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Some dispute that okra originates from West Africa but there’s no denying that the word okra is of Western African origin. Okra soup and banku is a traditional recipe from western Africa and is most popular in Ghana. Banku is made from partially-fermented ground maize and grated Cassava. We met the Okra Lady in Mallam Atta market (also known as Malata market). If you want a true local market experience, you’ll find it here. In the three hours we were there we didn’t see any other tourist and you won’t find African masks or other tourist handcrafts at this market.
While in Ghana, I visited an unofficial IDP (internally displaced person) camp. Seeing the poverty firsthand was akin to a cold stream of water splashing over my body. This was a group of people who have fled their homes because of ethnic conflict. Materially speaking, they have NOTHING. While in the camp, we sang and danced with a large group of kiddos, distributed school supplies, and spoke with the camp leaders. I can’t help but smile at the memory. As I stood listening to the leaders, I felt a small tug on my skirt. It was followed by a giggle. A group of kiddos had gathered and put their hands up to their faces—signaling that they wanted their photo taken. I turned to take a quick shot, and once again children swarmed. Many were clutching their new pencils and markers in their hands, waving them proudly. Their GRATITUDE and JOY is something I will not soon forget.
by Jocelyn C. Zuckerman Housed in a grand, three-story tower overlooking the sea, the Artists Alliance Gallery showcases traditional crafts, such as Ashanti drums and masks as well as contemporary Ghanaian art. Take note of the elaborately carved and painted coffins, fashioned into shapes like cars and Nike sneakers, for which Ghanaians have become famous. Omanye House, Tema Beach Road, Accra 233/(0) 21-762-576, artistsallianz.com
by Jocelyn C. Zuckerman Summer is showtime in Ghana’s largest city. From June 7 through 15, the Environmental Film Festival stages open-air screenings around Accra, and in July, the Pan African Festival—celebrating its 20th anniversary this year—draws music and dance fans from across the continent. This appeared in the May/June 2012 issue. Photo by Antonio Bolfo.
by Jocelyn C. Zuckerman Proceeds from Global Mamas’ merchandise go back to the local women who make the items. Choose from straw-and-bead figurines; batik dresses, pictured above; and tote bags fashioned from recycled candy wrappers. Global Mamas.14th Lane, behind the Koala grocery store, Osu, 233/(0) 24-453-0467. This appeared in the May/June 2012 issue. Photo by Dani Vernon.
by Jocelyn C. Zuckerman Afia Beach Hotel’s 29 bungalows sit along the shore beneath arching palm trees. Snack on swordfish with fried plantains at the restaurant, and purchase handmade mudcloth and appliqué fabrics at the gift shop. Afia Beach Hotel. From $85 for an ocean-view double. Liberia Road, 233/(0) 30-268-1465. This appeared in the May/June 2012 issue. Photo by Antonella d’Amico.
The Center for National Arts and Culture, better known as Arts Center, is located next to the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, off the High Street in Accra, in the southern part of the city right along the Gulf of Guinea. All sorts of handicrafts imaginable can be found here from woodcarvings, traditional musical instruments, leather ware, gold, silver and bronze jewelry, traditional clothing, beads, clay products, weaved goods, antiques, paintings, and more. These items come from all over Ghana, with some coming from beyond the countries borders. You’ll need to haggle or pay a high price. You’re sure to get many in the market trying to entice you into their stalls so be polite but stern if you’re not looking for their wares. Shop around and be smart. We meet a couple of drum makers who we hung out with for a couple of days. We had a great time learning about Ghana, telling them about New York City, drinking local libation in a pretty dodgy part of a shantytown while watching some decent barefoot football (soccer) and playing drums into the night. Always felt on the edge of danger but never met any. Great memories and we left with djembe drums and a few crafts.
My favorite ways to experience a new place are through food and music. Jazz can be heard all over the world, but at the +233 Jazz Club and Grill I was excited to be exposed to Ghanaian Highlife by a talented group of young musicians. Horns and guitar dominate Highlife, which emerged from Ghana in the 20th century. +233 Jazz Club & Grill is an easy, enjoyable place to spend an evening among locals, expats and tourists alike in an outdoor setting. Thursday night was full, so if you go on a weekend night, be ready to stand up with your drinks. Food is offered, but its not the reason to come here. It's all about the great jazz and the friendly atmosphere. The club is in North Ridge, near the Ghana Broadcast Company off Ring Road. You can find them on Facebook too.
A trail of tangy tomatoes colored the lively Makola Market in Accra, Ghana. As my eyes darted around the rich reds, shoes and shirts, peppers and patterns - the tomatoes were really my 'yellow brick road'. Although I ate a mountain of plantains, most of the Ghanaian dishes were usually served with a stew or soup that is often tomato based like "Hkatenkwan" (Groundnut Soup), "Abenkwan" (Palm Nut Soup), or "Gari Foto" (Vegetarian Stew). During the time I spent with my Ghanaian host family on my volunteer trip, whenever I heard the grinding of tomatoes in a blender, I knew I was in for a treat!
I bet you didn’t know President Obama ran a restaurant in Ghana! No, this is not another Birther claim and it's not the leader of the free world's restaurant. If President Obama received residuals from all the uses of his name in Ghana, he'd have more money than Mitt Romney.
One of the most popular destinations in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, is the Labadi Beach Hotel. It boasts a gourmet restaurant, stunning views, 5-star service and a central location. As a jumping-off point for your exploration of the wonders of Accra, Labadi Beach is unrivaled. After a late night and, perhaps, an early morning flight from Lagos, you will be comforted by the calming surrounds of the lush lobby.
In any city that I travel to the market is always a favorite place to go. You can really feel the pulse of life and culture in the market. Amongst the most famous markets of Accra is the central Makola Market, located on Kojo Thompson road. I went there while volunteering at Camp Amelia's science and technology educational program. I stayed with a native Ghanaian friend who took me to the market. The streets were busy with buses and motorcycles zooming by the hustle and bustle of shoppers. What struck me about Africa was how colorful it was. The architecture and bright buildings of Accra, Ghana stood out as novel and unique, the fluorescent and purple colors of the paint: Life happening all around you. The market was a window into the heart and spirit of Accra. I got on the bus as I was leaving and couldn't pass up this amazing picture that captured what I felt: That life was happening at different corners of the market, each a story.
While walking to the main road in Labone on your way to Accra's compelling oceanfront, stop and have a fresh coconut. Choose your favorite, have the guy slice it open for you, drink it up; ask him to chop it open for you and then savor the fresh, tender meat as you continue on your way. An experience to live for, this.
If you need to just forget about it all and enjoy a quiet time at a four star pool Movenpick is the place. Enjoy the free drink and the waiters on rollerblades. You can also stroll over to the designer shops, cafe, and get your hair done. Yes, you might be in 'Africa' but you might also just forget and enjoy the peace of mind.
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