Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

“Ghana won the ‘which West-African country would you recommend to your friends’ competition: developed, safe, and with a variety of easy-to-reach attractions. Of course, we were also delighted to find ourselves in an English-speaking country at last.

Ghana is, by the standards of Sub-Saharan Africa, a relatively developed country. Even in the villages there are shops, electricity, bars and restaurants. It has a stable, democratic government, and a few days before we arrived a new president was sworn in.

The majority of the population are Christians, and they don’t hide their faith under a bushel: the enormous name of God is written across a chemical plant, and fishing boats have biblical verses painted on their sides: “Psalm 23” or “II Thess. 3:10 – if any would not work, neither should he eat.” The hood of the minibus is decorated with a picture of the Prince of Peace, and there are signs at every street corner informing the public when the next church services will be held. On our last evening in Ghana, we too went along to see a Pentecostal service. Wonderful singing drifted from the church – a building of undressed concrete slabs – but at first we were too shy to do more than peek inside. The thirty dancing, singing women soon invited us in. Though English is the official language, the only word we understood from the whole sermon was ‘Jesus’, but the music, the joy, and the enthusiastic rhythm section were all contagious, and soon we found ourselves joining in the dance.

We began our trip through Ghana with visits to two nature reserves. In Mole National Park we really got close to some wild animals: while we were camping, I was surprised to see, in the beam of my headlamp, an antelope staring back at me. Then, by the canal, we saw a friendly warthog wallowing in the water, and finally we came very close to a patient elephant. For almost an hour and a half we followed her, walking around her and observing how she chewed up tree branches. Whenever she gave us too sharp a look, our guide would always take hold of his rifle, though he’d previously told us that he had never actually used it to kill an animal. In the end, his claps and shouts were always enough to move her on.

The second nature reserve was the Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary. The locals do not harm monkey for religious reasons, so they’ve become quite used to the presence of humans. Indeed, they often steal food from villages. We soon encountered some mona monkeys in the forest, and they went from friendly to demanding as soon as they realized that we had bananas. In exchange, though, we were able to get really up close and personal with them. Up at the top of the enormous trees, black-and-white colobus monkeys eyed us from a distance.

Heading towards Accra, we stopped off in Kumais, where we wanted to see a market which some judge to be the largest in Africa. As luck would have it we arrived on a non-market day, so only a few of the 45000 stalls were open, and we could walk around without any agoraphobic anxiety attacks. What we liked best in Kumais, however, were the British fort and the guided tour connected with it, which focused on the Ghanaian army and the Kingdom of Ashanti. The funniest part of the tour was the series of photographs which showed how in war after war, the British marched off together with soldiers from the Gold Coast – the only difference being that the latter did not wear boots, which Africans could not get used to. Of course, they took a photo of the first Ghanaian soldier who decided to wear boots, though only for two days a week.

After Kumasi we visited Lake Bosomtwe, Ghana’s only (!) natural lake, which sits in the middle of a gigantic crater. The humid haze, however, meant that we didn’t see much of it. In Accra we spent three days sorting out our visas, then made another vain search for hiking boots in my size. At last I bought a pair in size 40 (for size 42 feet).

From Accra we set off west, to see the slave forts of the Gold Coast. We weren’t really all that keen to be reminded again of the slave trade, but the forts which have been given world heritage status, and particularly Elmina Castle, surprised us. I’d never be able to successfully put into words how oppressive it felt to see the windowless, airless cellars into which several hundred slaves were crammed, then kept there for weeks at a time, or the cell opposite, into which some were thrown to die of thirst. I can’t help but mention one illustrative fact, however: when it came time to prepare the castle for opening as a heritage monument, a one-meter-thick layer of human remains, long since broken down into a sort of compost, had to be removed. One other story stuck with us: a female slave voluntarily offered herself to the soldiers, simply because she knew that beforehand she would at least be permitted to bathe.

Twice in Ghana we encountered ‘overlanders’. These are big buses, usually made from converted trucks, which carry between ten and twenty travelers on a journey across West Africa that can last for months, and on more or less the same sort of route we were taking. This is a quite unique form of travel, in many ways more comfortable, and certainly easier/cheaper than going it alone. To us, the biggest disadvantage seems to be the amount of wild camping you’d have to do, which might make mornings a bit unpleasant, with a group of twenty people… As a counterpoint I present Jo and Mike, a couple from Oregon who were on a trip around the world in their Subaru Outback, and had now reached West Africa. The bumper of the station-wagon almost touched the ground – it was the strangest overland vehicle we’d ever seen. (2017)

Traditional Ghanaian garments

West Africa - Ghana - crowd - Elter photo

Ghana - some strain - Elter photo

Practicals

Transport

While the main streets in the larger cities are well-maintained, the roads outside the towns are deplorable.  Aged vehicles, the unpredictable behavior of drivers, undisciplined pedestrians, and weak or completely missing absent public lighting in many places are common causes of serious accidents.

