Sunday Times

10 things to do in GHANA

Lu­lama Njapa counts the many bless­ings of this chilled-out West African na­tion

- ● L S. ©Lu­lama Njapa

Ghana’s 61-year-old in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tish colo­nial rule is a beau­ti­ful story that Africans love to tell. As one of the few democ­ra­cies on the con­ti­nent that are sta­ble and with­out civil war to­day, it re­mains a shin­ing star. The West African coun­try’s peace­ful de­meanour is cer­tainly one of the rea­sons to visit, but the na­tion for­merly known as The Gold Coast has a lot more to of­fer be­sides. Re­cently, I ful­filled a long-held dream by tak­ing an eight-day trip there, where I en­joyed its broad range of his­tor­i­cal, coastal, en­vi­ron­men­tal and cul­tural tourism. Here are some of the high­lights.

1 LEARN ABOUT THE SLAVE TRADE AT CAPE COAST CAS­TLE

Visit the Cape Coast Cas­tle be­fore you do any­thing else in Ghana. It was built by the Swedes in the early 1600s for the tim­ber and gold trade and was later turned into a “slave cas­tle” dur­ing the trans-At­lantic slave trade.

It still stands in its daunt­ing glory, over­look­ing the At­lantic. The dif­fer­ence is that it is now bustling with school tours, in­ter­na­tional tourists and Ghana­ians them­selves.

Pre­pare for a lot of lump-in-the-throat, sur­real mo­ments as your tour guide takes you to the dun­geons where men and women were kept be­fore be­ing dragged off to the slave ships. They will switch off the lights to give you a clear pic­ture of the liv­ing con­di­tions. And fi­nally, they will show you to the door of no re­turn, which was the last thing the slaves would see be­fore get­ting onto the ships.

2 WALK IN THE CANOPY OF KAKUM NA­TIONAL PARK

The Kakum Na­tional Park, fa­mous for be­ing es­tab­lished at the ini­tia­tive of the lo­cal peo­ple and not by the gov­ern­ment, is in the Cen­tral Re­gion of Ghana, about 30km from Cape Coast.

It is only one of three lo­ca­tions in Africa with a canopy walk.

The na­tional park sits on an area of about 375km². A gru­el­ing hike will take you up to the canopy walk­way, where you will see the mostly undis­turbed rain­for­est be­low.

There are seven con­nected bridges, which to­gether are 350m long. Whether you are into na­ture or not, you will en­joy this walk­way be­cause of the ex­hil­a­rat­ing en­ergy of be­ing at such a great height.

While you walk, you will hear the echoes of ter­ri­fied screams and vic­to­ri­ous shouts from walk­ers ahead of you. Just re­mem­ber to keep your be­long­ings safe be­cause if you drop any­thing into the dense for­est, it will be lost for­ever.

3 WALK ON THE IN­DE­PEN­DENCE SQUARE

In­de­pen­dence Square in Ac­cra, also known as Black Star Square, was com­mis­sioned by Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first prime min­is­ter and pres­i­dent, to com­mem­o­rate the visit of Queen El­iz­a­beth II in 1961.

It is home to the fa­mous Black Star Gate and the In­de­pen­dence Arch, and is the site of Ghana’s an­nual In­de­pen­dence Day pa­rades on March 6.

Be­fore you can even reach the square, you’ll see the enor­mous black star on the mon­u­ment. As you get closer, you’ll see Ghana­ian flags fly­ing with pride. The square is open 24 hours a day.

4 PAY YOUR RE­SPECTS AT THE KWAME NKRUMAH MAU­SOLEUM AND MEMO­RIAL PARK

Still in down­town Ac­cra, not far from In­de­pen­dence Square, you can ex­pe­ri­ence not only the rise but also the fall of Ghana’s found­ing fa­ther.

When you walk in, you are greeted by the ma­jes­tic bronze Nkrumah statue, with his fin­ger raised high, point­ing to­wards the fu­ture.

It’s a beau­ti­ful feel­ing just see­ing the statue, but be­hind it is the mau­soleum which con­tains Nkrumah’s re­mains.

There is also a mu­seum with Nkrumah mem­o­ra­bilia. Out­side the mu­seum stands a be­headed Nkrumah statue, which is dif­fer­ent be­cause it tells the story of the coup that saw the end of Nkrumah’s rule.

