeding them or attracting their attention. Some people get excited and want to get closer, but park rangers are always secretly watching and will fine you if you get off the marked trails. Also, please do not litter the park.

An African safari is a bucket list for most people. If you get a chance to be one of the lucky ones to see wild animals in their natural habitat, do it right the first time!

From Traveler to Change Maker

In July 2015, my husband and I headed to Rwanda, a country that suffered one of the worst genocides the world has ever seen – more than 800,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days. We met a small group of women there that were living in terrible conditions and had faced the most unimaginable circumstances. Many are victims of rape, are widowed, orphaned and lost children of their own. These women inspired us to do something drastic.

M&A Rwanda

To give a clear picture of the whole story of how we ended up in Rwanda, let me first rewind to November 2014, during our first trip there, a journey we were inspired to embark on after spending the last 14 years traveling around the world. A writer and a photographer duo, we took the time to deeply connect with many fascinating people we met along the way and to learn more about incredible cultures we came to love. We saw the juxtaposition between wealthy and poor and it gave us that unsettled feeling of enjoying something that was only available to those who could afford it.

As travelers, it is important to us to leave the planet a better place. Our journeys abroad brought a richness to our life that no material object ever could. So we thought – why not return this good to the world and pay it forward?

So back to that drastic life-changing thing we did.

Last year, we launched Humanity Unified International, a nonprofit organization that empowers communities to rise above poverty through education, food security programs and economic opportunities. We started by investing in women.

Humanity Unified International

I gave up all my opportunities to earn an income through my online magazine to focus solely on building the organization and our current project in Rwanda. For the past year, my life has been completely dedicated to serving and empowering the women involved in our project.

Humanity Unified International

Now when my husband and I travel, we spend our time doing something meaningful and impactful in Rwanda. We’ve chosen to work with a local NGO that is leading a women’s farming cooperative project with us. Our approach to sustainable development lies within investing in local organizations and stepping away from our own ideas and beliefs of how things should be or what development should look like from a Western perspective. We trust our partners and we know that they put the needs of the community first.

As a travel writer, I knew I could write stories to help spread awareness about the work we are doing with Humanity Unified Int’l. I’ve been sharing our story with people all over the world in hopes that it will inspire those drawn to our mission to get involved and to come together in making this planet a kinder, gentler, fairer place for the good of humanity.

Become part of our story of empowerment. Learn more at


~ By Maria Russo, writer, editor and co-founder of Humanity Unified Int’l, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to lifting vulnerable populations out of poverty through education, food security programs and economic opportunities. Follow Maria on Twitter @MariaCultureist

Unwind with Pumeli sustainable rituals from around the world

You may not be able to afford a trip abroad every month of the year. But what if the world was delivered to your door? Pumeli is a monthly subscription box filled with teas and
textures designed to help busy women slow down, unplug and give themselves
permission to relax.

Each month, Pumeli delivers a care package of time-slowing rituals that enable women to experience more calm, peace and joy in as little as 5-10 minutes. Every shipment includes artisanal tea to soothe your soul, beautiful paper for your thoughts, and handcrafted goods that evoke mindfulness while empowering artisans around the world.

Pumeli Founder, Traci Pichette
Pumeli Founder, Traci Pichette

Pumeli works with small businesses and craft producers on different levels to bring well-designed and high quality products. They purchase products at a fair market price in order to deliver the highest value to the artisan and support global community initiatives. Each product comes with a story too. A monthly subscription runs at $49.95 or $249.95 for 6 months (with 1 month free). It is a great gift to send to a special lady in your life and remind her each month that you care – moms, sisters, girlfriends, or even your office secretary. See current package with stories behind the box and the products at Pumeli’s website.

The theme for November is “Be Like a Tree.” A tree is a great natural teacher of mindful living. Trees inspire us to stay grounded, adapt gracefully to the present moment, and continuously renew ourselves, and take time to rest. This month’s Pumeli box takes you on a journey through Africa to celebrate the life of trees with the following items.

Pumeli November BoxAduna Baobab Powder – Revitalizing facemark with baobab fruit sustainability harvested in Senegal and Ghana in partnership with several women’s co-ops. The African baobab tree, known as ‘The Tree of Life’, provides 100% organic fruit that dries naturally on its branches. Packed with vitamin C and antioxidants so you can feel good inside and out.

