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Ghana City Tours: Accra's History & Culture

14th Jan 2014
Photo of Ghana City Tours: Accra's History & Culture 1/5 by Charles Sablah
Fishermen in Jamestown
Photo of Ghana City Tours: Accra's History & Culture 2/5 by Charles Sablah
Independence Arch
Photo of Ghana City Tours: Accra's History & Culture 3/5 by Charles Sablah
Kids at Anane International Memorial School
Photo of Ghana City Tours: Accra's History & Culture 4/5 by Charles Sablah
Kwame Nkrumah Memorial
Photo of Ghana City Tours: Accra's History & Culture 5/5 by Charles Sablah
Stall at the National Center for Culture

Just like more and more travelers are turning towards South East Asia in search of adventure, Africa too is emerging as a popular backpacking and travel destination. This applies not only to the already popular areas of South Africa, Nairobi, Cape town, etc. but also the not-so-popular areas of Ethiopia and Ghana. Ghana in particular is an interesting country. Not much is known about it and it often gets lost in the midst of the well-known African destinations. Ghana's claim to fame is perhaps its Cocoa. It continues to remain the largest producer of Cocoa in the world. But, there is more to Ghana and Accra than just that. It is one of the fastest growing economies of Africa, which is why it has always invited business travelers who stopped by the city amidst their meetings. Lately, though, Accra, the largest city and the capital of Ghana, is seeing travelers flock there for business and for pleasure. This city is listed by the New York Times as the top places to visit in 2013.

Along with a fast growing economy, Ghana is also one of the safest countries to visit in Africa. Situated in Sub-Saharan Africa, Accra, the capital, is vibrant and young. Accra is home to some of the most beautiful beaches of Africa and has a culture and history worth flaunting. Most travelers come here to either relax on its shores, or soak in the heritage and the local culture of the place. Or both. Accra is where tradition meets modernization. While on one hand, this city has snake handlers and plantain peddlers, the other side features emergence of five-star hotels and casinos (due to the rise in tourism numbers.) Accra's architecture greatly speaks of its history. From 19th century buildings to modern-day skyscrapers, Accra symbolizes a mix of the old with the new.

A cultural tour of Accra is needed to understand the local heritage and charm. Even though, the city has adapted to rapid commercialization, it has managed to maintain and protect its culture. History is equally important to understand this city and to respect its past heritage. This tour includes visiting the places of historical relevance as well as understanding the culture of Accra, through interacting with its locals. This itinerary puts the best of Accra's history and culture into one!

The trip begins on a positive note by meeting the students of the Anane International School in Nima. This school, in the heart of Accra, gives you a rare opportunity of interacting with the locals as well as teaching the poor and orphaned kids of this school. After visiting the school, we take a local tour of Nima. It was a fun day with the kids!
Photo of Anane International Memorial School, Nima, Accra by Charles Sablah
Housing interesting artifacts and traditional handicrafts from Ghana, the Center for National Culture and Arts in Accra is a great place to pick up some souvenirs. The arts center has many bustling stalls where you can pick up the local handmade crafts to take back home. The center also displays various paintings and artworks by local artists. A great place to experience and even collect some of the local artworks, thus enhancing your cultural experience.
Photo of Centre for National Culture, Accra, Greater Accra, Ghana by Charles Sablah
This place is literally where Ghana's history began. Kwame Nkrumah, the first President and one of the founding fathers, declared Ghana's Independence from the British here in 1957. He is often called the African Lenin and is greatly admired and respected by the people. This memorial is a dedication to him. The park stretches across five acres and houses a small museum documenting his life. It also has a small mausoleum, where he and his wife are buried. Independence day celebrations are held here and a tour of this place will give you much information about Ghana's history.
Photo of Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, Accra, Greater Accra, Ghana by Charles Sablah
Jamestown is a quiet and picturesque fishing village in old Accra. With clustered houses and dilapidated buildings, this neighborhood in Accra can be easily forgotten if not for the James Fort. Built in 1675 by the British, the fort was used to imprison slaves and has been used as a prison until 2008. Although the place is in a somewhat decay now, it still resonates of the city's past. A walk through the ruins of this old place gives a feel of the past of Accra and the nearby village is as interesting to interact with the locals and watch them go about their daily lives.
Photo of James Fort, Accra, Greater Accra, Ghana by Charles Sablah
Another lesson in Ghanaian history, the Independence Square also known as the Black Star Square is a public square in Accra built in 1961. It is by far the second largest city square in the world second to the Tian'anmen Square in China. The square has two significant structures, the Independence Arch and the Black Star Monument. As an ode to Ghanaians who lost their lives fighting for the country's independence, there is a statue of a soldier at the Independence Arch. The Black Star Monument has a motif that signifies that Ghana was the "Black Star of Africa" since it encouraged other African countries to fight for their liberation. P.S- Be careful while clicking pictures here, there are certain prohibitions.
Photo of Independence Square, Marine Drive, Accra, Greater Accra, Ghana by Charles Sablah
The history of Osu Castle reflects the history of Ghana itself. Previously called the Christiansborg Castle, it was built by the Danish in 1659. It has always remained the seat of the official government of Ghana, pre and post independence. The fort fell into the hands of the Danish, Swedish, Portuguese, the British and finally the Independent Ghana government. The castle was rebuilt various times and therefore, due to various extensions is in an unaligned structure today. The castle is huge and houses around 2100 workers. It is a perfect representation of Ghana's past mixed with its present. It is being heard that soon the President will be shifted to the Golden Jubilee house and the castle will be turned into a museum but nothing concrete has been done yet.
Photo of Osu Castle, Accra, Greater Accra, Ghana by Charles Sablah