Join our 14-day adventure to the heart of West Africa through an expedition-like journey across Ghana, a country which is incredibly rich in traditions and yet is experiencing ever increasing modernity.
A trip for travelers in love with timeless West Africa – variety of landscapes and tribes, local markets full of colors, spices and smells, frenetic yet delicate rhythms, rituals and dances – who are interested in the uniqueness of the Ashanti traditional ceremonies.
Ghana is also the country where it is possible to visit the castles which served the slave trade and where we can satisfy our hidden curiosity about witchcraft – we will visit a village entirely inhabited by witches!
Each departure will include Akwasidae Festival:
On the Ashanti calendar certain days each year are set aside for a very special celebration at the Royal Palace in Kumasi and this traditional ceremony takes place in one of the last African Kingdoms which has maintained its ancient rituals still alive.
During this celebration, the King sits under a spectacular colorful umbrella, is adorned in vivid cloth and massive centuries old jewelry (Ashanti gold jewelry and masks are considered masterpieces of African art) and is surrounded by the Ashanti elders and advisors, all under the authority of the Royal Speaker who holds in his hands the symbols of power. In front of the King a narrow passage of dignitaries is also formed, representing all roles and positions of power within the kingdom: sword and knife bearers, armed guards, carriers of beautiful ostrich feathers fans etc. The ceremony is then made up of a procession of royal court attendants bringing gifts, storytellers reciting the history of the Ashanti Kings, drummers & trumpeters playing horns of ivory. Corpulent dancers dressed in vivid red costumes perform an erotic dance. The mother queen also joins the ceremony accompanied by her attendants. We will witness and experience the splendor, the flavor and the atmosphere of one of last great African monarchs of the forests.
Accra, Gulf of Guinea
Arrival in Accra (Ghana) and transfer to the hotel.
Accra, the capital of Ghana, has maintained its unique identity despite the fast paced development currently underway in this intriguing African city. The luxuriant administrative area, punctuated with elegant villas built during the first half of the 19th century, reminds us that Ghana was one of the most flourishing British colonies in West Africa.
Facing the Ocean is where local native people life fully unfolds: a village surrounded by the city! Here all economic activities follow very different rules from the ones governing “the city” (business area), just a few hundred meters away.
Our tour continues with the visit of a workshop where they specialize in building fantasy coffins. These special handcrafted coffins can reflect any shape: fruits, animals, fish, cars, airplanes…. the only limit being imagination! Started in Africa, these flamboyant coffin designs are by now collected worldwide and exposed in museums.
Slave trade castles
In the morning, we will experience the thrill of a “canopy walk” right in the deep forest of the Kakum National Park: one of the world highest suspended rope bridges held by steel cables. Perched 37 meters (120 feet) above the earth, you will enjoy a stunning view of the rainforest – instead of unveiling their trunks, trees will reveal their tops!
In the afternoon visit of Elmina Castle, the oldest European building in Africa, erected by the Portuguese in the 15th century. At different times the castle has been used as a warehouse to trade gold, ivory, and eventually slaves. The castle we visit today is the result of successive extension works and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The old Dutch Cemetery in Elmina goes back to 1806. Outside the castle, a wonderful fishing village with lots of large colorful fishing boats – every day these canoes are guided by skilled fishermen across strong ocean waves and currents, “fighting” to earn a living. In the old town we will see the Posuban, the shrines of the old “Asafo companies” – the warriors who used to put their offerings on the large colorful statues. The alleys in the old town have a very lively atmosphere, bringing us back to a time when Elmina was a busy colonial town.
Late morning arrival in Kumasi, the historical and spiritual capital of the old Ashanti Kingdom. The Ashanti people were one of the most powerful nations in Africa until the end of the XIX century, when the British annexed Ashanti Country to their Gold Coast colony. The tribute paid today to the Asantehene (=King) is the best evidence of their past splendour and strength. With nearly one million inhabitants, Kumasi is a sprawling city with a fantastic central market, one of the biggest in Africa. Every type of Ashanti craft (leather goods, pottery, Kente cloth) is found here, along with just about every kind of tropical fruit and vegetable.
The program includes a visit to the Ashanti Cultural Centre: a rich collection of Ashanti artifacts housed in a wonderful reproduction of an Ashanti house.
In the afternoon we participate – if available – in a traditional Ashanti funeral, attended by mourners wearing beautifully red or black togas. We say “funerals” but it means a “festive” celebration: the deceased in fact is believed to be still with his/her family and through this ceremony he/she becomes an ancestor. Relatives and friends gather, socialize and celebrate his/her memory. The chief arrives surrounded by his court under the shade of large umbrellas while drums give rhythm to the dancers whose intricate moves are highly symbolic
On a Sunday morning, Kumasi wakes up slowly and the streets of the city, not too busy, become like a charming and interesting stage to any curious traveller: the colonial buildings around the market, the very original hand-painted advertisement signs (real urban art!), the railway lines crossing the central market, the devotees going to church in their Sunday clothes – so out of fashion to actually be of great fashion!
We also will visit the Royal Palace Museum – hosting a unique collection of gold jewels worn by the Ashanti court – and a few nearby villages specialised in weaving the traditional Kente cloth, praised by the socially important people and used to make special ceremonial stools.
