Saturday, January 1, 2011

Great Day in Accra, Ghana (Nov. 10, 2010)

After three wonderful sea days, we docked in Tema, Ghana to head to the capital city of Accra. I organized this tour and there were 21 of us. (Note to self: cut the tours off earlier next time; 21 is getting to be too large a group!).

The word Ghana means “gold” and it was for this reason that many explorers from different countries came. The area of modern Ghana was dominated by the Ashanti tribes who built a community which virtually swam in gold ornaments, gold dust and gold-covered carvings.

Today, Accra is modern and fairly efficient. It is a developing country and our tour guide said once they learn to stop littering, it will be a developed country. The population of Ghana is 23 million.

The flag of Ghana (which looks amazingly like Senegal's except it is horizontal)...

We had a wonderful group of dancers and drummers to greet us at 6:00 a.m. These people played and danced for over two hours while we docked and everyone got off the ship. It was soooo hot and humid. When I went onto the balcony to take a picture, the camera lens steamed up! The buses were weaving around the dancers!

So much energy! Did I mention how hot it was??


video

It would be nice to dock in a pretty city, but Tema is Ghana’s largest sea port, so containers it is!

We were off the ship and ready to go. The dancers were still dancing...

We were greeted by David, our tour guide; his assistant, Helina; and Martin, the driver. We piled in the van and hit our first snag. David didn't seem to have the proper paperwork and we were stopped before we even got out of the port. David and Helina got out and after much heated discussion, we were waved through and were on our way. It only appears to take money to get things straightened out. Lots of modern signs in English, as Ghana was a British colony.

All of a sudden we had to pull over again and wait outside the toll booths. We weren’t sure why…I had arranged this tour with a man named James Roberts, and it appeared that he was coming to meet us. This lovely lady walked by as we were waiting…

David bought some peanuts from her to give to us. That’s a sure way to distract us: feed us! To get the babies on their backs, the women take the child by one arm and swing him around while they bend over. Once the child is on their back, they wrap the cloth around him. They appear to love it! As our guide the next day explained to us, this is why African women’s breast are sagging and hanging. They are bound for many years.

James appeared and passed us in his car and we were off…still not sure what all that was about. Lots of construction…and lots of vendors walking between the cars and selling things.


These are large bags of water. Instead of bottled water, they sell little bags of water. You rip one corner off with your teeth, drink it, and (sadly) a lot of times, throw the bag out the window. I guess it’s better than littering bottles…

Our first stop was the University of Ghana. What a beautiful campus! There are 11 universities in Ghana, some private and some government sponsored, but this is the largest with 11,000 students. It is modelled on British universities.




Dormitories…

A very pretty campus…

Accra in the distance…

David, Helina and Martin…

Potty break…by our standards this would be pretty grim. There was no sink, but there was a bucket of water outside to wash your hands. The bottles of sanitizer we all had were well used! Bob was hamming it up in the background.

The sign of things to come!

One of the vendors walking through the slow traffic was selling maps. When we stopped, David opened the door and negotiated with the guy. He didn’t like the price, so he closed the door and we drove on. Now the vendor was running beside the van and we were feeling sorry for him. David opened the door again and bought this map to help show us the country. He said “don’t feel bad for them, it’s good exercise!”

College of Surgeons…

Lots of billboards selling some high-end products. This is actually a billboard for Ethiopian Airlines, not coffee.

Hmmm…not sure how to say any of these names, except Accra (a-CRAW).

The next stop was the museum. They are so proud of it, but it was soooo hot. We barely had time to look at anything as the museum guide whisked us around. You weren’t allowed to take pictures (or you had to pay $2 for each one…crazy rules). So I have no pictures of the museum. Here we are getting back into the van for our next stop…

This seemed like a no-brainer, until we saw that it is very common for men to urinate anywhere. Maybe the women do as well, but it isn’t so obvious.

Amazing what they can carry…everything but the kitchen sink, and that might be in there too.

The Supreme Court…very nice buildings.


Seriously, some of this stuff must weigh a ton!

You can see the vendors have lots of opportunity to sell stuff in the slow moving traffic.

Kwame Nkrumah began a determined, but non-violent drive for self-government in the fight for Ghana’s independence. He was sent to jail in 1950 for leading a campaign of non-cooperation with the government, but his party was so strong that they continued to win local elections by wide margins. In 1951, he was released from jail and the governor asked him to form a government.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures here either, unless we paid $20. David told us to listen to their presentation and then sneak pictures, which we did. Under Nkrumah’s leadership, the Gold Coast colony was given freedom with the name of Ghana. Many other African countries also received independence and Nkrumah was given credit for leading the way to free African states. A beautiful monument…

His ambitious and well-intentioned projects drained the treasury, however, and the quality of life deteriorated. He was overthrown by a military coup in 1996 and died of cancer in exile 6 years later. His body was later brought back to Ghana and given the prominence it deserved.

