By Peter B. Gardner (BA ’98, MA ’04)
AKWAABA! Visit Ghana, West Africa, and you’re sure to hear the greeting (Welcome!) again and again. That inviting spirit, along with an infectious friendliness and political stability, make Ghana an enjoyable African destination for tourists.
Cape Coast Slave Castle: The cannons and dungeons of the Cape Coast Slave Castle provide tangible and sobering reminders of the colonial slave trade’s brutality.
Canopy Walk: View the flora and, with luck, the fauna (including pigmy elephants) of the rain forest through canopy walks on bridges above Kakum National Park (above).
Wli Falls: A 40-minute jungle hike delivers perspiring tourists to the base of the 60-meter-high final step of Wli Falls (400 meters high in total), where they swim under the pounding cataract in a waist-deep pool as thousands of fruit bats screech from cliff walls above.
To Market, to Market: Want an immersive cultural experience? Venture into Kumasi’s labyrinthine Kejetia market—West Africa’s largest open-air market introduces the visitor to items like live snails, a cow’s head, and traditional Kente cloth in the market’s twisting corridors.
Try the FuFood: Ghanaian cuisine is best known for its starchy staple, fufu, made from cassava or yams first boiled then pounded into a doughy ball. To eat, dip a pinch of the dough in a spicy soup and swallow whole. The daring might try snail soup, made using softball-sized snails gathered in the forest (right).
Talk Like a Ghanaian: Caucasian visitors shouldn’t be offended when Ghanaians refer to them as obruni (white person). Likewise, it’s culturally appropriate to refer to a Ghanaian as obibini (black person). And you can impress the locals by knowing your “day name,” based on the day of the week you were born. For example, people born on Friday are called Kofi (male) or Afua (female).
Lessons in Happiness
Take a drive down the streets of Accra, and it’s clear why Ghana has developed a reputation as a religious, tolerant, happy nation: Christian churches and Muslim mosques sit side by side as peaceful neighbors, and local business names—like Jesus Saves Taxi Service and God Works Miracles Hair Salon—bespeak a pervasive faithful enthusiasm.
In the center of town stands the Accra Ghana Temple, which many call “the most beautiful structure in the country.”
But Watch Out For
Overpriced Goods: Hawkers at the market know a tourist when they see one, and they adjust prices accordingly. That is, unless you are a regular like de la Cruz, who has received “mother” status from Abomosu villagers and thus always gets a fair price. You don’t mess with a mother in Ghana. But tourists? The shopkeepers rook them with abandon.
Street Food: It’s best for visitors to stick to hotel restaurants and those approved by the government tourism agency.
Mosquitoes: Africa’s biggest health risk is malaria, so travelers must be sure to take their meds and wear their DEET.