Why did Europeans come to Ghana?

Ghana: Visiting proud women

As far as tourism is concerned, Ghana is still in its infancy. But that should change. It will be done carefully and sustainably in order to avoid mistakes by neighboring countries.

Ecotourism is the keyword for the future, because the rich history of the multi-ethnic state, flora and fauna must be protected. If you travel to Ghana, you certainly need patience, but in the end you will be gifted with immeasurable hospitality and a fascinating culture.

Central market in Kumasi: behind the scenes in a world of its own

Like in Kumasi. The sun is high in the sky early in the morning, grains of dust glitter in the sun's rays and transform the dusty place into a sea of ​​sparks.

But the snapshot is deceptive, the market is hectic. It's still cool between the parasols, but the coolness of the night is stored in the shade until midday. Then it gets hot and humid, very typical for the tropics.

Not exactly a gem, but useful: the Kumasi airport.

People like to describe pure chaos as “busy”. This also applies to the central market in Kumasi. Crates are lined up, vegetables are stacked, clothes and fabrics are hung up. There is literally nothing here that is not there. Food, clothing, utensils. The art, however, is to find what you are looking for. Because the central market has its own order.

The traders greet each other, laugh and exchange a few friendly words. Everyone knows each other on the central market, even if Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana and the Ashanti capital, has around two and a half million inhabitants.

There is haggling, discussion and laughter

At a woodwork stand, two women have a lively discussion. There is haggling, gesturing and laughing until the order is finally settled satisfactorily for both women, the saleswoman and the customer. The flapping of the chickens in the cages mixes with the clatter of the pots. The pungent smell of spices with the sweet scent of fruit.

Women are an important part of market life in Ghana.

Foreigners who wander through the alleys of the market are quickly overwhelmed. Countless paths, hidden branches, noise, crowds, heat. To do this, all dealers try to attract attention: call, wave, click. That can be exhausting quickly. But it is worth getting involved in the experience, because there is no more authentic shopping experience in Ghana.

The position of women in Ghana: of pride and diligence

Anyone who has gotten used to their surroundings will quickly notice one thing: Ghanaian market life is shaped by women. Whether behind the food stands, setting up the stands or selling meat: For women in Ghana, working is a matter of course. They earn their own income and are proud of it.

A full 80 percent of Ghanaians have a job, more than in Germany. In addition to work, the women take care of the household, the upbringing of children and the kitchen. By the way.

They confidently assert their position - and that is a very special one with many of the ethnic groups in Ghana. Many of the tribes, like the largest Akan population, are matrilineal. The continuation of the family and the succession are not transferable from the father to the children, but from the mother.

So children follow the ancestral line of the mother and inheritance also follows the female line of the family. The Akan celebrates the transition from child to woman with initiation rites, celebrations that elevate the girl into the adult world. There are no circumcisions.

Proud women with pretty, colorful clothes are a common sight in Ghana.

But women are not only tribal mothers and responsible for families, they are also crucial in tribal politics. The so-called “Queen Mother” has the decisive right to make nominations in the elections for the tribal head. Nothing works without them.

The European male dominance rubs off

As special and exemplary as that sounds, unfortunately there are also many women who fall out of the ordinary. Colonization rubbed the male-dominated system of the Europeans on the tribes of Ghana. Men got advantages or better positions in the job than women. But drought and floods and the resulting poverty also create precarious situations, also for women.

On the central market in Kumasi, inequality shows up on a daily basis. Where stallholders often get a decent daily allowance at the end of the day, things look bad for porters from the poorer north. They transport the goods to the stalls and, despite the heavy physical labor, do not even earn enough to be able to afford accommodation for the night.

Many of the young girls sleep on the edge of the market between rubbish and street dogs. A situation that is unfortunately still the order of the day.

But there are women who stand up for their sisters, friends and colleagues, in the case of Kumasi the traditional market women cooperative. They offer help and support and work tirelessly for equality for women.

In the villages: of tradition and identity

The successes can be seen with your own eyes in Bonwire, a village not far from Kusami. An excursion is worthwhile to experience life in the villages up close.

"Akwaaba! Welcome! ”, A wave, a smile, and the ice is broken. Whether you are on Facebook or maybe want to exchange cell phone numbers? People in Ghana are sociable. People love small talk, conversations and jokes here, especially with strangers.

Anyone who does not allow themselves to be caught off guard by the first approach, which is abrupt by German standards, will immediately feel the concentrated Ghanaian hospitality.

