Considering how often we’ve heard it mentioned as the most entertaining street in central Accra, where so many of its best bars and restaurants are congregated, we had high hopes for Oxford Street. But expectations are duplicitous beasts. Set them low, and you’ll usually be pleasantly surprised. Set them high, and well… Anyway, let’s take a tour of Oxford Street.
Still new to the city, we weren’t sure what to expect when emerging from our Uber at Danquah Circle, at the top of Oxford Street. Eager to learn, we looked up the name, and learned that J. B. Danquah was one of the founders of the independent Ghanaian state, and the man who gave the nascent country its name. He was the main opposition to Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, and would eventually be arrested on suspicion of planning a coup. He died while in prison.
Still eager to learn? Reading about Danquah led us to wonder why the country needed to be given a name, at all. Up until 1957, the British colony had been known as the Gold Coast, with the Ashanti Kingdom as a protectorate to its north. “Ghana” was only known as an ancient West African empire that had died in the 13th century. And actually, the original Ghana Empire wasn’t even located in present-day Ghana, but in Mali and Mauritania. Danquah’s suggestion was meant to hearken back to the days of powerful African kings, and turned out to be a safe compromise which the various ethnic groups could be satisfied with.)
Back to Oxford Street! We walked toward the south, our eventual goal being Osu Castle, and took it all in. Unfortunately, there wasn’t that much to take in. Oxford Street is basically like any other street in Accra, just with more electronics shops, Western Unions, and tenacious hawkers targeting foreigners. This is so far the only time we’ve felt truly hassled, and I was even had to forcibly yank away from a guy who had extended his hand to mine. It’s also the only place we’ve seen more than a smattering of white faces. So, hawkers come here because there are lots of tourists. And tourists come here… why?
As we walked south, we encountered a group of tiny goats darting across the road, which marked the end of the “nice” part of Oxford Street… and the beginning of our enjoyment. The hawkers vanished, and things started to feel more normal. We paused to watch a soccer game, met a group of kids who wanted their photos taken, and were encouraged by the locals to pass through a foreboding gate, in order to reach the castle and the beach. Unfortunately, Osu Castle was closed, but we’d be returning soon.
Eventually, we’ll get to the point where every walk down a street in Accra isn’t some big adventure… but we’re not there yet! Having accomplished our goal, a cold beer was well-deserved, followed by a good meal. For the beer, we went to FlipBar, where the waiters were as nice as the cozy outdoor lounge was cool. And for dinner, we checked out Zion Thai, a well-regarded institution a few blocks off Oxford. Run by a Thai-Ghanaian couple, this place was wonderful, with deliciously spicy food, affordable prices and a gorgeous alfresco dining area.