10 Mar Top Ten Reasons to Explore and Love Ghana
Written by Rebekah Cryderman and Sarindi Aryasinghe, 2015 Ghana: Global Health Program Leaders
As the birthplace of Operation Groundswell, Ghana will always hold a special place in our hearts. Year after year, we’re pulled back into this beautiful country and always bring a vibrant, fun-loving, and intelligent crew of people to share our love! It doesn’t take long to realize why we keep coming back, but here are a few of our reasons…
10. Making world history
Not only is the continent of Africa the birthplace of humankind, but Ghana itself made world political history as the first nation on the continent to gain independence from colonial rule on March 6, 1957. The country has been able to maintain political stability for many years and according to the Global Peace Index, Ghana is Africa’s most peaceful country, having been ranked 40th in the world. The locals you meet will always tell you, “Ghana is free. Ghana is peaceful.”
Ghana national pride on full display at a FIFA World Cup Qualifying Game in Kumasi, Ghana.
9. Oh chale!
There are over seventy local languages and dialects spoken throughout the country. As you move through, you are able to learn new words and ways of explaining the world. People will be overjoyed to hear you say “thank you” in a local tongue and eager to teach you a phrase if you are willing to learn. The sounds of Ghana, of street hawkers, of tro-tro mates, of people bustling in the markets or laughing amongst themselves, form the orchestra to daily life in the country. Perhaps one of the best aspects is the exclamation of “Ei!” you may hear. The way the languages, including English, are spoken have a rhythm of their own and a bouncing cadence that inspires you to call people “chale/charlie”, a term equivalent to “my friend”.
8. Make fufu, not war
This national dish of pounded cassava and yam is usually served with hot pepper soup and is like nothing you’ve ever eaten before. It’s delicious (like many of the traditional meals), fun to eat, and a staple for most Ghanaians. As you walk through the streets, you just might hear the rhythmic pounding as it is being prepared and you’ll begin to know from a distance what exactly is being made (lunch!). You may even see shirts enticing people to “Make Fufu, Not War” in the markets and one of the first questions a local may ask you is “Have you eaten fufu?”.
Boiled yam and cassava being pounded together to make fufu
7. Every road in Ghana is a fashion runway
The fabrics, prints, and clothing are certainly one of the most apparent and expressive outlets for Ghanaians. The vibrant colors of batik, swirling motifs of textiles, and the rich patterns of traditional woven kente cloth weave a striking portrait of people and their style of dress. Their fashion sense is beyond compare. Ghanaians manage to always look impeccable, even when you’re sitting beside them wearing a sweat soaked shirt and look like a mess after the same day of travel.
Market women selling vibrantly patterned fabrics by the yard.
6. Tro-tro adventures
You can’t say you’ve travelled to Ghana without experiencing the local transport: the tro-tro. Tro-tros are small mini-buses and vans that chaotically (in an orderly sense!), run routes around every nick and corner of Ghana’s bustling cities and towns. Who wants to be looking out the window from a tour bus when you can be cozied between a woman and her smiling (albeit startled) child, and a man trying to teach you how to say “I love Ghana” in his local tongue? Plus, the stickers on the back of taxis and tro-tros provide endless entertainment with messages like “Let them Say”, “It’s Nice to be Nice” or an obscure “Look Down”.
Parked station tro-tros painting a rainbow at Kaneshie Market in Accra, Ghana.
5. A tropical paradise
Ghana’s landscape is a beautiful mosaic of waterfalls, rolling mountains, crystal white beaches, and winding red dirt roads through the countryside. Whether you’re into hiking, surfing, or canoeing, the country is jam packed with breathtaking natural gems and incredible biodiversity. There are many national parks to be visited, such as Kakum National Park, which is home to the only canopy walk in all of Africa, and Mole National Park, where you could spot some wild elephants or antelopes from your jeep if you’re lucky! Ghana is also home to the Wli Falls, the tallest waterfalls in all of West Africa. Not only is it a beautiful natural wonder, but the strenuous hike to get to it reveals to you what you’re capable of and makes the cool rushing water of the falls all the more refreshing.
Wli Falls at Wli, Volta Region by the Ghana-Togo border.
4. Nothing works, but everything works out
The nature of adventure is being open to the flow, no matter which way it flows or over which obstacles or big old boulders of silliness it decides to tackle. You will be taught how to laugh by strangers, absurd circumstances, and the cosmic comedians of the everyday. You will be taught to smile by the life stories people tell you, by the dreams and hopes children share with you, and by observing how Ghanaians choose to laugh even when adversity lies in their path. Of course things won’t go as expected (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) and maybe the bus will be three hours late or not come at all, but as they say, “Nothing works, but everything works out.”
Students breaking out into an impromptu photo-shoot at a primary school in Kumasi, Ghana.
3. Show me your Azonto
The cultural significance of music and dance cannot be overstated. It is everywhere you turn in the country, whether its drums pounding the beat for the moves of Agbaja or a boom box blasting the latest dancehall hit from famous Ghanaian artists like Sarkodie, Shatta Wale, and Bisa Kdei. The most amazing dancers live here and they will encourage you to get on the dance floor (which can be anywhere incidentally), bust out your Azonto moves, and share your humanity.
2. Shattering the stereotype
Misguided media that disregard the achievements and cultures of foreign nations have shown a narrow narrative of Africa in many parts of the world. This under-representation and frequent misrepresentation has made Africa appear synonymous with charity and has stomped out the educational curiosity that lead individuals to learn of the geography and diverse, rich history of all 54 countries, including Ghana, in its confines. Travelling means we are given the opportunity to learn a most precious lesson – to see the world through other eyes, with other eyes.
1. It’s nice to be nice
The local folks of Ghana have a hospitality that is unparalleled. One moment you will be buying some tomatoes and peppers for stew and the next minute the seller will be offering to take you to her home to meet her family and insisting that she make you dinner. Ghana is where you live what you believe. It is loving your neighbor and loving the world at the same time. And in order to connect with others, we have to let people matter, to allow them as individuals to be as important as humanity as a whole. Even if it is just by greeting people that you pass on the street with a “Good Morning”, or a two-hour conversation with an elder you just met, each person you meet in Ghana has the potential to enrich your personal outlook and views. And, they’re only a warm smile away.