Snapshots of Ghana

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November 2nd 2016
Published: November 4th 2016
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Jamestown is the oldest part of Accra where the British set up their first encampment. Today it is a poor, chaotic fishing village within a bustling city. Ladies preserve fish by smoking them and then sell the fish in the street. The heat and the smells are challenging.

There are beaches in Ghana, long sandy beaches pounded by Atlantic waves. But there are few beach resorts and few tourists. We stay in one resort which is a little rundown but run well by smiling, helpful staff. We sleep to the sound of the surf.

There are also slave castles on the coast, established by the British, French and Portuguese. Walking round the places where slaves were interred, processed and shipped out is chilling. Africans capturing their fellow natives for money. Europeans shipping them out for money and then using them to grow crops in the Americas and the Caribbean to make more money. Man's inhumanity to man.

We have, traveling with us, an African American. His genes tell him that he is partly from Ghana. Against the odds, his ancestors survived the horrors of transportation and slavery. He knows that his great grand parents were part of the Great Migration of freed slaves leaving the southern states of USA, walking north. For him, the dungeons and the "door of no return", through which slaves left Africa forever, hold a special, emotional, meaning.

The biggest market in West Africa is in Kumasi and it is huge. From car parts to pigs' trotters; from tomatoes to locally woven cloth, everything is for sale somewhere in this market. We get lost and found a few times as we wander up and down the stalls. Shoppers, porters and stall holders all chat to us. Where are you from? Are you married? What is your mission?

The next day is an auspicious Wednesday. Every three to four weeks the Ashanti king holds a ceremony in his palace to meet and greet his public. The ceremony is much delayed, we go and have lunch during the wait. Eventually the king appears. His parade is led by drummers and then his ceremonial guard. Following the king are dancers and more ceremonial soldiers. All are dressed in fine traditional costume. The sound of the drumming is so load that we feel it in the chest.

Once seated, the king greets his Queen Mothers. These are senior members of the royal household, appointed by the king. On the king's death, it will be the 17 Queen Mothers who choose the new king. An interesting system.

Then, as honoured guests, we are presented to the king. We give him gifts, red wine and beer, and are invited up. We each bow before him, shake his hand and have a few words. He smiles and bids us welcome. He looks like a man who has shaken a lot of hands.

Finally, it is time for the king to go. The drumming rises to a crescendo. The king stands - we all stand - and he desends from his dias. Then he has a boogie with the dancers! The ceremonial umbrella boogies with its king. And then they are off, across the courtyard to disappear through a door.

We take a boat trip on the River Volta, up to a huge hydro electric dam. It is fully operational but we still get power cuts. Tilapia fish are farmed in the river, good for dinner. Huge black kites drift down to grab dead fish from the surface of the river, a tricky manoeuvre. Tomorrow we will cross the River Volta and enter Togo.

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