Akwasidae Festival. On the Ashanti calendar certain days each year are set aside for a very special celebration at the Royal Palace in Kumasi and this traditional ceremony takes place in one of the last African Kingdoms which has maintained its ancient rituals still alive.
We reach Mole: the largest, oldest and most developed park in Ghana. It covers an area of 4,912 sq. km.
The vegetation is savannah woodland with gallery forest along watercourses. 734 species of flowering plants have been recorded in the park. 90 mammalian species including elephant, buffalo, roan, kob, hartebeest, water buck, reed buck and other antelopes.
Among the estimated 500 elephants found at the Mole National Park are three relatively “tame” individuals.
Because of the good protection given to animals in the Park, the elephant have generally become used to visitors and allow them to get close during the guided tours of the Park.
Walking safari in Mole.
Then, by car, we enter the dry savannah. Our dusty road follows the tracks of the former caravan road that used to connect the main trading centres of the Sudanese kingdoms such as Djenné or Timbuktu to the region of Kumasi, very important for gold mining and for the production of cola nuts. The presence of Sudanese style mosques is proof of the successful trading deals between peoples of the savannah and peoples of the forest.
Continuation to Wa, a city dating back to the XVII century, at the junction of important communication roads. The Royal Palace reflects the Sudanese architectural style brought from the Sahel through marabous, traders and storytellers. Meeting with the King of Wa (Wana), if he is available.
Day dedicated to meeting with Lobi tribe. Each family lives in a big fortified building made of clay, protected by a high wall with no access and made up of a rectangular granary surrounded by different rooms and a cowshed. Entering their house, you will be surprised by the light: a mainly dark environment where only a few “rays” penetrate, the result is a very supernatural atmosphere.
In Lobi society, the chief of the family represents the only authority. In charge of everything and everyone before the elders’ council or the government, he is also responsible for shrines and for the organization of labour in the fields. The Lobi are very talented in art: they excel in music (in particular in playing balafon) and the little wooden statues they carve for the cult of their ancestors are highly valued by African art collectors.
Drive and in the afternoon we meet with the Gurunsi tribe living in adobe fortified buildings decorated with black, red and white African frescoes.
Their society is organized around gender: men are in charge of constructions while women take care of painting and decorating, using natural colours on an okra background.
We take an interesting walk to discover a sacred hill. Locals believe that this mysterious place – where many high stone pinnacles are stacked up in an unbelievably irregular way – is the former home of the Gods. Inside a deep crack on the higher side of the mountain there is the oracle’s cave, an important place of pilgrimage. People however are allowed inside only if accompanied by adepts. In this mountain live the Talensi people. Their typical fortified house, where around sixty people can live together, is made of clay and wood. It looks like a maze and is only accessible through the single entrance door. Alleys, small stairs, egg-shaped rooms and terraces all make up a harmonious whole of a great beauty.
Further in the South, in this savannah, the Dagomba live, a tribe that represents one eighth of the entire Ghanaian population. They are mainly farmers and have always shared their territory with other tribes such as the Kokomba. They build round clay huts with thatched roof. The house of the village chief, where the council of the elders meets, is easily recognizable thanks to its larger size and style: it has a central pole supporting the roof and the entry is framed with pieces of burned clay.
We meet a very large settlement of … witches! All exiled from their villages because found guilty of terrible events such as the death of a teenager, a mysterious disease or a bad harvest…they now live all together in a specific place. We will chat with them about their life and about the special shrine which protects them, “cleansing” their spirit from bad will. Their warm welcome is in dramatic contrasts with the gravity of the stories that forced them to come here.
Volta Region: from Savannah to tropical forest. Visits of coffee and cocoa plantations in a luxuriant region; stops in small villages inhabited by a very friendly population, happy to welcome the rare visitors. We will discover the beautiful Wli Waterfalls, on the border with Togo, where water falls from a height of 60-80 meters. The walk to reach the falls, is approximately 45 minutes (nice flat path) and it will allow us to sight some of the 200 species of birds and the 400 species of butterflies which have been identified in the region.
Departure to the Akosombo region to attend a Voodoo ceremony: the frenetic rhythm of the drums and the chants of the adepts help calling in the voodoo spirit who then takes possession of some of the dancers. They fall into a deep trance: eyes rolling back, grimaces, convulsions, insensitivity to fire or pain. Sakpata, Heviesso, Mami Water are just some of the voodoos divinities who can show up. In this narrow village, surrounded by the magic atmosphere of the ceremony, we will finally understand what people mean when they say: “In your Churches you pray God; in our voodoo shrine we become God!”
Voodoo is a religion that has been passed on by the ancestors and is still fervently practiced. Although for many Europeans voodoo is only a vulgar form of black magic, in truth voodoo is a true religion, far richer and more complex than people often think.
The area of Krobo is famous all around the world for its beads. Here they are produced and used for cults and esthetic purposes. We will visit a factory specialized in the production of those beads and even follow the process of making one!
The craftsmen have now been making beads following the same long lasting traditional technique for centuries. They use scrap glass that they ground into a fine powder. The glass powder is then meticulously made into patterns and placed into hand-made clay molds covered in kaolin. The beads are cooked, then decorated, washed, and eventually strung.