There is no public transport in Ghana, and it is safer for you to rent a car with chauffeur.  Police inspections are regular on the roads.

West Africa - Ghana - boats - Elter photo

Ghana - Kumasi - traffic jam - K-T. G. photo

Ghana - basic filling station on the way to Kumasi - k.a. photo

Ghana - Axim - taxis - k.a. photo

Ghana - Adomi Bridge over the Volta River - Elter photo

Accomodation

x

Ghana - Kumasi - Hotel Georgia - belongs to one of the second-rank kings (King Ashanti is the all-time real king, and there are the ones ruling smaller areas) - k.a. photo

Food

“In Ghana, little attention is paid to refrigeration or hygiene when it comes to the storage and transportation of food. Still, no need to worry, the golden rule applies here too: if the food is fried, boiled or otherwise sterilized, you can eat it. I must stress that during my entire stay I had no problems, and heard no complaints from any of the Western travelers I met. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s advisable to go looking for culinary delights behind the first plastic curtain with a signboard proclaiming ‘family kitchen.’ I’d recommend satisfying your thirst for adventure in the national parks, and sticking to beachfront and hotel restaurants for your meals. The roar of the waves are a pleasant accompaniment to dinner, and the rats only begin to stir in the evening, just like the enzymes which break down the food that has fallen to the ground.” (2016)

---------------------------

“One of the most popular dishes in Ghana is the imaginatively named ‘red red’ – which is simply beans cooked in a rich, savory sauce. The sauce is largely formed from tomato, but to be on the safe side they add plenty of thickener, as well as a quantity of fried plantain. Bean dishes are popular in that part of the world, and generally include something fried in coconut or shea butter, or in palm oil, which is one of Ghana’s staples.

If you’re looking for local fast food, you’ll most frequently encounter dishes involving fried chicken. In my experience, locals prefer the bony parts, since these can be sucked and chewed for a long time.

Banana chips can be had almost everywhere, and may be the most delicious thing I ate in Ghana. They’re so moreish that I think if you put a heap of them in front of me, I could snack away on them indefinitely and never feel full. Of course, banana fried in oil isn’t exactly a health food, but then, what chips do we eat because they’re healthy? There are sweet and salty versions, and both can be bought from women on the street, who balance them in buckets on their heads.

When it comes to drinks, there’s less variety on offer, but humanity’s insatiable desire for alcoholic intoxication, combined with the obstacle-overcoming creativity of West Africa, has produced some interesting results. The first contender is palm wine, which is fermented from the juice of the coconut palm. You can buy it on almost every street corner, but the main thing is to drink it fresh, since it very quickly grows a rime of mold, especially when forgotten on a balcony over a warm Ghanaian night. It has a low alcohol content, and the taste is somewhere between sour milk and sweet coconut rind. You either love it or you hate it – there’s no in between.

The local beer selection is good, but there are few surprises. In the world of spirits, Western brands are preferred, but there is a strong local intoxicant which goes by the name of Alomo Bitter. Ghanaians drink it with lemon juice, but that does little to conceal its corrosive, astringent taste, which lingers on the palette for a long time. I watched with sincere admiration as people toasted and knocked back their third glass of the stuff, while I was still trying to choke down my first.” (2016)


Ghana - Rice balls with groundnut& chicken soup

Shopping

x

Ghana - Busua Beach - a kind of fish market - k.a. photo

Fun

x

Ghana - Accra - street performance - d.l. photo

Ghana - Kumasi - A monument to a man who humiliates the lion's self-esteem - k.a. photo

Public safety

x

West Africa - Ghana - bouncer - Elter photo

Ghana - bodyguard with a golden rifle - y.m. photo

Health

Ghana is highly malaria-prone and has a high incidence of hepatitis and several tropical diseases, so you better contact your country's relevant health authority while planning the trip.

The standard of public medical care is low, unreliable, often difficult to access; however, there are many well-equipped professional private clinics in larger cities (Accra, Kumasi, Tamale).

In Ghana, you don't need prescriptions to buy drugs from the pharmacy. (You can even buy a birth pill without prescription.)

