It wasn't until we started exploring outside of the big cities, Accra and Kumasi, that we understood the extent of Ghana's multiethnicity. Over 70 ethnic groups make up the cultural fabric of the country, each with their own language and customs. Get your notepads out, there will be a quiz on this later.
Ready for more delicious Ghanaian cuisine? Then step right up to the For 91 Days Chop Shop, where we'll slice and dice everything so nice! There's no better fufu pounders in the country! You want rice-bean mash slopped out of a cooler with an ice scoop? Saucy noodles plopped into a plastic bag with a piece of dried fish? We got you covered! Take a seat! We'll have your food ready in an hour and twenty minutes, just relax!
As soon as we got out of the trotro in Bonwire, we were approached by guides. It seems there's exactly one reason for foreign faces to appear in this town -- and that's "kente". Without even bothering to ask what we were there for, a guy indicated that we follow him. He brought us to the town's main production hall, and gave us a quick tour. It was so efficient and straightforward, it didn't bother us not to have any choice in the matter. And the guy was super-nice.
A military museum is not usually something that most people would put into the top tier of an African sightseeing itinerary. But in Kumasi, the Armed Forces Museum leaps to the top of the pack, thanks mostly to its fantastic setting: an old fort in the center of town, which was the site of one of the region's most historic armed conflicts.
Our two weeks in Kumasi provided us with a crash course in Ashanti culture. Even though the people have embraced Christianity to a suffocating degree, ancient traditions and beliefs are still very much alive. We've touched on the history of the Ashanti, but thought we should also highlight some of the coolest idiosyncrasies of their culture.
Kumasi is home to the largest traditional market in West Africa, Kejetia: an unbelievable sprawl of tin-roofed stands that basically comprises its own city-within-a-city. Over a million people visit Kejetia daily, whether to shop, sell or just mingle. We spent a delirious afternoon getting lost within its highly-organized but baffling maze of alleyways.
The day after having visited the site where the foundation of the Ashanti Empire has been immortalized by a sword stuck into the ground, our education continued at the nearby Jubilee Prempeh II Museum. Located within the confines of the Center for National Culture, this museum offers up an excellent overview of the ceremonies, history, and lifestyle of the Ashanti people.
Located in the middle of Kumasi's sprawling hospital grounds, a sword buried into the ground marks the birthplace of the Ashanti Kingdom. In this exact spot, many centuries ago, the various Akan tribes from the area banded together for the common cause of war. The historic occasion was marked with this sword, which has been wedged immovably in the earth, ever since.
After a full month in Accra, where we had introduced ourselves to Ghana and life in Africa, we packed up our bags and moved north. Our next destination would be Kumasi, the country's second city and capital of the Ashanti Kingdom, where we were staying for two weeks. From here on out, we'd be a lot more mobile, in an attempt to see as much of Ghana as possible. We had considered flying from Accra to Kumasi,…
The idyllic campus of the University of Ghana might be physically located in the north of Accra, but it feels worlds away. Very little traffic, an absence of litter, wide tree-lined streets, and a hushed atmosphere which provides a wonderful place for thousands of young Ghanaians to learn. We visited on a regular weekday, and fell immediately under the spell of this striking colonial campus. The university was founded in 1948, when Ghana was still a colony…
Spilling out onto endless blocks of downtown Accra, Makola is less a "marketplace", than a general way of life. You don't really "go to Makoka Market" ... you just walk down a street and it slowly starts happening around you, until reaching such a pitch that you can't even take a step without knocking over a plate of snails, or stepping into some poor woman's fufu bowl.
The American scholar and author William Edward Burghardt DuBois spent the last two years of his life in Ghana, having been invited to return to Africa by Kwame Nkrumah, to work on the Encyclopedia Africana. We visited the house in which he lived, and which now serves as his mausoleum.