Accra, the capital of Ghana has managed to escape the overblown fate of many other world capitals. Though it was once a major center of the gold and slave trade for four different empires, its tree-lined streets have the same intimate feeling that comes with the word town.
Accra is an excellent place to meet locals and buy native Ghanaian art and craftwork, especially at the Arts Centre. Visitors here can find practically anything: sculptures, game-skin drums, exotic beads, and superb examples of the colorfully expressive Kente cloth. The Makola Market, also abundant in goods and bargains, is a fine place to experience a true West African bazaar.
Places of Interest:
Mole National Park, which extends over 500 sq. km., is a fairly basic but eminently inexpensive destination for wildlife enthusiasts. The game population is abundant, and includes Elephants, various species of Antelope, an abundant and diverse bird population, Monkeys and Crocodiles, and even a small number of Lions. Unlike many other wildlife reserves in Africa, Mole offers visitors the opportunity to drive or walk throughout the park at very reasonable costs. The only place to stay is the park hotel, which offers excellent views out over the surrounding parkland.
The Coastal Forts:
Ghana's role as a focus of the gold, ivory, and slave trade resulted in the construction of an entire string of colonial forts along its coastline, and many remain as picturesque legacies of that era. The forts at Dixcove, Elmina, Cape Cove, and Apam are all open to tourists, and some even offer accommodation and meals. While the forts are reason enough to tour the coast, the area's outstanding beaches are an equally compelling attraction.
This major city was the capital of the Ashanti empire, and it continues to serve as the cultural center of the Ashanti people. Although the historic city was destroyed almost a century ago, modern Kumasi contains a good cultural center and museum as well as the modern palace of the Asantehene.
The Craft Villages:
In the region surrounding Kumasi are four settlements known as the craft villages. They are the towns of Ahwiaa, Ntonso, Kurofuforum, and Bonwire, and their inhabitants have been the royal artisans for the Asantehene for generations. Each craft village has a particular claim to artistic fame. Bonwire is the capital of the Kente cloth, while Ntonso boasts the Adinkra cloth. Ahwiaa produces outstanding carved figures, including Ghana's traditional fertility doll, and Kurofuforum specializes in the casting of brass.
Geography & Climate
Much of the attraction of Ghana is based upon its legacy as the center of the gold, ivory, and slave trade during the 17th and 18th centuries, when the mighty Ashanti empire held sway here. However, Ghana also possesses one of the best game reserves in West Africa, a multitude of good beaches, and plenty of hospitality.
Ghana lies on the northern coastline of the Gulf of Guinea. And consists of a central belt of forest surrounded by low-lying savannah regions. The Volta River is Ghana's distinguishing geographic feature.The damming of the Volta by the Akosombo dam, created the enormous Lake Volta, which now occupies a sizeable portion of Ghana's south-eastern territory.
Lake Volta is the site of Kujani National Park. In the north, though is Ghana's best-known park, Mole. Although neither Lake Volta nor the river itself have yet been developed for touring, lake cruises are offered. The great majority of water traffic consists of cargo ships. Rainfall is fairly heavy, particularly from April through September.
History & People
The once-great Ashanti empire is the source of Ghana's rich history. This empire rose to power during the late 17th century and prospered as a center of 18th century slave trade. The Ashanti capital, Kumasi is the heart of Ashanti country and the history and culture of the Ashanti people is evidenced in the museums and also in the craft work available around the town. The market here is one of the largest in Africa and is an excellent place to buy an assortment of local crafts, as well as being perhaps the cheapest place to buy the famous Kente cloth.
Kumasi was during this period one of the finest and most advanced cities in Africa, and the Ashanti state employed significant numbers of Europeans as advisors and administrators. The multitude of colonial forts that dot its coastline indicates the early European presence in Ghana and they were the strongholds that anchored the European trade in gold, ivory, and slaves. Ghana, was then known as the Gold Coast, and largely considered a British territory by the latter half of the 19th century and in 1900 the British succeeded in defeating the Ashanti and the area's other strong kingdoms.
Late in coming under European control, Ghana was the first African nation to win back its independence, in 1957. However, corruption and internal military strife have proved to be apparently intractable problems, and Ghana has gone through an extended period of instability from the 1960s to the current day marked by military rule and political plundering of the state coffers. The country has not since then moved toward political stability or economic prosperity, even though it possesses one of the most promising futures of any of the West African nations.
Christianity or Islam are the main religions practiced depending on various regions. Christianity in the south, and Islam in the rural north. Local religions also endure in Ghana, and are often practiced syncreticaly with the mainstream religions. The main ain holiday, Akwasidee, originates in the Ashanti religious calendar, with its ornate regal ceremony honouring the Ashanti king, known as the Asantehene.