Mud Cloth Notebook – Hand woven in Mali, the mud cloth is treated in baths of leaves and branches, and hand dyed using mud mixture. Traditionally used to share village stories and African proverbs.

Tea Accessories – Hand carved Kenyan teaspoon from olive wood, adorned with colorful beads. JusTea has a direct-trade relationship with Central province village carvers in Kenya.

Jacaranda Wood Ornament – Hand painted giraffe by artisans in Kenya, this exquisite ornament reminds you to be gentle on yourself, just as the giraffe gently chews on the topmost under leaves of trees. Acacia Creations donates 10% of each purchase to animal conservation.

JusTea African Chai – Inside an East African fabric bag, is a 100% natural Masala Chai tea blend with Camellia saneness, cinnamon, allspice, rose petals and more. Each sip directly supports small-scale tea farming families.

Learn more about the artisans at Pumeli.

Nigeria’s place on the world scene: Interesting facts about the “Giant of Africa”

Nigeria, also referred to as the “Giant of Africa,” is located in West Africa between the Republics of Benin, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger. With over 174 million inhabitants, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, and the seventh most populous in the world. It is made up of over 300 ethnic groups speaking more than 521 languages, the fourth largest grouping of languages in the world, yet it is only about twice the size of California. Nigeria gets its name from the Niger river that flows through its landscape, and is home to one of the oldest known locations of human existence. Thanks to its size and abundance of natural resources, Nigeria is the most important player in Africa and one of the biggest in the world scene, and is slated to become even bigger in the next half a century.

As of 2014, Nigeria’s economy is the largest in Africa, worth more than $500 billion, and is the 32nd largest economy in the world. It is expected to become one of the world’s top 20 economies by 2050. Much of this economic power is due to its crude oil production industry. Nigeria is the 12th largest producer of petroleum and the 8th largest exporter, brining in billions of dollars annually. This level of wealth is evident in many aspects of its culture. Nigeria is home to 5 of the 10 wealthiest pastors in the world according to Forbes, worth between $10 and $150 million. It is also home to the world’s third largest film industry, Nollywood.

But with the good also comes the bad. Due to its economic wealth and various military dictatorships that have ruled the country since its independence in 1960, Nigeria is arguably one of the most corrupt nations in the world. Its legislators are among the highest paid worldwide, while its people are among the poorest, with more than 100 million Nigerians living in destitution and for less than one dollar a day. In 2013 Nigeria was rated the worst country in the world to be born in based on welfare and prosperity projection. Based on an income of $81 billion per year and the amount of that squandered annually, Nigeria has been deemed the most corrupt nation in the world, due to its government’s tendency of stealing hundreds of billions of dollars from the public.

So how is this contradiction possible, and what is there to do about it? To learn this and more about the “Giant of Africa,” come to our next event Destination Nigeria on August 14, and hear Nigerian Ambassador Geoffrey I. Teneilabe and Dr. Omoh T. Ojior of the Onima Institute, speak about current issues plaguing Nigeria, its economy and its people.

Destination Nigeria flyer

~ By Allie Williams, a recent graduate of the University of Georgia. Allie explores her passion for food, travel, and learning about different cultures though her internship with Go Eat Give.

Kilimanjaro and the Maasai

On June 24th, I will begin a 6 day climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. The purpose of my climb is to raise money for the O’Brien School for the Maasai, and a women’s group that operates out of a room in the school.

The O’Brien School for the Maasai is a non-profit organization that gives the children in the village the chance to receive an education and a hope for a future.  The school was started by Kellie O’Brien a native of Chicago after meeting one of the Maasai men, who told her how much they needed a school for the children in the village. A year later the school was complete. Each year the school expands, and they are hoping to continue the school growth to allow even more children to receive an education.

