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Ghana - where development meets tradition

True colours of Africa

Brigitta Bacsai | 06th October 2016

Brigitta, one of our lovely project managers shares her experience in Ghana

I have recently returned from my holiday in Ghana where I had the time of my life and I really hope I can accurately portray my cultural experience here. I couldn’t help but wonder how an average Ghanaian can usually speak at least three or four languages including English, which is the official language in Ghana, but not the main means of everyday communication. It is very common to speak Twi, the main local language in and around Accra mixed with a bit of broken English. Hausa is also a very frequently used local language.

Ghana is a rapidly developing Western African country with breathtaking nature that becomes increasingly prominent as you leave the capital city, Accra. It does take a few hours-drive, but you’re guaranteed to experience the true colours of Africa. My suggestion is to arrange for a local guide to drive you around due to the condition of the roads in some areas and the unique driving signals, which almost form an actual language. The horn is probably more frequently used than the brake, in a good way though, mainly to warn other drivers or people walking by the side of the road due to the lack of pavement. You would need to learn the ‘horn language’ if you want to get behind the wheel.

The astonishing green vegetation combined with wonderful terracotta soil and incredibly blue sky leaves you speechless and grateful to witness such a beautiful God-sent gift. The white walls of the scenic Cape Coast Castle by the beach witnessed Ghanaian people’s tragedies of the past, when they were used as commodities in the shameful transatlantic slave trade. This used to be the last stop in their homeland before entering the “Door of No Return” in chains to step onto the ships which took them to the unknown new world only to experience more suffering, pain and humiliation.

Walking from dungeon to dungeon, listening to all the horrendous stories told by our tour guide, I was standing there speechless and shocked about how much cruelty human beings are actually capable of.

Everyday life is not easy for many people in Ghana. The hawkers carry the goods they have for sale on their head and their children on their back all day, walking through traffic, risking their safety and lives to earn a living. When the traffic stops at the red lights, they all suddenly appear with fresh cold water, plantain chips or even kebabs. When the lights turn green, they all leave the road in no time. The lack of social safety net, state pension scheme or benefit system forces many disabled people onto the street to beg. You can spot some of them by the traffic lights as well as the side of the road.

There are also a lot of children walking on the sidewalk to or from the school carrying all sorts of goods on their head from an early age or fetching water from the well in the middle of the village. Seeing young children trying and working so hard fills your heart with sadness. You’ll also notice the big smile on their faces, playing football or some other games and feeling happy and appreciative about anything and everything they have, regardless of how little that might be.

You can also meet young entrepreneurs in Ghana, who are resourceful, talented and very passionate about their business, like my local guide. He has been running a multimedia business for 3-4 years now, bringing new ideas into the business constantly and relentlessly, using the latest technology to produce high quality video and photo products, as you can see from the photos here.

Tradition is incorporated in all aspects of everyday life in Ghana. Many of the locals wear traditional attires for church, weddings or other occasions, which are both beautiful and colourful. I was lucky enough to experience the traditional culture at the Asogli State Yam Festival, which celebrates the harvest of the yam, a very important ingredient in the Ghanaian kitchen.

Life is relaxed in Ghana. You might need to wait over 30 minutes even in a fast-food restaurant for your meal, but no-one complains about it and somehow you don’t seem to be bothered either. The local food is definitely worth the wait, when you taste freshly made fried meat (chicken, fish, goat) with jollof rice or fried plantain with beans. For those who feel adventurous, try the most popular dish, fufu with light soup, but only accompanied with a bottle of water, as you will feel the burn of the chilli pepper with every bite. Spicy food is pretty much the standard in Ghana, as well as the malt drinks, which are really refreshing when you relax on one of the beaches. Ghana is blessed with a long coastline, so there are plenty of beaches to visit.

Peace is very important in Ghana and constantly emphasised by all the politicians in the media especially due to the upcoming general elections, which will take place this December. Ghana is one of those rare African countries, where people from all sorts of different religious or ethnic backgrounds coexist in a peaceful, friendly environment. Presidential elections are violence-free and tourists can feel absolutely safe and welcome. This is probably one of the reasons why Ghana is a rapidly developing African country, though there is still a huge need for infrastructural development and commitment to tackle corruption in some areas. Unlike other African countries, electricity supply has been rapidly developing in the southern region, which is fully covered by the large Akosombo Dam on the Volta River, which I had the opportunity to visit thanks to my lovely local hosts. It even produces electricity for neighbouring Togo.

Ghana was a truly unique and amazing travel experience. The memories I made will be everlasting and the wonderful pictures and videos will forever remind me of my great adventure. I look forward to sharing my experience with others, but also staying in touch with some really nice Ghanaian friends I made during my holiday. This country has a lot to offer to tourists and I hope it will soon be discovered by many more travellers who want a bit more than just an all-inclusive beach holiday.