Originally published on MACs Magazine’s website – 17th September 2013
SEE MY GHANA VLOGS PART 1 & 2
When President John Atta Mills pumped the first gush of oil on 15th December 2010, Ghana was propelled into the public eye like never before. The nation has since been working on the development of the oil business in a profitable manner in order to create a sustainable economic growth, thus benefiting the West African country and its inhabitants. 22 million barrels of oil and 21 cargoes have been exported since the oil was discovered. By the end of 2012, Ghana’s economy had grown by 13.5% making it one of the fastest growing economies worldwide. Inevitably, this has attracted businessmen and job seekers from around the globe including the Middle East and China which has added to the cultural diversity of Ghana. I hadn’t visited since I was 14 years old and was excited about visiting the Motherland as a young woman, eager to explore, experience Ghana’s developments and learn more about Ghana’s rich culture and untarnished beauty.
After a 6hours & 40minutes flight due to turbulence, I was relieved to touch down in Kotoka International Airport, Accra. Met by a gush of humidity as I carefully stepped down the stairs with my hand luggage in tow, I truly felt at home. Due to the humidity of Ghana, I advise that you bring a change of clothing to combat the sudden change in weather altitude. I had to wait an obscene amount of time for my luggage to arrive before being driven to a lovely three bedroom house in Sakumono where I stayed with relatives. I had the luxury of an en suite, 24 hour air conditioning and three maids, in the words of Kimora Lee Simmons – ‘Fabulousity’ at its finest.
Climate can reach highs of 31-37°c which is primarily dependent on the region. The Greater Accra region (the capital city where I’m from) is cooler while temperatures rise as you travel up north to the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo Regions. The hottest regions in Ghana are the Upper Regions (Tamale and Bolgatanga) where pedestrians often cycle because of the extreme levels of heat. Luckily, my trip was during Ghana’s rainy season meaning temperatures only reached 29°c. This definitely made the trip more enjoyable – sweating profusely and dehydration is awful when photographed. If you’re adventurous and wish to experience the full extent of Ghana’s heat, travel between early December and March. Harmattan is a dry, dusty wind that blows across Ghana from the Sahara desert between late December and January, sometimes early February, resulting in decreased humidity and dimmer sunlight. Sometimes, a thick dust can be seen, similar to a foggy morning in London. The further you travel up north, the more intense it is. This is superb for wildlife viewing as the animals congregate at available water holes during this dry season. Make sure to keep hydrated and moisturised as well as carrying a nasal decongestant.
As simplistic as this may sound, I adored the drive whilst travelling from home to my desired destination. Conveniently, street sellers provide sachets of water (for approximately 30p), plantain chips, soft drinks and miscellaneous items from mugs to maps. It was gratifying to take in the sights of Ghana with its various billboards while relaxing to the sweet sounds of Afrobeats and Highlife.
I visited Aburi’s botanical garden and the journey was almost as enjoyable as the garden itself. Temperatures are milder in the highlands, the cooling mist went hand in hand with the calm aura exuberated by the beautiful garden. Unfortunately, with the vast majority of tourist attractions, foreigners have to pay an increased fee of between 5 to 10 cedis, being an incredibly inquisitive individual, I questioned why, but this fell on deaf ears. As I am of predominantly Ghanaian descent, I was able to enter at a discounted price. The beauty of nature has always fascinated me and I was taken aback by the beauty of this garden. For a very small fee, you are provided with a tour guide who explains the importance of each plant and tree, from intoxicating sea grapes to trees decades old and trees planted by politicians and significant individuals in African and English history. Whilst in Aburi, I made a trip to the arts and crafts shops for some authentic, handcrafted Ghanaian art. I was truly spoilt for choice with crafted jewellery boxes, beads, necklaces, wall art and quite interestingly, erotic sculptures. Ghanaian natives have a sixth sense for spotting a foreigner and knew straight away that I wasn’t a resident of Ghana. You will soon become familiar with terms “obroni” and “brofo nyo” derived from Twi and Ga dialects referring to a Caucasian person, quite evidently I am not fully Caucasian so this both perplexing and slightly amusing. I found the fact I was the constant spectacular of attention reasonably unnerving. Without being biased, Ghanaians are very friendly and welcoming nonetheless.
