Ghana's capital, Accra is a city of contrasts


Submitted by Kumuda on Tue, 2016-12-13 15:49 As my aircraft landed at Ghana’s Accra airport, I was disappointed to see such a small airport in the country’s capital. But my taxi driver assured me that a new terminal building was being built. Within a few minutes I was at my hotel on the outskirts of Accra, which had wide roads, malls and multi-storied buildings similar to any other modern metropolis. Accra attracts a large number of tourists, though not from India. I went there primarily for work, but used my free time to see the country which produced great leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah and Kofi Annan. After refreshing myself in the hotel room, I set out to see the important tourist destinations in Accra. I started with the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial designed by Don Arthur. Nkrumah was the first president and founding father of Ghana. The Mausoleum houses the graves of the great leader and his wife. The memorial is shaped like a folded palm, but many say it’s shaped like an inverted sword. The bronze statue of the Ghanaian leader is placed in front. A museum attached to the memorial has exhibits which give a glimpse of the life of the leader. I was surprised to see that the memorial had been not well-maintained. Close-by is the Independence square, also known as the Black Star Square. Located on the sea front, this place commemorates the Independence of Ghana from the British in 1957. The Square has two monuments - the Independence Arch and the Black Star Gate. A statue of a soldier facing the Independence Arch commemorates the sacrifices made by the people.   Independence Day parade is held here on 6th March of every year here. Accra’s Sports Stadium, home to West Africa’s most popular football club, is located nearby. Next, I went to the old part of the city known as James Town. One of the oldest districts of the city, this settlement along with Ussher Town were developed in 17th century. The contrast with the suburbs was most striking. The settlement was full of cramped houses, narrow roads, hand drawn carts, and bustling public. It looked similar to George Town area near Chennai Port. The British built James Fort as a trading post in 1673. This fort was once a prison where Africans were imprisoned for months together. I saw the cramped cells of this prison. The most important landmark of James Town is its Light House. Another landmark of this area is the Ussher Fort built by the Dutch in 1649. It is built on a rocky point and was once part of the Dutch Gold Coast. Later, it was transferred to the British. The Ussher Fort is now being restored. Accra Central Post Office and Macola Market are also located in this area. This locality, once a prominent trading area, has influences of the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, and France apart from British. I concluded the day’s visit by visiting Macola Market, which is similar to markets in Mumbai or Chennai. It has a number of interesting things to buy from fruits to fabrics, but one needs to bargain a lot.  The next day, 15th August, I visited the Indian High Commissioner’s residence for the flag hoisting function. I met a large number of Indians and was told that both the countries had very good relations, and that the Presidential Palace of Accra across the road had been built by India. Known as Flag Staff House, it is both the office and the residence of President of Ghana. It commemorates the Golden Jubilee of Independence of Ghana. Located nearby is the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. Built by the British 120 years ago, this church, architecturally, is one of the finest buildings in Accra. The National Theatre of Ghana is also appealing for its architecture. The other popular attractions are Lobardy Beach, which is similar to Juhu Beach in Mumbai, the Ghana zoo, and the National Museum, which traces the history of slave trade. The roads of Accra, very similar to those in India, are crammed with thousands of mini buses called ‘Trotro’. They stop everywhere and charge a fixed fare. At all traffic signals, there are people selling food items such as fruits, nuts, chilled water, cool drinks and cigarettes. Accra being near the Equator is hot and humid. It has a many five-star hotels and many Indian eateries. My visit was quite exciting, as I felt very much at home.