An invitation to eat together with the whole family is not uncommon, especially not in villages like Bonwire, a traditional weaving village.

National dish in Ghana: Chicken with rice

We eat the national dish chicken with rice, which we traditionally eat on the ground and with our hands. Better said with the right hand, because the left hand is considered unclean, the Ghanaians are strict about that. The people are warm, helpful and humorous.

Interested questions about name, origin and marital status are followed by discussions about politics and interests, all in English. English is the official language in Ghana due to the British colonial era. That makes things a lot easier, also for the locals.

If you are lucky, you will see and hear a live performance by the male drummers in Ghana.

Around 79 languages ​​are spoken in Ghana. Twi, Ga and Fante are just a few of them. It is easy to start a conversation with English, hands and feet. Anyone who comes along with a few chunks of Twi is almost overwhelmed with enthusiasm.

After eating, talking and socializing, there is the opportunity to gain an insight into a very special handicraft: the weaving of the famous Kente fabrics. The Kente fabrics are precious. So precious that the fabric, made exclusively by members of the Akan peoples, was only worn by kings.

The weaving technique is considered to be one of the best-kept secrets of the tribe, only a small group with the best weavers is allowed to produce the fabrics, traditionally only men.

Handicraft projects in Ghana that inspire tourists

But now there are some women who have worked their way up to the highest arts of weaving and with great success. They proudly present their works of art to interested tourists and they are thrilled. For women, weaving means success on two levels: financial independence and the passing on of old Akan traditions in the hands of women.

Similar projects can be found all over Ghana. In the cocoa farming village of Mesomagor, north of Cape Coast, women on a farm project show how local products such as cocoa beans, cassava and palm wine are processed. In Cape Coast, the “Global Mamas”, a women's self-help group with around 600 women, introduce curious tourists to the production of traditional handicraft products. Workshops, storytelling evenings around the campfire and dance groups take visitors into the exotic world of West African tribes.

For the local women, it's about much more than just having fun with tourists: going back to your own roots, strengthening your own identity far away from the slave's past and earning your own income. A win-win situation that one could only dream of for a long time.

When people were commodities: From trade to Ghana's independence

For centuries there was no question of pride and independence of the Ghanaian population. When the first Europeans came to Ghana in the 15th century, they began trading gold and ivory, always in favor of the European masters, of course. Where raw materials are initially the basis of exploitation and trade, there is later trade in people.

Cape Coast used to be Ghana's most important slave hub.

The slave trade will dominate Ghana for three centuries, always at the center of European power struggles: Portuguese, Swedes, British. Characterized by the strong competition between the trading powers, fortified fortifications were built in the 18th century to protect goods, later as slave castles. In the 19th century, British missionaries brought Ghana under control and replaced the supremacy of the Portuguese. As the “Gold Coast”, the country becomes a crown colony.

Cape Coast fortress towers over the coastal town

In Cape Coast, the fortress still towers monumentally over the coastal town. The laughter of the children and the bright white fortress walls in the midday sun make you almost forget the past of the place.

But local guides ensure that the story remains present. They tirelessly lead groups of tourists through the walls, showing the traces of the chains that have kept human lives under lock and key for so long.

Cape Coast was once the most important slave transhipment point for the British. Over time, hundreds of thousands of people endured in dungeons under inhumane conditions until they were deported to America and the Caribbean. In no other African country are there more slave castles than in Ghana. The most important, Cape Coast and Elmina, are on the World Heritage List.

The former slave castles, like Elmina Castle here, are major tourist attractions.

As grotesque as it may sound at first, the slave castles are Ghana's greatest asset. Witnesses to the dark past are the main tourist attractions in the country. The confrontation with history is important, also for the future of the West African nation.

Even though some hotels have now settled near the coast not far from the forts, tourism in Ghana is still in its infancy. That should change now. The resource-rich country can benefit from the export of cocoa, gold and precious woods, but sustainable tourism should offer an alternative for the future.

The years of exploitation and plaything for European powers have been over since independence in 1957. At the beginning of the independence movement stood Kwame Nkrumah, who led the country from the founding of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) in 1947 to independence in 1957. In 1960 he became President of the Republic of Ghana and the nation's popular hero. But only six years later he was deposed after a military coup after he had catapulted himself into political sideline with his radical, anti-Western policies. In 1972 the controversial national hero finally died in exile.