---------------------

“The directors of the Accra Central Hospital noticed a very troubling fact: Every Monday morning a patient in the intensive care ward would die, always in the same bed next to the electrical outlet. This happened with frightening predictability, always on a Monday morning. One of the doctors came up with the idea of setting a hidden camera next to the bed. The camera recorded nothing interesting all week, but during the regular Monday morning cleaning, it showed the cleaning lady unplugging the ventilator, plugging in her vacuum cleaner, doing her job, then reconnecting the ventilator and moving on to another room…” (E. P., 2016)

---------------------

“If there’s one thing the Ghanaians struggle with, it’s swimming. I mean, seriously, this is not an aquatic population – when they go to the beach they prefer to sit and watch it from a safe distance, like a tiger in a zoo. Some younger people have begun to take swimming lessons, but it still hasn’t become a popular habit. One reason for this is the strong riptides along the Gold Coast, which can easily carry an unpracticed swimmer far out to sea, so it isn’t such an unfounded fear after all. That’s why most

Ghanaians do not see the palm-fringed beach as a place of pleasure and relaxation, as we do, but as a dangerous and accursed place. In traditional fishing villages, sandy beaches were used only as large public toilets. Not to worry – this habit has largely died out, but even today, wherever you see a large number of boats, you should probably refrain from diving in.

Nor does it help that bathing in Ghana’s freshwater lakes and rivers is generally considered dangerous, on account of all the juicy bacteria and amoebas, which are guaranteed to put your digestive system out of order. That’s not to say that the locals don’t enjoy paddling and dipping their feet into these waters, but for the reasons outlined above, I wouldn’t recommend copying them. The best places to bathe are the beaches near the cities – especially those sections marked with a flag as safe. Even there, though, Ghanaians will watch in amazement as you wade out through the surf. And be careful – if you get into trouble, there’s no Mitch Buchannan charging into the water with a red float to save you!” (2016)


-------------

,, In Ghana, girls who menstruate for the first time, get a boiled egg to eat. In some parts of the country, girls must not chew the boiled egg but have to swallow it whole, believing it will make them fertile. Chewing the egg means they will have problems bearing a child.”



Ghana - siesta on the restaurant table - Elter photo

Ghana - Cape Coast - fishing - k.a. photo

Ghana - Kumasi - street vendors enjoy an early afternoon siesta - k.a. photo

Others

1. It is not allowed to take out of the country their local currency.  There is strict control over that. More than 5,000 cedits are confiscated.

Ghana - festive show - The man cuts off a small piece of his tongue. - y.m. photo

Background

Destination in brief

Ghana in brief
 
Ghana is located in West Africa. Neighbors: Ivory Coast (west), Burkina Faso (north), Togo (east) The country’s southern part has a coastline along the Gulf of Guinea.
 
Ghana was a British colony until 1957. Ghana was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence. Before independence, the colony was called Gold Coast, due to its abundant gold reserves.
 
Size: 238,535 km² (92,098.9 mi²) - Mostly low plains with dissected plateau in the south-central area
 
Capital city: Accra, a port city - “Accra” translates as “ants.” It was named as such because of the anthills that once surrounded the city.
 
Population: 30.8 million (2020) – About two-thirds of Ghanaians are under the age of 30.
 
Ghanaians wear a mix of Western and traditional clothing, usually with bright colors and bold patterns, and preferably made of silk.
 
Funerals are a big deal in Ghana, and they play an important social function in the family and community. They can last several days, during which the mourners dance and celebrate the life of the departed.
 
Languages: English is the official language, but only half of the population can properly speak it. – More people speak Akan, a local language, or Ewe, which is also widespread.
 
Religions: 68% Christian, 16% Muslim, 16% Animist 
 
Political system: democracy, presidential republic
 
Ghana is one of the few African countries to have persistently held credible elections and to experience peaceful transitions from one president to another.
 
Gold and cocoa are the backbones of the Ghanaian economy.
 
The standard of living is higher in the south than in the north.
 
Currency: Ghanaian cedi (GHS)
 
Average net monthly salary: 280 USD (2020)
 
Most common surname: Mensah
 
Polygamy is legal, but marrying more than one wife is mostly the privilege of Ghana’s rich and powerful.
 
According to ancient tradition, a Ghanaian widow is expected to marry the brother of her late husband.
 
Safety: Ghana is a relatively safe tourist destination, better than the
West African average, although tourists should beware of theft and armed robbery.
 
Ghana is home to some of the biggest, longest, most impressive venomous snakes. These include cobras, which are famed for their high-speed movement with a standing head position. There are also pythons in Ghana. These can strangle and swallow an entire antelope, goat, and other similar-sized herbivores.
 
 
When to visit? November-March
 
Top tourist attractions:
 
Traditional buildings of the onetime Ashanti Empire, forts and castles from 15th to 18th centuries, Lake Volta (the largest artificial reservoir in the world), Volta Region, the open-air market of Kumasi (the largest market in West Africa), Kakum National Rainforest   
 
Kofi Annan is one of the best-known Ghanaians. He served as secretary-general of the United Nations between 1997-2006.
 