Not only are the Maasai children benefiting from The O’Brien school for the Maasai but the Maasai women are as well. These women fight on a daily basis for their right to exist as an equal in their communities.  Money raised will help these women start innovative, sustainable projects that will benefit the women in their village.  Supplies  to help them sew, bead and do numerous other crafts will be purchased with the money raised, allowing them to sell their hand made items to support their families and for many, the money will help put their children through school. Some of the money will also go back to The O’Brien School for the Maasai, providing the students with school supplies, books etc. to continue their education.

I’ve been told the Maasai people look at Mount Kilimanjaro every day and think the people who climb it are very brave, when really it’s them who are the brave ones. My struggle will only last the 6 days it will take to summit, while their struggle is a lifetime. If the money raised from my 6 day struggle can help make life a little easier for the Maasai people then I feel like I’ve accomplished something, and can leave that mountain knowing the money is going to truly deserving people.







My goal is to raise at least $2500, and my first attempt at fundraising was Sunday when I hiked with friends at Tunica Hills in Louisiana. My friend & co-worker Richard, had the idea of turning a hike into a fundraiser. Tunica Hills has 7 waterfalls, and he suggested I ask for my friends and family to sponsor me for $1 a waterfall!  I sent out letters and emails to friends and family explaining my Mount Kilimanjaro climb and my Tunica Hills hike. By hiking day, I had raised over $200!! I had not hiked much except as a kid, and I thought I was prepared for the hike, but four days later my body is still unhappy. On my hike, I was accompanied by Richard, his friend Cody, my co-workers, Virginia and Aaron, and Aaron’s girlfriend, Monica. It was overcast skies with a chance of rain.

We drove an hour or so to Tunica Hills, and began our climb down to the creek bed. I made it to the creek bed, by slipping and falling down a hill. My day began extremely muddy!  We spent most of the day walking the creek bed, climbing over random rock formations, getting our feet wet jumping from one side to the other. Climbing through the creek was tough, since it had rained so much the days before making the ground extremely slippery.  We were only able to see 5 of the 7 waterfalls due to the weather.

After seeing the final waterfall, we made our journey back to the car, but decided to take a different route through the actual trails. I quickly learned just how out of shape I am climbing up and down all those hills. It was such a great day though, hanging out with friends and being out with nature. I’m so excited to continue my training for Mt. Kilimanjaro!

To make a tax deductible donation to The O’Brien School for the Maasai on my behalf please click here.

~ By guest blogger, Leslie Vice. Leslie volunteered with Sucheta in Morocco in 2010 through Cross Cultural Solutions. She will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and volunteering at The O’Brien School for the Maasai in Tanzania this summer. 

Give the gift of endless possibilities

This holiday season consider giving the gift of learning. Books For Africa is a non profit with a mission to end the book famine in Africa. They want to create a culture of literacy and provide the tools of empowerment to the next generation of parents, teachers, and leaders in Africa.  Since 1988, Books For Africa has shipped more than 24 million books to 46 African countries. They are on once-empty library shelves, in classrooms in rural schools, and in the hands of children who have never before held a book. Each book will be read over and over again. The books go to those who need them most: children who are hungry to read, hungry to learn, hungry to explore the world in ways that only books make possible.

You can change the life of a child in Africa through the gift of books.  Books For Africa appreciates all book donations in categories including General Leisure, Reading, Business & Economics, Computer Science, English Language Skills, Science & Engineering, Math, Communications, Science, Educational Theory, Health, Arts & Humanities, Political Science, Sports/Vocational/Hobbies and International law.

Books For Africa accepts:

  • 20 years old or newer popular fiction and nonfiction reading books (soft and hard cover).
  • 1991 or newer publish date primary, secondary, and college textbooks (soft and hard cover, social studies can include world history or geography, but nothing U.S. based).
  • 1991 or newer reference books such as atlases, thesauruses, and dictionaries.
  • 1991 or newer publish date medical, nursing, IT, and law books.
  • School/office supplies—paper, pencils, pens, wall charts, maps, etc.
  • Acceptable books are gently used and relevant to an African reader.

If you are interested in donating a book, please contact Gaurav Bhatia at or call 404-661-0801.  

Horn for Africa dinner fundraiser

Cooking instructor and a good friend, Durrain and I hosted a fundraising dinner for the Horn of Africa this past weekend. We cooked an African inspired dinner for about 50 people and invited neighbors, family and friends. The event was held at Durrain and Navaz’s clubhouse in Kennesaw, GA.

