Africa Games 2023…in 2024!

Ghana Tourist (African Games Edition)


Daniel Lanciana


First time in Africa (6th continent!) for a good friend’s birthday, who lives in Ghana and was the best guide. Coincided with the Africa Games (Olympics, but for Africa only). Overall an fantastic, unforgettable week-long experience that would not have been possible without local knowledge (and a car)!

Difficult visa (sponsor, yellow fever vaccine booklet, sketchy web portal, send passport by mail, incomplete checklist); malaria tablets; plane fumigation (!); rough landing (clapping); one hour wait for luggage (after carousel had started).

Initial shock at the level of impoverishment; toilet paper placed beside toilet (!); open sewers beside roads (wafting); lots of trash (mostly plastic); poor roads (potholes); lots of unfinished buildings (built in stages as money is available, comical disparity between advertised photo and actual); reliance on religion (fortune, healthcare); roaming animals (goats, chickens); blackouts (twice); lack of tourism infrastructure; car rental requires hiring a driver; no development along coastline (ignored); limited swimming (trash, no pools); lawless driving; road stops (re: shakedowns, show papers, cars need fire extinguishers and first aid kits!); people sleeping on streets; kids begging at red lights; occasionally swarmed. Poverty, but people on their phones just like anywhere else.

observations: Outdoor drinking spot (Brazil vibes, super strong caipirinhas); loud Sunday church service; “watch out for glass” signs (people running into glass); lots of paint ads; even more evangelical church ads (Healing Streams); EPL football popular (even in small villages); NBA jerseys (Jordan, LeBron); not many mosquitos; endless markets selling the same cheap made in China crap; agama lizards; English spoken most places; balancing on heads; colourful clothing (kept very clean); incredibly polite and friendly people, non-confrontational; people insist on helping you park; don’t use your left hand (bathroom wiping); constant little honks while driving (informative, not angry); baby goats (cute); trees painted white (prevents sunscald); people hanging out of cars (out windows, on top, in back); friendly conversations, then asking for money (like Cuba); wads of cash from ATMs; funeral posters (weeklong celebration, “a life well lived,” white for over 75), “yes please,” “no please;” small fishing boats in the direct sun; white people in advertisements (and mannequins) feels strange; a few expensive cars (US$100k+); loud music, quiet talking, Friday nights much bigger than Saturday (Sunday morning church?); trotro (taxi vans, people hanging out, hand signals), Akan name (I’m Kweku)!

experiences: Julia driving (bus the other way! all the way down the coast, forged international drivers licence, overtaking trucks, stuck behind bamboo truck, creating a middle lane, dusty, motorbikes the other way on either side, through cramped local Wenneba market); hot (~33°C and sunny every day, reminded of Australian summer); fantasy coffin tour (not actual location, guy jumps in car, poor communication, rickety stairs); Accra Arts Centre (lots of attention, Julia haggling, stone bowl); bats (overhead, pool); antique Ivory Coast Guro mask; watching beach football and upside-down push-ups; Olma suites (broken TV, no wifi, no pool, bad breakfast, mosquitos); Google Accra (really nice office, working internet, great food, great snacks); Derby Ave market (drive through, locals only, crazy); brief tropical downpour; birthday pineapple; damaged Red Sea cables (no mobile/home internet for last 3–4 days, very limited credit card transactions); gastro virus working its way through everyone!

sightseeing: Jamestown Lighthouse (meh); Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum (tour, empty); polo (Friendship Cup, chukka, commentator, Toto Africa); African Games (2023 delayed to 2024, eagle mascot, football match, penalty, players and crowd fired up, bribe to leave); Fort Amsterdam (hard to find entrance, friendly tour guide, first coastal view); Kakum National Park (treehouse with 9 German students, overbooked, giant spiders, guide with gun, forrest sounds, night walk attacked by ants, zero airflow, far from toilets, incredibly stuffy and hot, almost no sleep, Julia fever, drinking shampoo, peaceful sunrise canopy walk, bribe to leave); Oasis (aircon, outdoor shower, Julia back to life, nice little beach, restaurant, bar).

food: Spicy (flavour); roadside hard-boiled eggs (with spice); tiger nuts; fried plantains; gelatinous food (banku, fufu, okra strew, tiger nut); Milo (drink, cubes); Club beer (quite good, actually) and shandy; Cadbury chocolate; best mango I’ve ever eaten; Chicken Light Soup (really tasty); top-tier pizza (Pomona); Smirnoff Ice; Tale craft beer (triple is good); Tony’s Chocoloney (!); Dweebs (Nerds knock-off); Niks (Twix knock-off); Sankofa Sweet Chili Jollof plantain chips; fresh coconuts; bags of water; eating hot soup with your hands!

Ghana flag.


Officially the Republic of Ghana, the second-most populous (32 million) country in West Africa. The name “Ghana” means “warrior king” in the Soninke language, and was adopted during independence in 1957. The country has more than 100 ethnic groups, each with its unique customs and traditions. English is the official language (67% of the population), Akan (29%) the second-most used language, and French is widely taught in schools. Cedi (GH₵) is the currency, which refers to Cowry Shells that were used as currency all across West Africa. The flag symbolises the struggle for independence (red, blood), wealth (yellow, gold), nature (green, forests), and freedom (black star, the “lodestar of African freedom”).

Borders the Gulf of Guinea (560 kilometre coastline) and Atlantic Ocean to the south; Ivory Coast in the west; Burkina Faso in the north; and Togo in the east. Located a few degrees north of the Equator, a tropical climate. The capital and largest city is Accra (“ants” named after the surrounding anthills); other significant cities include Kumasi, Tamale, and Sekondi-Takoradi.

