A few Fridays ago we left our house at dawn for a bumpy six-hour bus ride to Kumasi, a city in the Ashanti region north of Accra. Kumasi is much like Accra, the main difference being its emphasis on traditional culture. It’s referred to as the cultural capital and is home to the Asantehene royalty.
A visit to the Manhyia Palace and Museum was not close to what I expected of a royal palace. I was picturing an extravagant ancient palace, but the house was simple living space. Something I realized on visits to Cape Coast and Elmina Castles also proved true in the Manhyia Palace: the most interesting experience is to stand where you know people of much power have stood and try to imagine being them, seeing what they saw and thinking what they thought. It might be weird, but that’s become my favorite thing to do on visits like these.
On Saturday, we shopped. And spent too many cedis.
First, the kente cloth village. Kente cloth is interwoven silk and cotton fabric native to the Akan of the Ashanti Kingdom. I got a chance to sit and weave a strip of cloth for a few minutes. Each pattern has a different meaning and story told by the one who made it. We had the chance to shop in the village and of course I justified my purchases with the fact that this is one of the only places I’ll be able to buy kente.
Next, the adinkra stamp village. Adinkra are traditional symbols that represent concepts or sayings. They are everywhere around Ghana, especially in Kumasi and can often be stamped on the kente cloth. At this village, we watched the ink making process and designed our own group cloth strip with stamps.
Then, the Kejetia market. Kejetia is West Africa’s largest open-air market, which I highly recommend avoiding if you have OCD. Pictures cannot do the market justice. It’s huge, lively, colorful, smelly, crowded, loud, and insane. We walked through the market without plans to buy anything, but that didn’t stop the vendors from trying. My favorite part was interacting with the vendors. They would burst out laughing when we spoke small amounts of Twi. They always love to laugh at our horrible accents, but our simple conversations through passing are worthwhile.
Overall, I didn’t care much for Kumasi because of its still heat and my preference for the ocean. With that being said, I did love our short stop at Lake Bosomtwe on the way home Sunday. Lake Bosomtwe is the only natural lake in Ghana, created by a meteor one million years ago. We went on a short boat ride on the lake, jumped in the water for a swim and had some time to interact with the locals before heading back to Accra for work on Monday morning.