According to the news media 29,000 children under the age of 5 have perished in Somalia due to famine. We tried to make a small difference by getting-together in our communities, bringing people together through food and raising awareness of what mankind is facing in other parts of the world. We were able to raise over $800, all of which will go to OXFAM international for Somalia famine relief.

We took a moment of silence to honor the victims of September 11, 2011. Then a local Acapella group sang a few American patriotic songs, followed by cheerful notes. Between the singers and African music, we had entertainment throughout the evening!

The dinner was a delicious feast from all over Africa! A lot of people had never tried some of these dishes, so they were in for a real treat. We prepared Nigerian style okra, cabbage and potatoes; chichen kukupaka, Kenyan chicken curry in coconut sauce; Moroccan couscous with roasted vegetables. Durrain bought a whole baby goat with which she made an Ethopian stew called Doro Wett. She also made some Indian style biryani remembering those Indian settlers in Africa.

[oqeygallery id=11]

Local African businesses also donated items for the event. Ledet Ethiopian restaurant in Atlanta made special stuffed Injera sandwiches and chicken Doro Wett. It was gone in no time! The Yeshi Food Mart in Clarkston contributed traditional bread and rolls of Injera, a spongy Ethiopian flat bread made with Teff flour. For dessert, we prepared a hearty Burundi peanut cake as well as sweet potato casserole. The kids enjoyed it with vanilla ice cream.

A big Thank You to everyone who attended the event and made a contribution, also to our sponsors Ledet Ethiopian restaurant and Yeshi Food Mart! If you missed it but would still like to make a contribution to the Somalia famine relief, please make a donation online.

Lamb and Blueberry Chutney Pastries

This recipe is inspired by Northern Africa where you will often find savory meat pastries. I learned to make Bastilla while volunteering in Morocco last year and fell in love with it. Bastilla is a pastry made with phyllo and layers of spiced ground chicken, omelets, almond paste and powdered sugar. It requires some skill to keep it all together but is not as hard as it looks.

With my bounty of blueberries, I created my own sweet and spicy meat pastry. These make wonderful entrees for that special date night or you can do a smaller appetizer sized version for a party.

Makes:  4 pastries

Total Time: 5 hours (Prep: 1 hour, Inactive: 45 minutes)

For the lamb:

Place chutney in the center of the lamb mixture on phyllo sheets

1 lb lamb, ground

2 cloves garlic

1 inch piece ginger

1 green chili

1 medium onion

3 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper




For the blueberry chutney:

Ground lamb & blueberry chutney stuffed in phyllo pastry

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon cumin powder

½ teaspoon coriander powder

½ teaspoon ground clove

1 teaspoon garam masala

¼ teaspoon allspice

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups blueberries

1/3 cup sugar

¼ cup water


For the pastry:

1 lb phyllo dough, thawed

1 egg

1 tablespoon water



Preheat oven to 350F. In a food processor, grind the onion, garlic, ginger and green chili. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the ground lamb and the spices. Mix well and set aside.

To make the blueberry chutney, place a medium saucepan on high heat. Add the oil and let heat. Then fry the cumin seeds for 1 minute. Add the rest of the ingredients. Once the liquid comes to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Let cool completely before moving on to the next step. The chutney can be prepared ahead of time & stored in refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Spread parchment paper on a large cookie sheet. Prepare an egg wash by lightly beating the egg with water. Using 2-3 layers of phyllo sheets at a time, brush the egg wash lightly on each layer. Alternate horizontal & vertical sheets so you have 4 solid layers of 2-3 phyllo sheets each.

Place 2/3 cup of the lamb meat mixture in the center of the prepared dough in a circular shape.  With your fingers, create a small dent in the middle of the meat. Carefully place 2 tablespoons of the chutney into this indent. Close the pastry by wrapping the meat with the sheets, in the shape of a pentagon. Make sure to fold even number of sheets on top and under the meat patty, always brushing with the egg mixture. Repeat the process so you have 4 pastries.

Once you have a nicely wrapped pastry, brush the top with more egg. Place in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until crispy.