The Akan people are a Kwa group living primarily in present-day Ghana since 1200 to 1600 AD. The Akan speak dialects within the Central Tano branch of the Potou–Tano subfamily of the Niger–Congo family. Subgroups of the Akan people include: the Agona, Akuapem, Akwamu, Akyem, Anyi, Ashanti, Baoulé, Bono, Chakosi, Fante, Kwahu, Sefwi, Wassa, Ahanta, and Nzema. Ashanti (or Asante) are the last group to emerge out of Akan civilisations. The largest ethnic group, with native language Twi spoken by over nine million Asante people.

A unitary constitutional democracy led by a president who is head of state and government. Since 1993, one of the freest and most-stable governments on the continent, with a significant influence in West Africa and Africa as a whole. A member of the Non-Aligned Movement, African Union, Economic Community of West African States, Group of 24, and Commonwealth of Nations.

The second-largest (after Ivory Coast) cocoa producer in the world; seventh-largest (140 tonnes per year) producer of gold; ninth-largest diamond exporter. The 21st largest (5 billion barrels) proven oil reserve in the world. The Ghana Stock Exchange is the 5th largest on continental Africa and 3rd largest in sub-saharan Africa. Accra was ranked the second-most expensive city in Africa.

The first names of children of Akan tribes are based on the day of the week on which they were born. It’s said the name influences aspects such as personality, spirituality, and professional path.

Most Ghanaians (71%) are Christians; 20% are Muslims; and 9% practise traditional faiths or report no religion. Homosexuality is illegal with 96% of Ghanaians supporting the law.

In the 1980s, a straight-to-video film industry started. In 1994, the country’s only nuclear reactor, Ghana Research Reactor-1 (GHARR-1), had its first criticality (i.e. self-sustaining fission). In 2013, the Bank of Ghana began circulating Chinese renminbi currency as a second national trade currency. In 2017, Ghana launched the GhanaSat-1 satellite into orbit from the ISS.

Notable persons include UN Secretary-General and Nobel Prize winner Kofi Annan; authors J. E. Casely Hayford (Ethiopia Unbound), Ayi Kwei Armah (The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born), and Nii Ayikwei Parkes (Tail of the Blue Bird); poets Joe de Graft and Efua Sutherland; and backward running Guinness World Record holder (running backwards, speed juggling) Ferdie Adoboe.

Fufu, eaten with the right hand.


Ghanaian cuisine includes an assortment of soups and stews with varied seafoods (tilapia, whitebait, smoked fist, crayfish). Banku (akple) is a sticky dough made from starch (cassava, plantain, yam, maize, millet, sorghum, potatoes, or cocoyams) and usually accompanied by some form of fried fish (chinam) or grilled tilapia and a spicy condiment made from raw red and green chillies, onions and tomatoes (pepper sauce). Omotuo is a made from pounded rice.

Fufu is the most well-known Ghanaian dish. Rice dishes include waakye, plain rice and stew (eight kontomire or tomato gravy), fried rice, and jollof rice (traced back to the 14th century Senegal Wolof tribe, Ghanaian spices with tomatoes and chilli). A chop bar is a unique type of restaurant that specialises in meat dishes.

Kente cloth.


During the thirteenth century, Ghanaians developed their unique art of adinkra printing used exclusively by royalty for devotional ceremonies. Each of the adinkra symbols has a name and meaning derived from a proverb, a historical event, human attitude, ethology, plant life-form, or shapes of inanimate and man-made objects.

Kente is a ceremonial cloth hand-woven on a horizontal treadle loom and strips measuring about four inches wide are sewn together into larger pieces of cloths. Kente is worn during very important social and religious occasions as a visual representation of history and also a form of written language through weaving.

The cloth known as African print fabric was created out of Dutch wax textiles, which were introduced in the late 19th century by Dutch ships on their way to Asia. Today outside of Africa it is called ankara and is popular among Caribbean peoples and African Americans; celebrities such as Solange Knowles and her sister Beyoncé have been seen wearing African print attire, Burberry created a collection around Ghanaian styles, Gwen Stefani has repeatedly incorporated African prints into her clothing line, and internationally acclaimed Ghanaian-British designer Ozwald Boateng introduced African print suits in his 2012 collection.



Musical instruments include talking drum ensembles, Akan Drum, goje fiddle and koloko lute, court music, including the Akan Seperewa, the Akan atumpan, the Ga kpanlogo styles, and log xylophones.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, a form of secular music called highlife originated and spread through West Africa. In the 1990s, a genre of music called hiplife was created incorporating the influences of highlife, Afro-reggae, dancehall, and hip hop.

Dances for celebrations include the Adowa, Kpanlogo, Azonto, Klama, Agbadza, Borborbor, Bamaya, and the Nana Otafrija Pallbearing Services — also known as the Dancing Pallbearers.

Azonto (or “Apaa,” translated as “to work”) is a dance evolved from “Kpanlogo” — a Ga traditional dance that involves coordinated hands and feet movement. Apaa was used to show the profession of an individual, but has since grown further to relay coded messages.

Notable musicians include Guy Warren, also known as Kofi Ghanaba, who invented Afro-jazz as “the reuniting of African-American jazz with its African roots.” Warren’s virtuosity on the African drums earned him the nickname “The Divine Drummer.”

The Black Stars.


Football is the top sport in Ghana, which has has won the Africa Cup of Nations four times (third-most), the FIFA U-20 World Cup once, and participated in three consecutive FIFA World Cups (2006, 2010, and 2014). The national team was formed in the 1940s and is known as the Black Stars. The International Federation of Football History and Statistics crowned Asante Kotoko SC as the African club of the 20th century.

Ghana has won 57 medals (15 gold) at the Commonwealth Games since 1954 — with all but one of their medals coming in athletics and boxing. Notable boxers include three-time world champions Azumah Nelson and Nana Yaw Konadu, Ike Quartey, and Joshua Clottey.

Ashanti King (Asantehene), Otumfou Osei Tutu II.


The earliest recorded kingdoms were the Mole-Dagbon states. Before the unification of Dagbon by King Gbewaa, societies were decentralised and headed by the Tindaamba. Kingdoms that emerged from Dagbon include the Mossi Kingdoms of Burkina Faso and Bouna Kingdom of Ivory Coast.

In the 15th century, Akan-speaking peoples in current-day Ghana. By the 16th century, the Akans were established in the Akan state called Bonoman, for which the Brong-Ahafo region was named. From the 17th century, Akans emerged from what is believed to have been the Bonoman area, to create Akan states, mainly based on gold trading. These states included Bonoman (Brong-Ahafo region), Ashanti (Ashanti Region), Denkyira (Western North region), Mankessim Kingdom (Central region), and Akwamu (Eastern region).

In 1701, the Ashanti conquered the Gold Coast in the Battle of Feyiase. By the 19th century, the southern part of Ghana included in the Kingdom of Ashanti — centred in the capital city of Kumasi. The primary economy of the Akan people was gold.

Elmina Castle.


The large quantity of gold dust found in Ghana primarily attracted Europe. In exchange for items such as gold, ivory, West African pepper, mahogany, enslaved persons, and locally produced goods local Africans received items such as clothing, blankets, mirrors, spices, sugar, silk, and alcohol. At the time, enslaved Africans were a valuable commodity in the Americas and elsewhere.

In 1471, Portuguese explorers encountered fishing villages rich with ivory and gold along the Atlantic coast of modern-day Ghana, which the Portuguese called the Gold Coast. The Portuguese also sought a southern route to India to circumvent Arab traders and establish direct trade with Asia.

In 1482, the Portuguese Gold Coast colony was established with São Jorge da Mina (“St. George of the Mine”) — also known as Elmina Castle (“the mine” in Portuguese). The Portuguese built Fort Santo António (1515); Fort São Francisco Xavier (1578); and Fort São Sebastião (1558). In 1617, the Dutch captured Elmina Castle from the Portuguese. In 1642, the Portuguese colony officially incorporated into Dutch territory.

In 1598, the Dutch Gold Coast was established with Fort Nassau — initially a trading post, then expanded to a fort in 1612. The Dutch built Fort Crèvecœur (1649), also called Ussher Fort; Fort Batenstein (1656); Fort Goede Hoop (1667, “Good Hope”); Fort Orange (1690), Fort Vredenburgh (1682); and Fort Lijdzaamheid (1697, “Fort Patience”). Captured Fort Elmina, Fort Coenraadsburg, Fort San Sebastian, and Fort Santo Antonio from the Portuguese. Between 1637 and 1872, Fort Elmina was the capital of the Dutch Gold Coast. In 1867, the Anglo-Dutch Gold Coast Treaty redistributed forts with the British. In 1871, the Gold Coast Treaty ceded the entire Dutch colony to the British.

From 1630, with the gradual capture of Brazil from the Portuguese the slave trade became more important for Dutch Brazil. Dutch presence on the Gold Coast peaked at only 377 Dutch West India Company employees for the entire Gold Coast in the 18th century, before sinking back to only 20 officers in the 19th century.

In 1650, the Swedish Gold Coast was established with Fort Carlsborg (also known as Cape Coast Castle). The Swedes built Fort William (1650); Fort Batenstein (1650), Fort Christiansborg (1652), also known as Osu Castle; Fort Witsen (1653); and Fort Apollonia (1655). In 1663, became part of the Dutch Gold Coast.

In 1663, the Danish (i.e. Denmark-Norway) Gold Coast was established with the capture of Fort Christiansborg from Sweden. The Danes built Fort Fredensborg (1734); Fort Prinsensten (1784); Fort Kongensten (1784); and Fort Augustaborg (1787). In 1850, sold to the British.

In 1682, the Brandenburger (i.e. German) Gold Coast was established; later called the Prussian Gold Coast. Consisted of Fort Fredericksburg (1682) and Fort Dorothea (1685). In 1721, sold the colony to the Dutch — who renamed Fort Fredericksburg to Fort Hollandia.

In 1631, the British Gold Coast was established with Fort Cormantine — later captured by the Dutch in 1665 and renamed Fort Amsterdam. In 1850, purchased the Danish Gold Coast. In 1872, incorporated the Dutch Gold Coast.

In 1872, Elmina was formally ceded to Britain. In 1873, the Third Anglo-Ashanu War after the Ashanti marched into Elmina to win it back from the Fante-allied British; in response the British completely destroyed the Elmina settlement, which was the largest (around 20,000 people) on the Gold Coast.

In all, Europeans built 27 forts on the coast of Ghana — the highest concentration of European military architecture outside Europe. The Dutch captured two forts from the Portuguese, and themselves built nine others. The British built ten, all before 1660. Today, only 11 of these forts are in good shape.

Atlantic Slave Trade

“One of the worst holocausts in human history.”

Slavery for the benefit of Muslim countries was prevalent in many parts of Africa for ten centuries before European contact. An estimated 11 to 15 million slaves were exported throughout Africa, Europe, and Asia.

An abundance of cheap land in the New World led to a constant shortage of labour required for plantations of sugar, cotton, coffee, cocoa, and tobacco. European demand for slaves provided a large new market for the already existing trade.

In 1441, the Atlantic slave trading of Africans began with two Portuguese explorers captured twelve Africans from Mauritania in West Africa as gifts to Prince Henry the Navigator. By 1460, seven to eight hundred African people were taken annually and imported into Portugal as domestic servants. By 1500, Portugal and Spain had taken about 50,000 thousand West Africans. In 1526, the Portuguese completed the first transatlantic slave voyage to Brazil. Between 1660 and 1690, the Dutch trading posts in Africa shipped a third of all slaves across the Atlantic.

Africans sold slaves from different ethnic groups that were acquired through war, kidnapping, or raids; a by-product of tribal and state warfare as a way of removing potential dissidents after victory or financing future wars. For each captive, the African rulers would receive a variety of goods from Europe including guns, ammunition, alcohol, indigo dyed Indian textiles, and other factory-made goods.

Europeans rarely travelled beyond the coast due to fear of disease and resistance, but formed military alliances with certain African groups against their enemies to encourage warfare — in turn producing more slaves.

Early on in the Atlantic slave trade, it was common for the powerful West African families to marry off their women to the European traders to form political and economic bonds (some Africans have Dutch surnames). On the Gold Coast, it was also common for slave-trading African rulers to encourage their children to learn about Europeans by sending them to sail on European ships, live inside European forts, or travel to Europe or America for an education.

After being marched to the coast for sale, enslaved people were held in large forts called factories. An estimated 4.5% of deaths occurred at factories waiting for ships to arrive. Slaves were branded, shackled, and packed into dungeons for months with barely any light or airflow. Women were kept separate and raped. Men who resisted were killed.

After being captured and held in the factories, slaves entered the infamous Middle Passage — where 350 to 600 enslaved Africans (per ship) were transported to the Americas on the months-long journey. Slave decks were often only a few feet high, and the African captives were shackled together lying down, side by side, head to foot. Deaths from suffocation, malnutrition, and disease were routine. An estimated 12.5% (2.2 million) died during these voyages; some committing suicide by jumping overboard. Many slave captains threw sick or injured Africans overboard so that their losses would be covered by insurance. Portuguese sailors called them tumbeiros, or floating tombs.

Despite the vast profits of slavery, the ordinary sailors on slave ships were badly paid and subject to harsh discipline. A mortality rate similar to those of the slaves was expected in a ship’s crew during the course of a voyage; this was due to disease (malaria or yellow fever), flogging, overwork, or slave uprisings. A high crew mortality rate on the return voyage was in the captain’s interests as it reduced the number of sailors who had to be paid.

On arrival to the Caribbean slaves were put in seasoning camps for two to three years. The purpose of seasoning camps were to obliterate the Africans’ identities and culture and prepare them for enslavement. In seasoning camps, enslaved Africans learned a new language and adopted new customs. An estimated 33% (5 million) Africans died in these camps, with dysentery the leading cause.

The Atlantic slave trade peaked in the last two decades of the 18th century. Near the beginning of the 19th century, various governments acted to ban the trade, although illegal smuggling still occurred. The British Slave Trade Act of 1807 effectively ended all slave trade on the Gold Coast. William I of the Netherlands took over this abolition when he issued a royal decree to that effect in 1814 and signed the Anglo-Dutch Slave Trade Treaty in May 1818. It was generally thought that the transatlantic slave trade ended in 1867, but evidence was later found of voyages until 1873. The last known slave ship to the US illegally landed in Alabama in 1859; the last surviving slave from this ship died in 1940. In the early 21st century, several governments issued apologies for the transatlantic slave trade.

Many African nations resisted participating in the slave trade, and some put up military resistance. Africans resisted marches to the slave holding stations, resistance at the slave coast, and resistance on slave ships (slaves attempted to overthrow more than 300 voyages). Enslaved Africans sunk ships, killed crew, and set fire to ships with explosives.

“A disaster which left Africa permanently disadvantaged when compared to other parts of the world, and it largely explains the continent’s continued poverty.”

The “Big Six”


Between 1824 and 1900, the Anglo-Ashanti wars — five conflicts between the Ashanti and British. The wars were mainly due to Ashanti attempts to maintain and enforce their imperial control over the coastal areas of present-day Ghana, where peoples such as the Fante and the Ga had come under the protection of the British. Although the Ashanti emerged victorious in some of these conflicts, the British ultimately prevailed in the War of the Golden Stool, resulting in the complete annexation of the Ashanti Empire by 1900.

Following over a century of colonial resistance, the current borders of the country took shape, encompassing four separate British colonial territories: Gold Coast, Ashanti, the Northern Territories, and British Togoland. These were unified as an independent dominion within the Commonwealth of Nations.

In 1947, the newly formed United Gold Coast Convention political party led by “The Big Six” leaders called for self-government. In 1952, Kwame Nkrumah elected from prison (the “Big Six” were arrested for political unrest) as Prime Minister.

The Ghana Independence Act 1957 unified the Gold Coast, Ashanti, Northern Territories, and British Togoland as a single independent dominion within the British Commonwealth under the name Ghana. From 1957 to 1960, Queen Elizabeth II remained sovereign.

In 1960, following the Ghanaian constitutional referendum and Ghanaian presidential election, Nkrumah declared Ghana a republic and assumed the presidency. The first Sub-Saharan African country to achieve sovereignty.

In 1964, a constitutional amendment made Ghana a one-party state and named Nkrumah as president for life. In 1966, while Nkrumah was on a state visit to North Vietnam and China, his government was overthrown in a violent coup d’état (codenamed “Operation Cold Chop”) led by the national military and police forces. Nkrumah lived the rest of his life in Guinea, where he was named honorary co-president.

Nkrumah was the first African head of state to promote the concept of Pan-Africanism — the worldwide movement to encourage and strengthen bonds of solidarity between all indigenous peoples and diasporas of African ancestry. Incorporated the ideas of MLK, Marcus Gavey and W.E.B. Du Bois.

Accra at night.

Modern Day

In 1981, the constitution was suspended and political parties banned. In 1992, a new constitution that restored multi-party system politics. In 1994, a tribal war in Northern Ghana killing thousands.

Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have made diplomatic trips to Ghana.


Note: An asterisk denotes a place I haven’t yet visited.

  • coffee: Jamestown Coffee Company
  • eat: Azmera (Ghana buffet, expensive but can try all dishes), Babel (sushi and middle eastern in a very nice space, no alcohol), Bôndai (Thai, burgers, cocktails, fancy), Buka*, La Borracha (Mexican), Mama Cuisine (in a nice cultural complex), No. X Restaurant* (high end), Pomona (incredible Italian pizzas, full cocktail bar)
  • drink: Epo*, Esuro (rooftop bar), Honeysuckle Pub (English sports pub, very nice inside), Liquor Junction* (liquor store), Oxford Street (main nightlife street), Republic Bar & Grill (local spot, DJs, outdoor seating), Sai Wine Cafe*, SOL Lounge (a “scene,” good cocktails, pool you can’t swim in)
  • see: Erico carpentry shop (fantasy coffins), Gallery 1957* (gallery), Hello Ornate Coffin Craft (fantasy coffins), Noldor Artist Residency* (gallery), Old Kingsway Building* (graffiti),
  • do: Labadi Beach*, Osu Night Market* (open-air market, also open during the day)
  • buy: Accra Arts Centre (arts and craft market, people actively making things, backs onto the water), All Pure Nature (cosmetics), Artists Alliance Gallery (multi-storey art and antiques), Elle Lokko (women’s designer fashion), Global Mamas (local crafts, workshops), Green Butterfly Market (the most tourist-friendly market, higher prices), Lokko House (designer mens), Kua Designs & Kua Kids (women’s and children’s fashion), The Shop Accra (gifts), Wild Gecko Handicrafts (handcrafts, also at the airport)
  • stay: Olma Colonial Suites (overpriced for the quality, great location)
Forts and castles along the Cape Coast.

Heritage Sites

In 1979, a number of sites (including three castles, fifteen forts) were included as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO for their role in the Atlantic slave trade. The official designation is “Forts and Castles of Volta, Greater Accra, Central and Western Regions.” A large number of other forts are listed by the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board.

Osu Castle (1661)

Also known as Fort Christiansborg, originally built by Denmark-Norway before changing ownership between Denmark-Norway, Portugal, the Akwamu, Britain, and finally post-Independence Ghana. Under Denmark–Norway control it was the capital of the Danish Gold Coast, which increasingly traded in slaves.

The area was first occupied in 1550 by the Portuguese, and came under the control of Sweden in the 1650s led by the German trader Heinrich Carloff. In 1652, he was given permission to build a small fortified lodge by the King of Accra, with whom he had previously done business. In 1660, control passed to the Netherlands but it was soon lost to Denmark-Norway. In 1657, Carloff had again traveled to Africa, this time representing Denmark-Norway. He aimed to conquer the forts he had previously established, which he found easy at Osu.

In 1682, abandoned after the garrison mutinied after it became clear Portuguese traders could not compete with the other Gold Coast powers. In 1683, Danish purchased the fort back. In 1685, Fort Christiansborg became the capital of the Gold Coast of Denmark-Norway, taking over from Fort Frederiksborg.

In 1693, the Akwamu overpowered the fort occupants (who were reduced by death and disease) while disguised as merchants. Assameni, the Akwamu leader, occupied the fort for a year, trading with merchants from many nations. In 1694, Assameni sold the fort back to Denmark-Norway for 50 marks of gold (£250,000 in 2008) but retained the keys, which are still in the ethnic group’s possession to this day.

In 1824, structural improvements including additional store rooms, garrison quarters, platforms, bastions and houses resulted in the castle being four times the size of the original fort. In 1850, the British bought all of Denmark’s Gold Coast possessions for £10,000 (£1.5m in 2007) including Fort Christiansborg. In 1862, an earthquake destroyed most of the upper floors.

Between 1890 to 1901, abandoned by the British and used as a constabulary mess and psychiatric asylum. In 1902, became the seat of government in Ghana. In 1950, the wooden upper floors were rebuilt according to the original Danish plans. In 1957, the fort became Government House, the residence of the Governor-General. In 1960, became the residence of Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah. In 1961, additional rooms and an outside pool were built in order to accommodate a visit from Queen Elizabeth II.

Many international dignitaries have visited the castle while in the region, including Queen Elizabeth II, President Richard Nixon, President Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

Currently still accommodates a permanent garrison, clinic, café, shopping centre, and post office. The extensive gardens feature a wide variety of plants, both local and imported, used for outdoor receptions and parties. Appears on the GH₵50 note.

Fort James* (1673)

Built by the Royal African Company of England (RAC) as a trading post for both gold and slaves. Likely named after James, then Duke of York, later King James II, who was Governor of the RAC at the time.

A prison from the colonial era to 2008. From 1950 to 1951, held Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah.

Makola Market (1924)

The main wholesale and retail marketplace in Accra. A wide array of products is sold in the markets and its surrounding streets, from car parts to land snails. Dominated by women traders, the market sells a wide array of products from fresh produce, manufactured and imported foods, clothes, shoes, tools, medicines, pots and pans, jewellery, car parts, to land snails.

In 1979, destroyed by the government targeting market women for Ghana’s economic problems. Featured in the television show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain.

Jamestown Lighthouse (1930s)

A 28-metre (92 ft) replacement for an earlier lighthouse that had been built in 1871. Consists of a stone tower with lantern and gallery, attached to a keeper’s house.

Balme Library.

University of Ghana (1948)

The oldest public university in Ghana, with over 60,000 students. Originally the University College of the Gold Coast, which was an affiliate college of the University of London. Comprised of three campuses. Ranked 17th in Africa (between 800–1000th globally).

Programs include liberal arts, social sciences, science, agriculture, medicine, veterinary medicine, law, technology, nuclear physics, nuclear engineering, and postgraduate courses. Features include a medical school with teaching hospital, Balme Library (one of the largest in West Africa with over 400,000 volumes), University of Ghana Stadium (state-of-the-art built for the 2024 African Games), ten university hotels, indoor and outdoor pools, athletics track, multiple banks, and postal service.

In 1957, renamed the University College of Ghana; renamed again in 1961 when it gained full university status. In 2018, a statue of Mahatma Gandhi was relocated after a petition claimed he was racist for referring to black South Africans as “kaffirs” and saying that Indians were “infinitely superior” to Africans.

Featured in the television series, Sun City. Appears on the GH₵5 note.

National Museum of Ghana* (1957)

The largest and oldest of the six museums under the administration of the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board (GMMB). Opened by the Duchess of Kent, Princess Marina, as part of Ghana’s independence celebrations.

Objects in the archeology section range from the Stone Age period to the recent historical past. The ethnography gallery includes chief’s regalia, indigenous Ghanaian musical instruments, gold weights, beads, traditional textiles, stools, pottery, Ivory Coast masks, Zulu wooden figures, South African bead-ware, Nigerian Ife bronze heads, and Congolese Bushongo carvings. A small art gallery displays contemporary Ghanaian paintings.

Black Star Gate.

Black Star Square (1961)

Also known as Independence Square, is a public square celebrating the nation’s independence. The square has stands for seating 30,000 people and hosts the annual Independence Day parade (March 6th), all civic and military parades, and other national gatherings. Construction ended to coincide with the state visit of Queen Elizabeth II.

The square boasts three monuments that encapsulate the fight for independence and liberation: Independence Arch (soldiers prohibit people from taking close-up pictures), the Liberation Day Monument (honouring seven WWII veterans who were killed protesting in 1966), and the Black Star Gate (monument topped by the Black Star of Africa). A statue of a soldier facing the Independence Arch symbolises the Ghanaians who lost their lives fighting for Ghana’s independence.

Hosted the state funerals for presidents John Atta Mill and Jerry Rawlings; and vice-president Aliu Mahama. In 1998, over 500,000 people gathered at the square to welcome former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Clinton; this was the first visit to Ghana by a US president.

The Black Star Gate appears on the GH₵20 note.

Accra Sports Stadium (1961)

Formerly the Ohene Djan Stadium (named after the country’s first Director of Sports), it is a 40,000 seat multi-use stadium. Home to one of Africa’s most popular clubs, Hearts of Oak — as well as Accra Lions FC and Great Olympics. Hosted over 90 boxing matches including David Kotei versus Danny Lopez (1976), which was watched by an estimated 100,000 people.

Venue of the 1978 African Cup of Nations final. In 2007, renovated and inaugurated with a four-nation tournament that Ghana won (the Zenith Cup). In 2000 and 2008, hosted African Cup of Nations matches.

Parliament House of Ghana* (1965)

The official seat of the Speaker of Parliament of the country and also serves as Parliament of Ghana. Open to visitors to watch proceedings, but tours must make a request. Appears on the GH₵100 note.

W. E. B. Du Bois Memorial Centre for Pan African Culture* (1985)

A memorial, research facility and tourist attraction dedicated to W. E. B. Du Bois, an African-American historian and pan-Africanist who became a citizen of Ghana in the early 1960s. He lived there in his last few years at the invitation of President Kwame Nkrumah, while compiling the Encyclopedia Africana.

The Centre houses a small museum with part of Du Bois’s personal library and a collection of his works, which are made available to researchers. An adjacent shrine shelters his grave and the ashes of his second wife, Shirley Graham Du Bois.

Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum (1992)

The mausoleum houses the final remains of Ghana’s first President and his wife, Fathia Nkrumah, on the spot where Nkrumah made the declaration of Ghana’s independence. It building features Italian marble and is meant to represent an upside down sword, which in Akan culture is a symbol of peace. A black star at its apex symbolises unity. It is surrounded by water to symbolise life.

A museum displays objects from various stages of his life. In 2022, renovated with a library, reception, amphitheatre, restaurant, hall, and gift shop . One of the top 10 most-visited (100,000 annually) sites in the country.

National Theatre of Ghana* (1992)

Multi-functional venue for concerts, dance, drama and musical performances, screenplays, exhibitions, and special events. Houses the resident companies of the National Dance Company (established 1962, also known as The Ghana Dance Ensemble), the National Symphony Orchestra, and the Drama Company (established 1983).

The theatre was built by the Chinese and offered as a gift to Ghana. When looked at from a distance, the structure looks like a ship or a seagull spreading its wings.

Concert parties are often held — a theatre show with British origins but remodelled by Ghanaian artists to became a popular form of theatre in the 1950s and 1960s. Besides theatre, the concert party has been turned into films, television series, photoplay, and cassettes.

Jubilee House (2008)

Also known as Flagstaff House, it’s the presidential palace that serves as a residence and office to the President of Ghana — replacing the previous seat of government at Osu Castle. Built on the site of a building that was constructed and used for administrative purposes by the British Gold Coast Government. Costing as much as $50 million to build. Shaped like a Golden Stool — the royal and divine throne of kings of the Ashanti people. Appears on the GH₵200 note.

In 1966, soldiers stormed as part of a military coup supported by the CIA to oust Ghana’s First President, Kwame Nkrumah. In 2018, renamed Golden Jubilee House by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to coincide with the 50th year of Ghana’s independence; since renamed back. In 2018, visited by Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla.

Ghana National Mosque* (2021)

The second largest mosque in West Africa. Costing $10 million, construction took almost ten years due to lack of funds. Claimed to be a replica of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Open for visits.

The mosque has 15,000 seat capacity in Ottoman revival style with four minarets towering about 65 meters above the ground. Made with carrara marble exterior fittings with inner hand-drawn calligraphic verses of the Quran.

Cape Coast and Interior

  • do: Winneba (Sir Charles Beach, just past entrace to the Command And Staff Training School Of Ghana Police)
  • stay: Oasis Beach Resort (excellent, easy beach access, huts, outdoor showers, restaurant and bar)

Elmina Castle* (1482)

Built by the Portuguese as Castelo de São Jorge da Mina (St. George of the Mine Castle), it was the first trading post built on the Gulf of Guinea and the oldest European building in existence south of the Sahara.

First established as a trade settlement known as A Mina (“the mine”) after the thriving gold trade by natives and visiting Arab and Berber traders. The castle later became one of the most important stops on the route of the Atlantic slave trade.

Portuguese King João II sent all of the materials needed to build the fort in pre-fitted form on ten caravels and two transport ships under the command of Diogo de Azambuja. Some historians note that Christopher Columbus was among those to make the voyage to the Gold Coast with this fleet. Azambuja met with local chief Kwamin Ansah, who under pressure reluctantly agreed to a permanent settlement.

Construction began the following day with the Portuguese demolishing the homes of some villagers and quarrying rock from a site believed to be the home of a river god. Compensation sent from Azambuja to the villagers was not delivered until after construction, resulting in an attack on the Portuguese that caused several deaths. After an understanding was reached, the atmosphere was tense and continued opposition led the Portuguese burning the local village in retaliation.

The first prefabricated building of European origin to have been planned and executed in Sub-Saharan Africa; the first story of the tower was erected in only twenty days.

Upon its completion, the Portuguese urged Elmina to declared itself an independent state under Portuguese protection against attacks from neighbouring coastal tribes. Azambuja was named governor and given the title “Lord of Guinea.” Locals attempting to trade with other nations were met with aggressive force. Hostility between local groups increased and the traditional organisation of native societies suffered — especially after the Portuguese introduced firearms, which made the dominance of the stronger nations easier.

Trade with the Europeans helped make certain goods, such as cloth and beads, more available to the coastal people and as a result the population of Elmina swelled with traders from other towns. At the height of the gold trade in the early sixteenth century, 24,000 ounces of gold were exported annually from the Gold Coast — one-tenth of the world’s supply!

By the seventeenth century, the castle played a significant part in the West African slave trade. The castle acted as a depot where those captured in the African interior by slave-catchers were sold for goods such as textiles and horses.

In 1637, after an unsuccessful attempt in 1596 the Dutch seized the fort — eventually taking over the entire Gold Coast in 1642. In 1872, became possession of the United Kingdom.

In 1979, added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Filming location for Werner Herzog’s 1987 film, Cobra Verde. In 2006, the Zamani Project documented the castle with terrestrial 3D laser scanning.

Cape Coast Castle (1653)

Originally a Portuguese trading post (“feitoria”) established in 1555, named Cabo Corso (“short cape”). In 1653, the Swedish Africa Company constructed the timber Fort Carolusborg there as a centre for the trade of timber and gold.

Built by Hendrik Caerloff — a former high-ranking Dutch West India Company officer with friendly relations with the local chiefs necessary to establish a trading post — as the first purpose fort for slave trade. In 1655, Caerloff returned to Europe leaving Johann Philipp von Krusenstjerna in charge. In 1657, Caerloff got into a financial dispute and convinced Amsterdam merchants to finance the Danish West India Company journey to capture the Swedish lodges and forts he had established — taking Krusenstjerna as prisoner! Caerloff then left Samuel Smit in charge, who almost handed over the fort to the Dutch based on a rumour.

As slavery became the main trade on the Cape Coast, alterations to the castle were made such as the addition of large underground dungeons that could hold as many as a thousand enslaved people awaiting export. The underground dungeon was a space of terror, death, and darkness. In contrast, the European living quarters above were relatively luxurious.

In 1664, the English captured Fort Carolusborg during the prelude to the Second Anglo-Dutch War. They reinforced the fort and renamed it to Cape Coast Castle. As the Dutch had captured the former English headquarters at Kormantin and had rebuilt it as Fort Amsterdam, Cape Coast became the new capital of the English possessions on the Gold Coast.

In 1689, the pirate Duncan Mackintosh was hanged at the Castle with a few of his crew. In 1722, 52 crew of the pirate Bartholomew Roberts — who captured the most vessels (470 prize ships!) and adopted an early variant of the skull and crossbones flag — were hanged. In 1757, during the Seven Years’ War, a French naval squadron badly damaged and nearly captured the castle. In 1824, British Governor Sir Charles MacCarthy was defeated by the Ashanti army and committed suicide — where his skull was taken back to the Ashanti capital Kumasi and reportedly used as a drinking cup!

In 1836, George Maclean put an end to slave trade along 300 km of the West African coast, but his reputation was muddied by his willingness to support the ownership of enslaved people within the vicinity of Cape Coast Castle. He also made peace with the Ashanti (Treaty of 1831), instituted a judicial system still in use in many African democracies, and encouraged successful and fair trading.

Restored in the 1920s and 1957. In 1979, added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. In 2009, visited by President Barack Obama.

Referenced in the 2016 novel, Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi and the 1993 film, Sankofa. In 2015, the Zamani Project documented the castle with terrestrial 3D laser scanning.

Kakum Canopy Walkway.

Kakum National Park (1931)

A 375 square kilometre (145 sq mi) tropical forest national park established at the initiative of the local people and not by the State Department of wildlife. One of three locations in Africa with a canopy walkway.

The park has a long series of hanging bridges known as the Kakum Canopy Walkway. At 40 m (130 ft) height, the visitor can approach the limits and view plants and animals from a vantage point that would otherwise be inaccessible to people. The canopy walkway passes over 7 bridges and runs over a length of 330 m (1,080 ft). Some of the tree canopies are more than 50 metres (160 ft) in height.

The park also has a 20 meter high Tree House that can be stayed in overnight — with a trained tour guide for night hikes. [Note that during my stay the night hike was attacked by ants and it was too hot to sleep!]

The most notable animals in the park are the Diana monkey, giant bongo antelope, yellow-backed duiker, and African elephant. With 266 species of bird in the park, including eight species of global conservation concern. And it also has more than 600 butterflies — including the giant swallowtail, which has a wingspan of eight inches! The park contains 105 species of vascular plants consisting of 57 trees, 10 shrubs, 9 climbers, 17 herbs, and 12 grasses.

In 1993, a new species of butterfly was discovered. As of 2012, the densest population of forest elephants in Ghana.

Lake Bosumtwi*

The only natural lake in Ghana is situated within an ancient impact crater that is about 10.5 kilometres in diameter and over a million years old. The name Bosomtwe means “antelope god” after a legend involving an Ashanti hunter chasing an injured antelope through the rainforest.

The Ashanti consider Bosumtwi a sacred lake where the souls of the dead bid farewell to the goddess Asase Ya. Because of this, it is considered permissible to fish in the lake only from wooden planks called padua as touching the water with iron or modern boats is considered taboo.

The Abrodwum Stone is held to be the spiritual centre of the lake. Here, when there is poor fishing the lake people sacrifice a cow. This act is celebrated in the presence of the Ashanti king, the Asantehene. In the ceremony, the cow’s innards are given to the stone and the rest is thrown into the lake. The crowd rushes into the water with cutlasses and axes to take their share of the meat.

Situated about 30 km from Kumasi, the capital of Ashanti, it is a popular recreational area. There are about 30 villages near the crater lake of Lake Bosumtwi, with a combined population of about 70,000. The lake has no inlets or outlets and is only replenished by rainfall.

Lake Volta*

The largest (8,502 square kilometres) artificial reservoir in the world based on surface area, which is over 500 kilometers across! The Akosombo Dam produces 912 MW of electricity for the country, as well as for export to Togo, Benin, and other nearby countries. It also provides a waterway for ferries and cargo watercraft, holds a vast population of fish and large fisheries, and attracts tourism. The main islands within the lake are Dodi, Dwarf, and Kporve. Digya National Park lies on part of the lake’s western shore.

The resettlement of 78,000 people across 740 villages was chaotic and inefficient, causing significant hardship. Formation disrupted traiditional fishing and farming, and caused a spike is disease. Government-led modernisation did not succeed, and people had to adapt to the new circumstances themselves.

A recent large-scale project harvests submerged high-value tropical hardwood timber from the flooded forests. An estimated 7,000 to 10,000 children work in an apprentice-style arrangement. Due to global warming, the water level has been decreasing leading to reduced power generation.

Wii (Agoomatsa) Waterfall*

The highest waterfall in Ghana and the tallest in West Africa. Has a lower and an upper fall. Known locally as Agoomatsa (“allow me to flow”) waterfalls. Founded by a group of hunters who presumed the sound of the falls was a talking drum sounding. The surrounding forest contains a large colony of fruit bats, butterflies, birds, monkeys and baboons.

Kintampo Waterfall*

One of Ghana’ highest (70 meters total of three stages, the longest drop is 25 meters) waterfalls and formerly known as Sanders Falls during the colonial days. In 2017, 28 people were killed and others injured after a large tree fell on them following a storm; before reopening a canopy walkway was constructed.

  • beaches: Kokrobite*, Sir Charles Beach (Winneba, just through the entrance to the Command And Staff Training School Of Ghana Police), Breezes Beach Resort*
  • Fort Amsterdam (1638). Built by the English as Fort Cormantin, captured by the Dutch. In 1811, the people of Anomabo, who happened to be allies of the British attacked the fort leaving it in ruins. Unoccupied until its restoration in 1951. Believed to be the first slave prison on the Gold Coast.
  • Ussher Fort* (1649). Built by the Dutch as Fort Crèvecœur


Kumasi is the commercial, industrial, and cultural capital of the historical Ashanti Empire. The second-largest city in Ghana, it is located in a rain forest region near Lake Bosomtwe. Also known as “The Garden City” and Oseikrom, after Osei Kofi Tutu I who was a king in the Ashanti empire.