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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
What I loved about the fishing boat launch area just north of the Cape Coast Castle, and most of Ghana for that matter, was the lack of tourist infrastructure. There was no paid admission to watch the fishermen prepare their green fishing nets and colorful boats, no vendors hawking water and postcards and no hordes of pasty Americans and Germans wearing Teva’s on their glowing white feet and camera’s around their plump necks. We had to squeeze between buildings to catch a glimpse of the Cape Coast fishermen prepare for another ‘day at the office.’
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 Greet a Ghanaian with the word ayeeko (“eye-yeh-koo”) and you’ll earn instant street credibility. Translated as “well done” and “congratulations” and used as a salutation, the word—also spelled ayekoo and ayikoo— comes from the Twi dialect of the Akan language. Twi is the most widely spoken language in Ghana. Illustration by Ken D’Amato. This appeared in the May/June 2012 issue.
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.
There are two big stars in Ghana, West Africa: God and Obama. You'll see the two of them referenced everywhere. In the street market in Cape Coast, Ghana I found a packet of Obama Biscuits (cookies). Never actually ate them, they sit on my book shelf here at home in New York City.
When I lived and worked in southern Ghana, the Anomabo Beach Resort was my oasis. It's tucked away on a lovely stretch of beach and it is accessible from the main Cape Coast road. The entrance to the resort is about 90 miles from Accra and less than 10 minutes south of Cape Coast itself. The resort consists of about a dozen little cottages that range in price based on size and whether or not they have electric air conditioners in them. At about 70 dollars a night, the best huts are right on the beach, but you can also rent a tent for less than 20 dollars and it will be set up (with a latern and an air mattress included) for you. Everyone gathers at the gorgeous, beach front restaurant for meals. My favorite dish was the pasta with marinara sauce, but my local friends raved about the banku and tilapia dinners. I highly recommend ordering a bottle of wine and relaxing with friends in one of the many reclining chairs. And if you get up early the next morning, a long walk in either direction will give you amazing views of the sea and the fishermen. Swimming should be done right in front of the resort as the undertow is quite strong and Anomobo hires a lifeguard to look after those of us who may find ourselves a the mercy of the waves. One worry I have about Anomabo is that the force of the surf is getting ever close to the huts. I don't know how long humans can hold back the water, so go now... before it is too late!
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.
While standing at the top of Elmina Castle, the view is majestic. It is easy to become enraptured in the beauty—the sound of the waves, the smell of the ocean. Forgetting the fact that you are standing on top of building that epitomizes the depravity of man. It is even easier to not see what is currently happening. At first glance, it looks like dozens of men going about their work. Then you realize that the “men” are not small simply because they are at such a distance, but they appear child-sized because they are in fact children. As a costal State, fisheries are extremely popular in Ghana. Because of their vulnerability due to poverty or homelessness, the very street children that we came to help are often sold to work in the fisheries (also textiles, prostitution, etc.). I KNOW modern day slavery. I know the statistics and the stories. But for the first time, I SAW the eyes of the ones who were not rescued. From a monument of what we have overcome, I was quickly brought back to the reality that there is still so much more to be done.
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.
Far away from the tourists in the south, you'll find a beautiful stretch of country in the Brong-Ahafo region. Tucked away down a tiny dirt road, is the village of Hani. In Hani, you can take a tour to the Sacred Hole - a hidden little oasis deep in the bush. A 45 minute walk through cashew farms and grassy fields, will bring you to this ancient archaeological site. The people of Hani and Begho are said to have emerged from a hole in the ground over 1000 years ago. Begho grew to be a large city, archaeologists have discovered 77 streets lining this ancient town. A trip to Hani is a refreshing change of pace from the hawking street sellers and overpriced hotels in Accra. Adventure out and discover a different side of Ghana.
My friend and I visited Ghana's Volta Region recently. After a long day of hiking Wli Falls, the tallest falls in West Africa, we decided to visit a monkey sanctuary in Tafi Atome. Our guidebook had little to say about Tafi Atome other than it had 6 guest rooms in the town for travelers. It also said we would have to access the town by motorcycles! We decided to travel there before nightfall so we could see the monkeys at daybreak. We took a Tro-Tro to the nearby town of Logba. Tro-Tro's are privately owned vans that act as a public transportation system in Ghana. I would frequently have to book two seats just to fit since I'm 6'6" tall. Logba was pitch black when we arrived. We found some locals in the distance and asked them for help to get to Tafi Atome. After extensive price negotiation, we had a ride to town. My friend is very price competitive! The two of us, the driver, and our dufflebag all rode on one motorcycle. It was a rough dirt road, in the dark, and raining. I was sitting so far back on the bike I nearly fell off with every bump! Once we arrived we found the town's power was out, but the locals worked hard to make us feel at home. The wives prepared us dinner while we settled into our cabin by candlelight. Beds, running water, mosquito nets, and even a fan were provided. The next day we got a private tour of the town and played with the monkeys. After about an hour, the town chef cooked us breakfast before we headed to our next stop. An amazing experience!
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.
Last July, I took my then 9 old son to Ghana, West Africa to meet his cousins, and visit some favorite childhood hangouts of mine.The featured picture was taken at the Boti Falls in the Eastern part of Ghana. The natural rock which has been affectionately dubbed" The Umbrella Rocks" looks exactly like an open umbrella, and has been in existence since the beginning of time. atop the umbrella showcases a mixture of massive green forest surrounded by one of the world's most beautiful falls - Boti Falls where both male and female falls cascade midstream to produce one of the most purest, whitest and elegant stream of water the world has even witnessed! For my son and I, experiencing the amazing umbrella rock, male and female falls, coupled with the triplet palm tree is indeed one of the wonders of the world!
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.
For around 200 USD a night you can enjoy 4 star hotel experience just 2 hours from central Accra. Royal Senchi has a lovely poolside bar/restaurant with a nightly live band. The breakfast and dinner buffet is on par with other 4 star hotels in Accra like the Movenpick. You can jump into a hotel sponsored kayak or canoe for free and take your own tour up the Volta river. If you are feeling adventurous you can have the Akosombo bridge be your final destination. Insider tip: the drinks in the mini fridge are free with your hotel room price.
While teaching woman’s health in a rural village north of Accra, Ghana I wandered away from the group to explore. I came across a family’s mud hut with this powerful message painted on the door. Seeing this both humbled and inspired me to be thankful for everything I have regardless of how “big” or “small” it may be.
After long work weeks in busy, dusty Accra, I always retreat to "Franco and Caye's place" or "the Italian place" as known around Kokrobite. Franco crossed West Africa on bike and settled in Kokrobite, and with his wife and two kids he's built this peaceful garden oasis. My troupe and I stay in the family house, which is a bargain at 80 cedis a night- the equivalent of $50 give or take depending on the fluctuating exchange rate. Waking up in the upstairs loft to the view of the garden, birds chirping, and Franco and Caye's cute kids running around is my version of heaven. Their pizza is as they claim: "best in town, possibly the world." The grounds are idyllic: bamboo treefort, swimming pool, vintage turquoise camper, and A-frame bungalows. Access to the beach is through Big Milly's down the road, which has a more Spring-Break-in-Cabo feel. Enjoy a pina colada on the beach, stay for the live band, and then retreat back to your oasis for your beauty rest. Don't forget to take your malarone though...the mosquitos love this place too. With the abundance of obruni guests at Big Milly's, petty theft is high so keep an eye on your valuables. Though it's very close in mileage to Accra proper, the trip takes up to 3 hours because of traffic, so plan for that.
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