Picture of kumasi Kumasi is the second largest city in Ghana and is substantially different from Accra. The center of town is built on a series of hills surrounding a natural bowl shaped valley. Over a million people live in the area and the city is very centralized and quite chaotic. It's a good place to walk around and (we're guessing here) not the best place to drive. Many taxis will outright refuse to go to a destination that requires crossing the central traffic circle (and for good reasons). Just northwest of the center is the sprawling national arts center. Sort of a laid-back destination, there are a series of buildings where traditional Ashanti crafts are practiced (pottery, weaving, sculpture etc..) and another series of buildings where they are sold, although which is which can be difficult to determine. There is also a pleasant café and assorted shady resting spots.

Picture of kejetia The center of town - Kejetia - is not only the traffic circle of doom, but the name of the truly enormous market that occupies the center of it. It also spills out onto most of the surrounding streets. This is a great place to experience things. That's a vague comment but it's also appropriate. We spent maybe an hour just wandering through the market which lies under all that corrugated metal in this picture. The sights, the smells, the sounds are so varied and overpowering that the resulting memory is just a blur of impressions. The market is loosely organized into sections like kitchenware, clothing, produce and fabric. Notably, the well known Ashanti Kente cloth can be found here as can Adrinka cloth. Actually, it's entirely possible that anything can be found here. It seems best to look and act like you know where you're going, even if you don't. Since we weren't looking for anything specific we didn't bother with a guide, we just picked a direction and went. The radio antennas clustered on one hill provide a reasonable landmark when you happen to get a glimpse of the sky.

Picture of weaver_birds Kumasi is the traditional capital of the Ashanti kingdom and the Manhyia Palace can be toured. The palace is the official home of the Asantehene (or kings) although the actual residence is next door. The original palace (built by the British) is now a museum containing weaponry, stools (in place of thrones) and alarmingly life-like wax replicas of recent royalty. Among the more interesting Ashanti traditions: Upon his election a king selects a stool while blindfolded and derives his name as king from the stool which he selects. Also, a king chooses his queen mother (often a relative but not a wife). When a king dies, the queen mother chooses the new king (who then has to be ratified by the chiefs). Since queen mothers often choose their sons, this leads to a slightly unusual uncle-nephew passing down of the title. Incidentally, this picture is of a tree filled with weaver bird nests. The bright yellow birds can be seen throughout the Ashanti province. There's also an impressive colony of fruit bats just north of the market in Kumasi.

Picture of reststop Getting to Kumasi is both easy and difficult. The town is a major transportation center. Perhaps bigger than Accra given its central location in Ghana. Certainly the bus station is nicer and better organized than those in Accra. There are plenty of buses, shared taxis and even flights from other locations in Ghana so that's not an issue. The quality of these is up for debate. The road from Kumasi to Accra barely even qualifies as a road. Probably one third of what was supposed to be road was non-existent on our bus trip to Accra because it was being built or destroyed or replaced. Why they've decided to replace the entire road at once is beyond us. The 250 km trip (155 miles) took 6 hours. This would be a good time to splurge on the deluxe (air-conditioned) bus. This picture is at a rest-stop in Nkawkaw.

Picture of nkawkaw Nkawkaw is actually a fascinating town which seems to be almost universally ignored by travelers. It sits roughly midway between Accra and Kumasi and is a lively market town. This picture is a fairly typical center of Ghanaian town picture. A shared taxi lot (loose definition of taxi: any vehicle with one or more yellow bits) in the center with market surrounding it.

Picture of volta_mountains Also of interest, the weird cliffs and hills around Nkawkaw which separate the town from Lake Volta. Please ignore the power lines in this picture, we had to take it from a moving bus. This is a relatively good picture from a moving bus. For a bad picture see the background of this page, which might be called 'jungle foliage in a rainstorm at 80 kilometers per hour (with potholes)'.


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