I went on a six week vacation to Ghana this Christmas. I know, six weeks. Believe me, logistics were involved. I was born there to Ghanaian parents who moved to Canada when I was two. The culture has been a rich constant in my life, like eating the food (okra soup, please) and being scolded by my parents in both the official languages of English and Twi. Plus, I have visited, volunteered, worked, and been proposed to there.
Since I said yes to my husband Ian five years ago, we had a daughter and decided it was important for her to meet the family. That, and we liked the idea of free childcare so we could party until 5 a.m. the week after Christmas.
It was an awesome time. Here are five highlights.
Togo Fetish Market:
The very first thing we did was join Adventure Junkies Ghana on their 3-day trip to Lome, Togo. Our mixed group of expats, volunteers and locals gelled pretty quickly and we all enjoyed the Akodessewa Fetish Market. Here, the word fetish is understood in its original sense: the attribution of mystical qualities to inanimate objects. The practice of voodoo started in West Africa, and this is the oldest market for everything voodoo, from horse head bones to wooden dolls with large genitals to tails of all kinds. It’s like a big pharmacy for traditional healers. If you want to buy something, they take you to a small room, a fetish priest will present a few items like a doll to protect your home or talismans for travelers. Then you decide what you want, he’ll make you touch it three times to your chest or blow someone’s name into the item and then you haggle on the price.
Look up #ankarastyles and you’ll notice the growing popularity of using West African fabrics in clothing. What’s exciting for me is seeing talented fashion designers incorporating the patterns into their pieces. Christie Brown is known for this in Ghana. The brand is run by Aisha Obuobi, who watched her grandmother make clothes for everyone until she decided to do it herself. Aisha’s store is in small strip of luxury shops including a salad restaurant, a nail salon and a delicious gelato spot. I loved that Aisha mixes fabrics, and embellishes patterns with beads. But my favourite things were these neck pieces.
Getting Clothes Made:
If your budget doesn’t allow for fancy ready-to-wear items like at Christie Brown, you can do like the locals and get your clothes made. Seamstresses and tailors are everywhere in Ghana. My cousins get dresses made for the equivalent of $10 — great value for tailored clothing! The trick is to find someone who won’t force you to like the way they made something for you, even though you wanted something different. I used to live in Canada so she completely understood everything I wanted. I made a lot of dresses, a pair of shorts and even a cape!
The capital city of Accra is fun for its hustle and bustle, but it was nice to get away for some quiet and calm energy. We loved this eco-lodge on the eastern coast of the country. It sits right on the edge of a lagoon that runs parallel to the Atlantic Ocean. We took turns swimming across the cool lagoon then running 50 metres to the warm ocean and back. The staff was so warm and treated our daughter like a little celebrity, dancing with her to music on their cell phones and pointing out tiny fish and baby turtles.
La Palm Beach Resort:
For a little poolside action we went straight to the luxurious La Palm Beach Resort. It’s right on the beach in the centre of Accra and if you’re wondering why we didn’t just stay by the ocean it’s because they didn’t serve drinks there, so there’s that. Bonus: a kids area where they babysit your child for as long as you’re there for seven dollars. Yes please.
Bonus: The Relatives
If you are seriously thinking about going to an African country and don’t know where to start, I suggest Ghana, of course. The people are friendly, there is plenty of adventure and history to experience. Plus if you want to meet some great people who will treat you like family, let me know. I know a few people.