5 PICK UP GIFTS AND SOU­VENIRS AT THE AC­CRA ART CEN­TRE

Also in down­town Ac­cra, this spot is home to ven­dors, whose wares in­clude cloth­ing cre­ated in African print, par­tic­u­larly Kente cloth (which comes from Ghana), beaded jew­ellery, wooden carv­ings and the mas­ter­ful art­work of vis­ual artists.

6

GO SHOP­PING AT MAKOLA MAR­KET

Walk­ing through Makola Mar­ket is an ex­pe­ri­ence that will awaken all your senses. The ven­dors here sell every­thing from live crabs to shea but­ter to black soap.

You will find beau­ti­ful African fab­rics at rea­son­able prices. You can also try out your hag­gling skills.

This is a busy, colour­ful mar­ket with sell­ers all try­ing to get your at­ten­tion. It is loud and alive with op­por­tu­nity. You have to ex­pe­ri­ence it.

7 DANCE YOUR HEART OUT AT A FES­TI­VAL Ghana has a vi­brant cul­tural his­tory, which could not be com­pletely wiped out by coloni­sa­tion. Be­cause of the cul­tural di­ver­sity, there are many cel­e­bra­tions through­out the year. Most fes­ti­vals are cel­e­brated by spe­cific tribes to com­mem­o­rate past vic­to­ries.

I was in Ghana in Au­gust, dur­ing the Chale Wote Street Art Fes­ti­val. This is an ur­ban ex­pe­ri­ence that brings art gal­leries and mu­se­ums onto the streets.

The an­nual fes­ti­val takes place in Jamestown, the old­est dis­trict in Ghana. Jamestown is a fish­ing com­mu­nity that is in a state of ne­glect, but when Chale Wote comes to town, the walls are dressed with im­ages of ex­pres­sion. Imag­ine a nev­erend­ing street filled with rhyth­mic African sounds, soul food for your taste buds, and all the art and fash­ion your eyes can see. This is Chale Wote Street Art Fes­ti­val.

8 PARTY IN AC­CRA Ac­cra has lively nightlife with a big se­lec­tion of spots to choose from. Whether you want to sit and have din­ner, catch some live jazz, or dance the night away, you will find a place. Some venues play in­ter­na­tional con­tem­po­rary mu­sic but it’s a bet­ter idea to find a spot that plays African sounds and im­merse your­self in the cul­ture.

9 SAVOUR THE LO­CAL CUI­SINE Of course you have to try some lo­cal food. One of the best dishes is Jollof rice, which is full of flavour and con­sid­er­ably spicy, but it will awaken your taste buds. You can have it with chicken, beef or tilapia fish, a Ghana­ian favourite. Also, make sure you try some plan­tain. Whether it’s deep-fried or dried, it is de­li­cious.

10 WIND DOWN AT THE VOLTA DAM The Volta Dam, also known as the Ako­sombo Dam, is in Ako­sombo in the East­ern Re­gion of Ghana, an hour’s drive from Ac­cra.

The dam was built be­tween 1961 and

1965 with the pur­pose of pro­vid­ing elec­tric­ity for the alu­minium in­dus­try. It now pro­vides power to Ghana and its neigh­bour­ing coun­tries. If you are look­ing to wind down and re­lax, take a scenic boat cruise and let the cap­tain give you some fun facts about the dam.

The main at­trac­tion here is the Adomi Bridge, which is also a legacy of Nkrumah’s gov­ern­ment.

 ?? Pic­tures: Lu­lama Njapa ?? BLACK PRIDE In­de­pen­dence Arch in Ac­cra, Ghana, is on In­de­pen­dence Square, also known as Black Star Square.
Pic­tures: Lu­lama Njapa BLACK PRIDE In­de­pen­dence Arch in Ac­cra, Ghana, is on In­de­pen­dence Square, also known as Black Star Square.
 ??  ?? LOOK­ING BACK A statue of Ghana’s first pres­i­dent Kwame Nkrumah, seen from his mau­soleum at Nkrumah Memo­rial Park.
LOOK­ING BACK A statue of Ghana’s first pres­i­dent Kwame Nkrumah, seen from his mau­soleum at Nkrumah Memo­rial Park.
 ??  ?? BEAT­ING HEARTS Cape Coast Cas­tle is where cap­tives were loaded on ships and sent to the Amer­i­cas as slaves.
BEAT­ING HEARTS Cape Coast Cas­tle is where cap­tives were loaded on ships and sent to the Amer­i­cas as slaves.

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