When we initially visited Ike's Bar and Grill, on our first day in Kumasi, we weren't expecting to immediately discover our favorite hangout spot in down. And we definitely weren't expecting the performance in the sky: every night, thousands upon thousands of bats launch from trees in the nearby zoo, and take to the air.
The days in which Ashanti Kings had any political power are in the past, but they still wield significant cultural influence. In order to learn more about the royal class, we visited the beautiful (and un-African) Manhyia Palace, which served for many years served as their home.
Although I'm sure the two were related, I don't know whether we were at a football match which devolved into an insane dance party, or whether this insane dance party just happened to take place next to a football match. Regardless, our visit to Baba Yara Stadium for an African Confederations Cup match between Asante Kotoko and Zambia's Nkana FC, was probably the most fun we've ever had at a soccer game.
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.
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.