With regards to historical attractions, Ghana is remarkably saturated. I had the pleasure of visiting the first president Kwame Nkrumah’s Museum and Memorial Park. Much like Aburi, its picturesque setting was miles away from the hustle and bustle of the streets of Accra. The perfectly pebbled pathway alongside the waterfall and African art statutes encapsulated how far Ghana has developed whilst maintaining its cultural roots. Take your time to view Kwame Nkrumah’s gargantuan statute in which he is stood with his hand pointing forward, reminiscent of his forward thinking ways that Ghanaians appreciate abundantly ‘til this day. In a tomb-like structure lays the remains of the late lecturer and his Egyptian wife Fathia Nkrumah. The biographical display of his life with images and the clothes he wore when he was appointed President were emotive and something I will remember for the rest of my life. It is definitely worth visiting. The National Museum is within walking distance and within an hour (with the help of my lovely tour guide Richard from Koforidua) I had a thorough understanding of the entire history of Ghana, from the various tribes and their traditions, changing currency, differing symbols and the slave trade. I also learnt about snippets of history from Zambia and Nigeria as well as other African countries. I was honoured to have been within millimetres of the chair that President Kwame Nkrumah sat on when he gained presidency. Decades later, I was able to touch a pinnacle moment in Ghana’s history.
Richard insisted that I visit Elmina Castle to see where thousands of slaves were kept before being sent away to foreign lands through a secret passage known as the “door of no return.” After a 2 hour journey from Accra, I entered the monumental castle. Words cannot begin to describe the amount of sorrow and suffering imbued within this stature of history. The tour guide explained the inhumane treatments of slaves, especially females who were treated as sexual objects and sent away to give birth. Poignantly, their mixed race children were trained to become slave masters like their fathers. The scent within the castle is so distinctive it has no comparison, but it is a scent I will never forget.
If you truly love the sights of nature, you will absolutely adore Klo Yo mountain. The Yilo Krobo settlers lived at the top of the mountain before forceful ejection, in remembrance, a pilgrimage (known as Kloyosikplemi festival) is undertaken yearly for the Yilo Krobo (where my mummy is from!) people to remember their ancestral home, at 2000ft, it is remarkable, what is even most astonishing are the houses built upon the mountain.
The Akosombo Dam on the Volta River is only a 30 minute drive from the Eastern Region of Somanya and the Klo Yo mountain and this is where Ghana, Benin and Togo’s electricity is generated. At an impressive 2,170 feet and 374 ft deep, this makes it the world’s largest manmade lake. Standing at such a great height is beyond breathtaking.
During my time in Accra, I decided to purchase a few things at Mokola Market – think Oxford Street meets Camden market intensified by the 5pm rush, then multiply that by 10. You will never experience anything quite like it. The incredibly busy market makes walking in a straight line near enough impossible but it is so worth it. From quality Ankara cloth to Ghanaian spices and fresh meat, everything is at your disposal. Practise your haggling skills with sellers and be wary, they will increase prices because you’re foreign – learn the basics of a Ghanaian dialect or make sure you’re with someone who knows one of the many languages. For a calmer, more tranquil shopping experience, visit Accra Mall, Ghana’s equivalent to Westfield. My favourite shop has to be Shop Rite in which I bought my daily fix of Lucozade and freshly baked biscuits- instant sweet tooth and carb addiction satisfaction.
I first fell in love with Labadi Beach at the tender age of six while horse riding (yes horse riding) and running towards the waves as they kissed the shore. My love continued to grow in 2009 as my taste buds were tantalised by the freshly fried yam with shitto and fresh salad. It is true that as you age, you become less adventurous as I refused to go on a horse ride, but instead observed the waves while enjoying Alvaro – a tantalising malt based drink which I guarantee will appease your taste buds. If you’re a fan of charcoal grilled meat, you will love the choice of kebabs at Labadi Beach and throughout Ghana. The popular beach is laced with bars and really comes to life at night with entertainment into the early hours of the morning – don’t forget to pack your mosquito repellent!
You may want to visit alternative beaches such as Prampram, Bojo, Kokrobite and Busua. Prampram is superb for shell collectors but its steepness makes it harder to walk in. Remember to stick to flip flops on the beach and bring a bottle of water with you to wash the sand off your feet before getting back into the vehicle. Sand is ridiculously irritating to remove successfully.
