Sunday Spotlight – Accra (Ghana)
I promised myself I would lay off West Africa a little bit after all the stuff on Burkina Faso and the malaria, but well when I was thinking ahead for this week’s Sunday Spotlight, all I could think of was Accra, the capital of Ghana.
Now, I have to start by saying I can’t say that I saw or did a lot whilst I was there. I can’t say that I particularly liked the place or enjoyed the weather, or had a great hotel, but you know – it’s still a hell of a place.
The airport is almost cute, honestly. It’s a fair way from town and it’s not big, although the runways appear to stretch for miles and miles. When you get into town, well, it can be a bit shocking. Well, no, that’s not fair – it’s mostly me. It’s really much nicer than Bamako and Cotonou, it has some beaches, and in certain parts charm.
Except that when I arrived I seemed to be in a part of town that was really a bit of a low-lying splat, passing an empty block when the hotel I had hoped to stay was, and ending up in a real cheapie which was fine I guess but the fans weren’t very effective and the electricity was far less reliable. But, the Date Hotel is still going I believe and it certainly had character and a clientele from Nigeria who were friendly enough. Possibly too friendly…
Make Accra work for you when you’re there. Ghana is a pretty cheap country for the region, but cheap hotels in Accra are pretty scarce – spend a bit of dosh and get air conditioning, because really the only major issue I had with Accra was the weather – heat and humidity to rival Bangkok. And when the electricity goes out overnight and you’ve no fan and rats in the walls, well, suddenly you don’t feel so enamoured by the place.
But the truth is, when I headed south from the suburb/region of Adabraka, which to be honest had a bit to recommend it with some nice leafy streets, colourful life along some areas and a pretty decent supermarket. But generally it felt flat – and poor. But head south and you find that there is some amazing colonial architecture and interesting buildings. And a pretty awesome market too full of colour, material and… pancakes. They love pancakes!
As far as independence in Africa goes, Accra and Ghana were somewhat on the forefront. Kwame Nkrumah may not be a name that everyone reading my blog will know, but he was the first President of Ghana and oversaw the shift from colonialism in 1957 and he lived a remarkable life. A visit to his mausoleum is a must, we are talking about a man who’s place in African history is right up there with the likes of Nelson Mandela. The mausoleum has fountains, a photo exhibit and statues and is really a highlight of Accra.
There is the W.E.B Dubois Memorial Centre in an old colonial house – another important figure in African history. Really worth a little time, and the national museum is also rather interesting if musty, with strange statues sans heads in some cases.
Enjoy a beer out on the street, meet the friendly locals and try roast chicken – it abounds EVERYWHERE in Accra, and brave the tro tros – local transport like bush taxis with as many crammed in as possible. Accra has a lot to offer the visitor. My only advice is when you go, have a hotel to escape to with air conditioning and perhaps a back-up electricity generator.
In fact, I hated it at the time, but these days when I think of Accra, my main thought is – I’d love to give it another go! May the journey never end!