We approached the gates of Cape Coast Castle, one of Ghana's few UNESCO Heritage Sites, and right before paying for entrance... changed our minds. Instead of visiting the castle, we turned around and marched over to the nearby Fort William Lighthouse, perched on a hill in the middle of town. It was a rash decision, but at the end of the day, we both agreed it had been the right one.
About an hour north of Tamale, the last town of any size before hitting the border with Burkino Faso is Bolgatanga -- referred to almost exclusively as "Bolga". (The full name is so rarely used, you might be met with confusion when saying it.) We spent four days in Bolga, using it mainly as a base for exploring the surrounding area. On the day we arrived, though, we spent the afternoon seeing the sights. Such as they…
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.
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.
The influence and legacy of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah extends far beyond the borders of just his country. Not only was he the founding father of Ghana and its first president, but he was also a leader of the movement that brought about an end to the colonial era in Africa. We visited his burial place in central Accra, and learned about his life in the small but fascinating museum found within the same complex.
Built by the Danes in 1661 as Fort Christiansborg, Osu Castle has long been at the center of Ghana's commercial and political life. From within these white walls, foreign powers have ruled, slaves have been traded, and presidents have lived. We took an excellent tour of the grounds, learning a lot about Ghana's history in the process.
One of the most amazing things about traveling to a new country is how much you can learn about your own. While visiting the Black Star Gate in the center of Accra, I was given a humbling lesson in American history by the security guard on duty. I had never heard of Marcus Garvey and the Black Star Line, but his story was compelling enough to inspire the flag and identity of a foreign country.
Accra might live and breathe in neighborhoods like Adabraka and Osu, but its monumental heart is at Black Star Gate. We were standing in the shadow of this gate when, just meters away, an accident occurred that will play a starring role in our nightmares for years to come.
If we were to concentrate on just the history of the Republic of Ghana, this post would be concise indeed, because it's only existed as an independent country since 1957. But the region and the people obviously have a history which stretches much further back. Ready for a crash course? Good! Let's cover in five minutes what would properly require an entire college semester.