Ghana’s many regions equates to a vast selection of food – omo tuo, kenkey, waakye, fufu, plantain, kontomere stew as well as deserts and pastries such as my all time favourite, togbei (bofrot). Growing up with my mother’s cooking, I have been exposed to the quintessential of Ghanaian food -but this comes with disastrous consequences. Apart from meals prepared by my relatives, I didn’t enjoy the majority of the dishes from the many restaurants that I visited which lacked the flavour or spice I was used to. Additionally, the preparation time was ludicrously long which is very bothersome to a hungry stomach . However, I have to compliment the freshly fried, almost oil free chips, a stark contrast to the number of fast food joints in England. For great chicken, visit Afrikkos or KFC. I have never been a KFC fan but I thoroughly enjoyed the KFC in Osu, Accra. I am convinced that this is because the chicken is free from hormonal injections – you can literally taste the goodness. Do not let me sway you from trying out the local cuisine – you cannot go to Ghana and not sample the local cuisine! Ghanaian food is divine and well prepared because of its fresh ingredients, I was lucky enough to sample tilapia from the Tema harbour which was positively divine. The best thing about Ghanaian food is the freshness of it – completely free from preservatives. Note that Hausas make the best waakye, the waakye I ate in Abelemkpe was an ample portion of real flavour and spice. If you do miss continental cuisine, visit Osu which is considered the Oxford Street of Ghana (there’s even an Oxford Street in Osu!) there is not only KFC, but Papaye (a chicken and chips shop), Chinese restaurants, pizza, Indian takeaways as well as my favourite ice cream place in the entire world – Arlecchino’s. The prices start at approximately £5 but it is worth it, I recommend the cookies and cream with pistachio nut combination. They also offer donuts, milkshake, cakes and waffles on the menu. My hips are widening just thinking about it. Starbites in East Legon is another option with reasonable pricing; I highly recommend the chicken stir fry.
I couldn’t visit Ghana without experiencing its night life. Dressed in crop top, a form fitting midi skirt and killer wedges, I prepared myself for a night on the town. If you’re into the latest pop music and want to converse with other tourists, Firefly and Duplex are the places to be. Approaching Movenpick’s sleek tower building, I didn’t expect to see a very small number of people. I had seen Shaka Zulu a number of times whilst commuting around Accra and loved the Ghanaian statues and glamorous aesthetic. I was not disappointed. With R’n’B, Hip Hop and Afrobeats on rotation, I was able to unleash my inner dancing queen (with a cocktail in hand of course).
Overall, my time in Ghana was one of deeper self-understanding in a refreshingly didactic form in which I was able to appreciate my heritage. Africa as a continent is repeatedly under the microscope merely for its poverty, what the media fails to do is hone in on its rich culture, quality food and beautiful scenery. Although Ghana has developed, I pray that it doesn’t lose the sheer simplicity of life that keeps tourists coming back for more. I urge you to experience the country formally known as the Gold Coast and fall in love with the country as much as I have.
- As Ghana is a tropical country, it is essential that you visit your GP for the appropriate vaccinations
- Ghanaians do not shy away, so be prepared to be approached!
- Have a sufficient amount of money and an emergency stash, prices have soared since the last time I visited which has meant that consequently, the living standard is very high with no regards to the Ghanaian people.
- Practise your haggling techniques, especially with taxi drivers, you might even want to commute on a tro tro, the equivalent of a bus in the UK
- Do not buy any liquids that haven’t come in a sealed bottle or sachet to avoid consuming contaminated liquid
- Be sure to purchase Imodium prior to your visit to soothe an upset stomach
- If your trip to Ghana coincides with the JoyFM’s annual bridal fair at the Accra International Conference Centre, it is imperative that you visit. Cake samples, gorgeous wedding apparel and décor.. need I say more?
- There is always an event going on in Ghana so keep your eyes peeled! I couldn’t attend a concert with the likes of Raquel, Sarkodie, Wizkid and Timaya due to other commitments
- Tune into Ghana’s melodramatic television and radio shows – absolutely hilarious.
- Make sure your bikini ready and ready to get those pins out by booking an appointment at MACs, waxing treatments start from just £10 while a deep cleansing facial will ensure that those troublesome breakouts don’t ruin your holiday snaps