Visual Feast in Kumasi

Market abundance. Native craftsmanship. Lush scenery.  All were evident during our weekend in Kumasi, Ghana’s second largest city. It’s only a 35-minute flight from Accra, but apparently the bus takes six hours (!) partly due to a 50 km stretch of unpaved road. So we opted for the flight.

We almost didn’t get into Kumasi, as the airport arrival door was to be ‘kept closed always’. Fortunately, a gate attendant arrived once he saw the crowd accumulating on the tarmac.

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While there, we toured the Kumasi Market – the largest street market in West Africa.  With over 11,000 vendors, it was a labyrinth of sights and smells.  Ed found the market to be a “target rich” environment for photography and captured some evocative images which can be seen in the Market Gallery.  At Kumasi market, you can purchase anything you can imagine-- from cow feet to traditional medicines to snails to handmade shoes to machete knives.

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An interesting section of the market is the “bend down boutique” where used fashionable shoes from the West are washed and recycled.

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Comfort, our local guide, helped us navigate the stalls and sections as there were stairways between the nooks and crannies of rows of stalls.  Since she’s been guiding tourists through the market for over 10 years, she’s quite popular with the merchants. Initially we were a bit worried about getting lost; however, Comfort assured us that she had never lost a tourist.

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We climbed the central tower and took in these amazing views.

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From the tower, the “tro-tros” which are the most popular form of public transportation in Ghana looked like tiny insects.

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Ed likes to capture images of buildings with weathered materials and interesting patterns.

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The market tailors were busy sewing school uniforms for the children – orange for Public School, blue for Presbyterian, yellow for Anglican and green for Catholic!

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Jan even talked herself into buying a Nigerian party dress from market women who were selling their wares from a bag in the aisle between the stalls, instead of a shop. This allowed them to avoid paying the daily stall toll. Who knows when she’ll ever wear this? Wearing it for Halloween in Ghana seems a little tacky … but perhaps it will work as a costume or party dress for special occasions in the US!

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On Saturday, Chris, the host at the delightful Four Villages Inn drove us to several surrounding villages to explore local Ashanti crafts and traditions.  At Ntonso, we learned about the “Adinkra” symbols of the Ashanti people.

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We especially liked the symbol for “transformation” and bought the stamp and had a banner made.  We plan to give to SEED because the mission of SEED is transformation of small and medium business to alleviate poverty.

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At the Andanwomase village, we learned how Kente cloth is made.  85% of the men in the village know this traditional craft and work on the looms.

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We were garbed in Kente fashion –all ready to go to a traditional celebration.  (When we posted a similar picture on Facebook, one friend remarked that Ed “looks cute in a dress!”) More photos of our journey can be seen in Ed's gallery, Kumasi Villages.

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Kumasi is lush and green.  We enjoyed visiting lake Bosumtwi and couldn’t resist ordering the “Beef Goulash” for lunch at a local lakeside restaurant.  (The host is an Austrian who was formerly married to a Ghanaian.

On Sunday, we visited Beatrice, a lady we had met in Cape Coast a few months ago. When Ed took her picture on our tour there, she requested a copy and we promised to get one to her.  Since she doesn’t do email she wanted prints! She was quite surprised when we called her and brought the pictures to her home where she greeted us and introduced us to her husband. She was most gracious and even called Jan on Monday morning to thank her for the photos and to make sure we had a comfortable return to Accra.

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After our meeting with Beatrice, we had Chinese food at a local restaurant and were surprised that they used Playboy glasses!

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So, it was a lovely weekend – Chris from the Four Villages Inn provided personal attention and we enjoyed delicious food ranging from Austrian to Chinese, to Lebanese to Indian. We’d highly recommend a visit to Kumasi to anyone touring Ghana.

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