It’s impossible to spend any time in Ghana without encountering an Adinkra symbol at least once. These enigmatic patterns are a cultural trademark of the Ashanti people, and can be found worked into textiles, furniture, walls, or anything else that might be improved with symbolic embellishment. We visited the capital of Adinkra production, in Ntonso, near Kumasi.
There exist travel experiences which are objectively awesome, and everyone has to agree. If you don’t, you're simply wrong. For example, if you claim that traveling to the bottom of an Icelandic volcano wasn’t very special, you're wrong. It was an amazing opportunity, and you definitely loved it. You don’t get an “opinion”. Other experiences, though, are more subjective. And the Bodwease Shrine, outside Kumasi, fits squarely into this category. We had fun here... but if you didn't, we'd totally understand.
Mountains are frequently adorned with intimidating adjectives, meant to warn off anyone foolhardy enough to consider traversing them. Those hills are... ominous! Unforgiving! Treacherous! Cruel! But in the middle of Ghana, you'll find a much more friendly mountain: The Abusa Prayer Mountain or "Mountain of Mercy". After having visited the Kente weaving village of Bonwire, we proceeded to Effiduase, which is the regional transport hub of Sekyere East -- the handicraft-heavy region just east of Kumasi. We…
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,…