Accra Honours Ants

There can’t be too many cities in the world that are named after insects, but Accra, the capital of the West African country of Ghana is, apparently, a derivation of the Akan word for ants.  Apparently, the city was given that name because of the number of anthills that could be found in the area.

Certainly, the residents must be as busy as ants for today Accra is a modern city that is home to some very interesting architecture.

The city was first settled in the 15th century, and it soon flourished as a trading port because it was an important part of the slave trade, with many thousands of slaves bidding farewell to Africa, their homeland, as they were herded aboard ships bound for the New World.

These days the city is home to about four million people, and it stretches along the Atlantic Coast and also into the interior of the country. Its architecture ranges from large and elegant nineteenth century colonial buildings to skyscrapers and apartment blocks made of concrete, glass and steel.

Even though Accra is now a sprawling city, the central city are is quite compact and many of the tourist attractions are readily accessible.

These attractions include the National Museum of Ghana, the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences.  Also the central Library, the Ghana Centre for National Culture and the National Theatre.

Objects of archaeology, ethnography as well as fine art find place in the National Museum building. Objects displayed in the archaeology section range from the stone age period to the recent  historical past. Those on permanent exhibition at the ethnography gallery include chief’s regalia, indigenous Ghanian musical instruments, gold-weights, beads, traditional textiles, stools and pottery.

Spreading along the Atlantic coast, the city is well endowed with luxury as well as great value hotels, excellent restaurants and night clubs. A range of fine public monuments, modern business and commercial areas, as well as busy markets and tree-lined residential suburbs, is ready to be explored.

The beaches of the Atlantic coast are popular with visitors and Ghanaians alike. La Pleasure and Kokrobite Beach, just 25km west Accra, are particularly popular at weekends.

The central Makola market is very big and very busy. Market women sit under huge straw hats, with babies strapped to their backs, behind piles of tomatoes, yams, beans, plantains, peanuts and rice and basins of dried fish or meat.      

Although there are some wealthy areas in Accra, most of the people live in less illustrious circumstances.  The majority still live in the poor shanty towns which have grown up around the edges of the city and near the port. Homes in the shanty towns are crowded and cramped. They are mud built huts made from any materials that their owners can find. They are made of sticks, palm fronds woven into screens, sheets of corrugated iron or plywood, concrete breezeblocks and discarded packing cases from the port. The shanty towns, like James Town, are like mazes with muddy lanes where goats, chickens and dogs scrabble for scraps.

Despite this poverty the people still have a reputation for people amongst the friendliest in Africa, and you will often hear the word “akwaaba” spoken to you.  That word means welcome, and its meaning will be genuine.

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