West Africa - Ghana - parliament and presidency - Flagstaff House - Elter photo

Geography

x

Ghana - Axim - rough coast - k.a. photo

Ghana - emperor scorpion (pandinus imperator) - t.k. photo

History

The name of Ghana comes from the medieval Ghana Empire of West Africa. The real name of the Empire was Wagadugu. Ghana was the title of the kings who ruled the kingdom.


Ghana - Elmina Castle - Built in 1482, this was the Portuguese hub (1482-1637) and the Dutch slave trade (1637-1872) on the Gold Coast. Under the Dutch West Indies Company rule, around 30,000 slaves a year passed through Elmina’s door of no return. - s.b. photo

Ghana - Kumasi - Prempeh II (Ashanti King) Jubilee Museum - k.a. photo

Ghana - Accra - statue of Kwame Nkrumah who was (1957-1966) the first president of the independent Ghana - k.a. photo

Nowadays

x

Ghana - Accra - modern - k.a. photo

Ghana - Kumasi - junior clerk - k.a. photo

Ghana - Cape Coast - k.a. photo

Ghana - Elmina - k.a. photo

People

1. Most Ghanaians loosely handle the time factor.  ‘I’m almost there’ more often means they are nowhere nearby, and you should expect a wait of at least half an hour.  Ghanaians are mostly laid-back people, making for a more gentle approach to life, but their inaccuracy can be frustrating for a Western tourist.

2. In rural areas, birthdays are not celebrated, not even well documented.  Many people guess within a 10- to 20-year range of what age they think they are.

Ghana - girl - k.t. g. photo

Ghana - mother&child - k-t.g. photo

Ghana - Cape Coast - k.a. photo

Ghana - selling peeled oranges and trimming hair - y.m. photo

Ghana - a local dignitary with much gold on him - y.m. photo

Tourist etiquette

1. In Ghana, local women and girls do not wear bikinis on the beaches. Older locals may express their disapproval even if a tourist woman is wearing a bikini.

Gastronomy

x

Ghana - jollof dish Ghanaian-style with Jasmine or Thai rice (Nigerian's jollof is with long grain parbolled rice)

Attractions

Accra

Population (in 2020): 2.5 million

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 350 USD - (country average: 280 USD)

Ghana - Accra - street scene - j.d. photo

Ghana - Accra - Memorial of Kwame Nkrumah who was (1957-1966) the first president of the independent Ghana - k.a. photo

Ghana - Accra - k.a. photo

Ghana - Accra - Jamestown area, the oldest part of the town - k.a. photo

Ghana - Accra - Jamestown area - slum - k.a. photo

Cape Coast

Ghana - Cape Coast - k.a. photo

Ghana - Cape Coast - Castle - k.a. photo

Ghana - Cape Coast - Castle - k.a. photo

Ghana - Cape Coast - k.a. photo

Ghana - Cape Coast - k.a. photo

Ghana - Cape Coast - beach - k.a. photo

Kumasi

Ghana - Kumasi - a.m. photo

Ghana - Kumasi - s.b. photo

Ghana - Kumasi - Manhiya Palace Museum - k.a. photo

Ghana - Kumasi - overhead bridge - k.a. photo

Ghana - Kumasi - Kejetia Market - k.a. photo

Tamale

Ghana - Tamale - main street - k.a. photo

Ghana - Northern Region - Tamale - main mosque - k.a. photo

Ghana - Tamale - dirt road - k.a. photo

Ghana - Tamale - snack - k.a. photo

Lake Bosumtwe

Mole National Park

Ghana - Mole National Park - elepfants - k.a. photo

Ghana - Mole National Park - warthogs - k.a. photo

Ghana - Mole National Park - roan antelope - k.a. photo

Beaches

Ghana - Labadi Beach - j.a. photo

Ghana - Busua Beach - k.a. photo

Kakum National Park

Ghana - Kakum National Park - rope-style hanging bridges in the jungle - Elter photo

Busua

Volta Region

Elmina

Ghana - Elmina - castle - k.a. photo

Ghana - Elmina - k.a. photo

Ghana - Elmina - k.a. photo

Axim

Ghana - Axim - k.a. photo

Ghana - Axim - gate - k.a. photo

Ghana - Axim - traffic - k.a. photo

Ghana - Axim - k.a. photo

Larabanga

Ghana - Larabanga Mosque - k.a. photo

Ghana - Larabanga Mosque - k.a. photo

Takoradi

Ghana - Takoradi - k.a. photo

Ghana - Takoradi - k.a. photo

Ghana - Takoradi - load-bearing - k.a. photo

Related posts

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *