I have to admit that Ghana’s Year of Return campaign is genius😏. The government created all this hype in September 2018 on the eve of the 400th year anniversary of slavery inviting African Americans to “return” to Ghana. The message to African Americans was that it doesn’t matter if your ancestors hailed from Ghana; you too are welcomed to return to the Motherland and experience the Ghanian culture. I’m not sure they knew how successful their campaign would be and how many people would respond because they weren’t ready for the crowds. Despite this the embassies certainly did not make it easy to return🤨. You see Ghana is one of a small group of African countries that doesn’t offer an online visa process or visa on entry but this did not stop thousands of people including me from deciding to come to Ghana throughout the year. Add to the mix three major concerts – Detty Rave, AfroNation and Afrochella and Ghana was super packed for the month of December and particularly between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. So the message was…pack your patience because there will be crowds 🤷🏾♀️🤪and traffic everywhere. It was an experience.
Ghana’s airport is really nice, well lit and organized; from the Christmas carolers to the customer service desk to the women selling Vodafone sim cards by the currency change desk. You can almost forget you’re in a country in Africa where poverty is high. You are reminded over and over by the young men and children who come up to you begging outside of the airport, at the malls, outside the slave lodge calling you Mummy and asking for money. Or the people trying to sell you stuff while literally standing on the street in traffic. Or the warnings to hold onto your belongings especially your cell phones even when you’re in an Uber if the windows are down because someone on a bike may ride by and snatch it from you. But in spite of these things that can happen anywhere Ghana is a lovely country to visit and this is why I chose to go back.
Ghana has a myriad of places that one can go to experience culture and have good food, English is widely spoken and the people are friendly. Osu is a nice neighborhood where a lot is happening and uber is surprisingly cheap there. Labadi beach was the place to be on Christmas day; the DJ’s were playing competing music, horse rides were being offered, alcohol and food was plentiful with the sounds of the ocean in the background. We were surprised to see people fully dressed at the beach but it seemed to be a family event. When we were leaving there was a line to pay to get in to continue the party all night. Oxford street is a street filled with small booths selling all things Ghanian – clothes, waist beads, shoes, cell phone accessories – you name it and you can find it there. Buka restaurant off Oxford street is a local favorite place to eat; I had moringa juice and waakye – a dish with spaghetti, rice, black eyed peas, fish, vegetables and sauces. While it was way too much food for me to eat at once, it was especially delicious.
Part of my visit included joining a tour group with GravelWorld, the group was 60 people deep and this created some frustrations. The Aknac Hotel where we stayed was mediocre at best, it certainly paled in comparison to the Airbnb where I spent my first couple of days in Ghana. The rooms weren’t great, some of the bathrooms didn’t have appropriate lighting, I had no shower curtain the entire 6 days despite reminding them daily. Breakfast was often cold and disappointing, no fruits or juices were available and dinner was limited in options with basically plantains, cabbage and zucchini, fried chicken and fish and some rice pilaf. Typically it took forever to load the three buses to go anywhere because some people wouldn’t adhere to the schedule and GW allowed this by waiting for late people and often not leaving on time. Lunch was the worst not because of the quality of the food but because no restaurant was prepared to take orders for 60 people at one time without a reservation. You would think the tour guides and representatives from GW would take this into consideration and break the group into smaller groups to go to different restaurants to address this. Or choose restaurants that offered buffet lunch or pre order which we finally did near the end of the trip. You see Ghana was not truly ready for the amount of people that would descend upon the country as a result of this invitation by the Year of Return. Crowds were everywhere, restaurants were understaffed, traffic was insane and every monument and cultural space was being visited. Most of the events were in outdoor spaces which often meant no shade, portable bathrooms, often no running water or soap🤦🏾♀️and lines, well crowds of people trying to get service all at the same time because Ghanians don’t line up…they congregate. Detty Rave was a mass of chaos in an outdoor park with people pushing each other to get in first and a near tragedy of getting trampled. It is not something I will ever do again, it was way too stressful even despite the men in the group surrounding the women so that we wouldn’t be hurt…whew😓but the performances were good. I missed Machel performing because he came on at 3 am and the shuttle bus left at 2:30 am. The New Year’s Eve party which was held outside was a major fashion event with VIP areas with couches and chairs and the music was good. Women and men alike were dressed to impress but I opted for shorts, sneakers and a cute shirt because I forgot my dress and didn’t realize it until the day before the party.
Afrochella was an experience, it truly was a fashion event; seeing all those beautiful black folx dressed to impress, representing in African gear was the best part of Afrochella for me since I left too early to hear any of the headliners. It is not an international music event despite some American artists performing but a festival celebrating the music of the African diaspora. Some of the fun included face painting, artistic picture booths, an Afrochella 💃🏾throne, local dancers performing, a variety of food, artists/businesses selling their merchandise and catching glimpses of celebrities. As a young festival it struggled with some disorganization and miscommunication issues. The show didn’t begin until about 6 pm even though the event was advertised as a 12 to 8 pm event and didn’t actually start until around 2 pm. So many people arrived early to avoid the long lines that came with every event; this seemed to be unexpected for the workers as the people managing the lines seemed confused as to how to start letting people inside. The set up included two different stages, tents with pillows, a VIP area that wasn’t 🤷🏾♀️but a VVIP area that was created for celebrities and important people. While I enjoyed it, the festival could be so much better and I hope that the planners work hard to make it a better event next year event though I won’t be there.
The Kwame Nkrumah Memorial and Museum is an opportunity to learn some history about the man who became the first Prime Minister of Ghana, then named the Gold Coast and led the fight for independence from the British. Nkrumah was a revolutionary of sorts, he wanted the countries of Africa to form an alliance, use one currency and kick out the colonizers and work towards independence✊🏾. This of course ruffled some feathers of the powerhouses in the West. It is said that his lofty ideas stretched the country’s finances and the military with the help of said powerhouses orchestrated a coup that ousted him 9 years later. It is believed that the colonizers feared the power Nkrumah would gain and the effect Ghana’s success would have on other countries in the diaspora, encouraging them to stand up against colonizers and take back their countries. Although you can’t take pictures in the museum it is a detailed history of his time in office and after his work in other countries. Independence Square is a public square that includes the stadium, the independence arch, a statue and the Black Star Monument. It is used for special celebrations and is one of the places many people like to take pictures because the black star represents the liberation movement and Ghana’s independence from Britain. You can also climb to the top of the monument and take pictures by the star. We even ran into Boris Kodjoe by the Black Star monument.
Getting to the Elmina Slave Castle is a rough, stop and go, 4 hour drive from Accra on sometimes unfinished roads to get to Cape Coast where it is located. Elmina is one of two slave castles in the area; today it is a small fishing town where men fish, women sell goods and children play football just outside of the walls of the fort. I struggle with calling it a castle because of the horrors committed within those walls. To say it was an intense emotional experience is not an exaggeration. Despite the crowds we encountered, for me it was still a place where I found myself retreating into my inner thoughts, feeling intense emotions as the tour guide described some of the atrocities practiced and the horrors the enslaved encountered at the hands of so many. It is impossible to stand in those spaces, bend down to walk through those doorways without feeling anger, and despair; it makes you want to weep and scream at the same time. For me it is important to bear witness to what happened there, to see it for myself and hear the history of my Ancestors, as a way to reconnect with the past. It is not pretty or easy but it is necessary👊🏾.
Boti Falls was at its lowest water flow but it was a nice change of scenery from the city the day after we visited Cape Coast. The falls consists of twin waterfalls that are considered male and female and when the water flow is heavy, they are considered to be mating. It is tucked in the back of a small town 2 hours away from the city. The falls provided a glimpse of nature at its simplest and most intricate. There are parts of the lake that is said to be 17 feet deep despite the deceitful nature of being shallow. To get there you have to climb down over 70 steps which isn’t bad but that climb back up. Yikes😩. It is rugged and quiet and serene and provided a beautiful background for some nice pictures and boat ride. On the way to Cape Coast we stopped at the Kakum National Park and did the canopy walk, this is definitely for adventure seekers and I did not enjoy it. I hate heights so I tapped out and only did 3 of the 7 walkways all while trying not to freak out😬.
This restaurant where they redecorated an old plane and turned it into a restaurant is located at the airport. It is one of those touristy things that people do when they visit a country. The food is good, it is a really cool idea and if you want a window seat you should make a reservation because only one side of the restaurant has window seats. So plan ahead. But don’t go into the bathroom it is so tight in there I am not sure how women navigate it 😆after I left the restaurant I went across the street to the mall instead. #itwastight
Ghana is a country rich in culture, the people are beautiful, and there are plenty of places to get delicious food😍 and places to explore outside of the city. I didn’t do much partying because I wasn’t feeling the crowds and the excessive traffic but Accra is definitely a city where there are lots of bars and spots to experience nightlife. I did go to the 233 Club where there are local bands that play every night, it was nice. Despite the many frustrations I had a good time in Ghana. There’s so much I didn’t get to see in other parts of the country, the National park, the Ashanti village in Kumasi, the National Museum and Arts Village so I will definitely be back for another visit.
See you in 2020 Ghana #Yearofreturn2019 #BlackExpat #outandaboutinGhana #travelismytherapy #livingmybestlife #wanderlust #travelincolor #iloveafrica #blackwomenwhoblog #blackwomenwhotravel #theworldismybucketlist #Dopelife #livingmybestlife #expatdivas #EDpat #ebonyexpats #blacktravelmove #blackandabroad