Accra, Ghana: West Africa’s Cultural Capital

Film, design, and (of course) food are just a few of the reasons to travel to Accra.

Accra, Ghana: West Africa’s Cultural Capital

Photo by Antonio Bolfo

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. Experience these Accra highlights during your stay.

Hotel: Afia Beach Hotel

From $85 for an ocean-view double. Liberia Road, 233/(0) 30-268-1465.

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.

Dining: Buka

Off 10th Lane, next to the former American Embassy. Osu, 233/(0)30-278-2953

The treehouse-like Buka is a favorite among residents for traditional West African dishes such as moin moin (a Nigerian bean pudding), jollof rice (made with tomatoes, onion, and chili), and the peanut-heavy groundnut soup with guinea fowl.

Shop: Global Mamas’

14th Lane, behind the Koala grocery store, Osu, 233/(0) 24-453-0467.

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.

Nightlife: Harbin Bowling Club

Oxford Street, opposite Papaye restaurant

After a few frames at the Harbin Bowling Club, which also offers arcade games and pool (321 Beach rd., Teshie), head to the Container. The bar is housed inside a shipping container, and the Hiplife beat (a regional style that blends jazz, reggae, funk, and hip hop) drives the outdoor dance floor.

Do: Artists Alliance Gallery

Omanye House, Tema Beach Road, Accra 233/(0) 21-762-576

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.

Talk: “Ayeeko!”

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.

>>Next: Ghana’s Outstretched Hand

For most of my career, I’ve worked as an editor, beginning at a little lifestyle magazine called InFashion and spending a few years at travel trades before landing at Gourmet in 1996. I spent 12 years there, ending as deputy editor, and had the pleasure of editing stories by David Foster Wallace, Gary Shteyngart, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Junot Diaz, Stacy Schiff, Richard Ford, Michael Lewis, Nina Teicholz, and many others.
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