This would have been nice had it been working...

Ghana suffered through a series of corrupt and incompetent governments until 1981, when the situation was stabilized. It has continued to rebuild itself as a land of democracy and peace.

Jim spotted this Cadillac for sale…

From here it was on to the textiles market. Thank heavens both Helina and David took a group of us in. This market is huge with hundreds of tiny stalls. They all appear to be selling the same stuff. Of course, David had a “cousin” who took us around, starting with his own stall.

Several of us were interested in kente cloth, which is ceremonial hand-woven vibrant cloth, traditionally worn by kings and queens. Each design symbolizes something different. This one represents the Ashanti tribes. They started bargaining at $500. It gets pretty intense as they are right in your face and it is about a bazillion degrees in the market. We offered $100. They laughed (we have caught on to this bargaining tactic). But we really didn’t have any more than $120. After trying to work the price up and realizing it wasn’t going to happen, I did get a huge tablecloth which it is great memory of Ghana.

We couldn’t wait to get out of there. Water was literally coming out of every pore! We were thankful for Helina who led us out.

This is their very nice soccer stadium…

Independence Square...a place for parades and festivals...

Ghana is a very religious nation with a 75% Christian population. The remainder is Muslim with some practicing voodoo. Once again, Muslims can have four wives, but even the Christians can have more than one wife, if they can afford them. This van shows the religious sentiment present in Ghana, as well as the British ties.

At last…lunch! This restaurant was behind the gas station. It looked a little “iffy” when we drove in, but it was a delicious buffet.

Each little section in the restaurant had a city name. How appropriate that we got Accra. Notice our van within seeing distance at all times!

Rebekah and her delicious lunch!

We will not discuss any of my hair-dos in any of these countries. I gave up...it was so hot and humid! But we look pretty happy with our good lunch!

After lunch, we drove through a nice residential neighbourhood, complete with barbed wire…

We quickly drove by the Canadian Embassy before I had a chance to snap a picture and then we drove by the huge US Embassy. There were many large signs outside saying “NO PHOTOGRAPHY.” So I didn’t, but someone on the bus did.

In quick order, we were pulled over by a taxi with a policeman inside who quickly boarded our bus. After confiscating Cathy's camera, he and David (and then Helina) left the van and began talking outside. We nervously pulled away and parked here waiting to see what would happen.

Eventually we went back and picked them up. The policeman asked Cathy to delete the picture and she did and then he left. David explained that this is so aggravating for them to have to deal with this. After paying the taxi and paying off the policeman, we carried on. It was a bit of excitement and now if we see "No Photography" signs, we'll be sure to comply!

A lovely hotel…

And then the military academy…


This is where they had the firing squad. You would think they might take these numbers down if they want to be a peaceful nation. They have 8 shooters, so that no one knows who has actually shot the person.

And our last stop of the day, the one that some of us were looking forward to, was the designer casket shop. Many of us had seen this on the “Amazing Race” so it was really neat to be there. These caskets are custom made for people to show some representation of their life. We drove by and found a place to park…

These two buildings face each other. The one at the back is where they build the caskets and the one we are standing on faces the street. It is really right in someone’s yard, and a family was living under the stairs.

A beer bottle…that could represent a few people's lives!

A Laminex truck, which I think sells cement products…

Something with snakes on it...it was so small and crowded, you could hardly move around.

Vicky got in…a perfect fit!

A camera (for you, Chris!)...

And a fish…

A rooster...

Some of these look like they have been here for a long time. I wonder how many they actually sell. This lady was cooking in the yard outside the shop…

The stairs going up were very rickety and I wondered how many of us this place could actually hold. Another private group arrived after us, and a man was leaning on the railing to take a picture when it broke and he fell 8 feet to the ground. He was knocked out and pretty banged up. I was so glad it wasn’t one of our group.

Lots of chickens running around...

I guess this is how they try to stop people from urinating in the streets. It was a little smelly…

A furniture vendor…we could only imagine how dusty this stuff must be.

And our last stop of the day was at a second casket shop. Here we ran into all the Princess tours, so it was very crowded. We didn’t stay there too long. A crab coffin…

An airplane…

A robot…

And with that, we were back on the van heading to the ship. The Princess buses had a police escort, so we had to pull over to let them by, but Martin quickly tucked in behind them and we went back in their draft! I think the phone card business was a little slow…

School children…all in different uniforms. Many of the people do not like to have their photograph taken as they think we take them back to our country and make fun of them. But they are so beautiful and different to us. I tried to sneak as many pictures as possible without offending anyone.

More uniforms…

She was carrying some kind of warm items on her head (it looked like hot dogs in buns) and a baby on her back…

All aboard for Lome, Togo!!! Accra was a wonderful and very interesting city. It was a great day!

1 comment:

  1. This was a great photographic tour of Accra.

    ReplyDelete