Accra: Ghana's capital between tradition and modernity

In Accra, Ghana's capital, the controversial father of the country was erected with the mausoleum to commemorate his services. There is great gratitude in the country, its projects such as the Volta Dam, which today supplies the country with electricity, compulsory schooling, infrastructure and social and health services have been forgotten.

Accra is opposite: noisy, dirty and overcrowded parts of the city alternate with quiet areas. Chaos and idyll are just as opposed to each other as the relaxed nature of the residents and the hectic pace of traffic.

Accra is loud and dirty, chaos and idyll at the same time.

At the Kwame Nkrumah roundabout, everything that is bustling about on Accra's streets, cars and minibuses, is concentrated wherever the eye can see. Skyscrapers stand next to single-family houses, chickens stand next to new cars.

The history of the individual tribes can be traced in the National Museum, and Ghana can be experienced up close on the streets. In the cheap trotos, the typical minibuses, you are right in the middle of everyday life in the Ghanaian capital, the everyday life of over two million people.

The minibus works its way agonizingly slowly, you get off where you want to get out, there are no stops. Four cars in two lanes, in between daring cyclists, dealers who sell toilet paper, newspapers or drinks to the drivers who are stuck in traffic.

Anyone who says that life in Accra is on the streets is not exaggerating. You could drive around for hours and not get enough of the metropolis, which does not want to resemble the major European cities. Accra is the capital and economic center, seat of numerous companies that manufacture textiles and chemicals. The electronic waste dump in the west of the city is one of the dirtiest places in the world.

Within a very short time you can get from Accra to palm beaches and enjoy relaxing.

But within a short time you are also on palm-lined beaches, where the surf of the waves on Coco Beach offers a welcome alternative to the street noise of the city. A beach idyll at the gates of the big city, where at sunset the skyline of the city, soaked in the red of the dwindling sun, looks almost enchanted.

Accra is Ghana in all its facets. A city full of contrasts, grievances and yet full of joie de vivre.

The best way to experience this is to walk through the Cultural Center For Arts And Crafts.

Drums, art carvings, jewelry and pictures are made and sold in the market hall. Colors and shapes everywhere. Anyone who shows interest will be happy to have a demonstration. Be it a drum concert, the production of baskets or the painting of colorful pictures.

As is so often the case, the motto is: right in the middle instead of just being there. Because strolling around inconspicuously as a tourist is not possible. Not even in Accra, the country's tourist center.

The future of ecotourism in Ghana: between safari and dream beaches

Where the capital and the forts have long been known as tourist destinations, more and more additional destinations are on the radar of travelers. The Volta Delta attracts water sports enthusiasts and ornithologists alike. Dream beaches on the west coast attract bathers. In combination with the historical fortresses on the coast, the ideal mix of culture and relaxation.

The Volta Delta attracts water sports enthusiasts and ornithologists alike.

The Mole National Park offers a variety of animals and a safari feeling. Here you walk through the national park, very close to the elephants that crowd around water holes. Warthogs, monkeys and antelopes are not confused by the visitors. Cultural festivals, village culture and wildlife reserves: Ghana can serve with diversity and thus appeal to a whole range of tourists.

Ecotourism is the keyword for the future. Spared from the crowds, the travel industry can develop slowly and organically; authentic, close to the population and animals. This authenticity is the great asset and must be handled with care.

Ecotourism in the tropics: that is the great goal of Ghana.

Will Ghana meet the challenge? Hopefully! It would be desirable for the country and its people. Probably the greatest decision-making power lies with every single tourist. Those who choose sustainable tourism, ecological and responsible tour operators can do their part to ensure that the wonderfully special Ghana remains unique.

Cover picture: © Depositphotos.com/sopotniccy
Kumasi Airport: © Depositphotos.com/Felix Lipov
Saleswoman market: © Depositphotos.com/Anton Ivanov
Proud women: © Depositphotos.com/Anton Ivanov
Drummers: © Depositphotos.com/Anton Ivanov
Cape Coast: © Depositphotos.com/Felix Lipov
Elmina Castle: © Depositphotos.com/Felix Lipov
Accra: © Depositphotos.com/Steven Heap
Palm beach: © Depositphotos.com/Jacek Sopotnicki
Volta Delta: © Depositphotos.com/Eunika Sopotnicka
Boat trip tropics: © Depositphotos.com/Eunika Sopotnicka