Kumasi market is the largest open air market in Ghana, and the second largest in Africa. The market is famous in W-Africa, and traders come from other countries to sell their goods here. The market is a sprawling and chaotic place. It is located right in the city centre, on the former railway track.
Ghana zoo is a well established zoo, founded in 1957. The location in the downtown is great with the big marked is right beside. You enter through a gate where the ticket counter is a table to the right side. Quite basic and typical African. The first thing you see is a fence with ostrich and some other birds. All the other animals are inside houses. After having a look, I thought the zoo wasn't too inviting. It costs 5 GHC to enter, and you can park a car inside.
Get out of the city to one of the craft villages - there is a well worn tourist route to the North East - Kente, Adinkra and carving villages - but you should also try Krofrom to the South a brass casting village, about 30 minutes from town. There are buses but its easier to charter a taxi. There is a video and more information on my web site at http://www.fiema.com/brass.htm
The Ashanti were skilled at both iron and bronze work for centuries before the arrival of the Europeans. Very large bronze work startled the first Europeans, both for the skill and artistic quality. At the Ashanti Cultural Arts Center, there is a bronze master who demonstrates the lost wax method of casting. First, the molds are made. Wax pieces are themselves molded, and clay "straws" attached, and then second, a combination of ash and clay are molded around the wax. Third, the clay molds are fired to make them durable, and the wax drains out in the firing process, leaving a void for the molten bronze. The bronze master gathers scrap bronze from auto parts, plumbing fixtures, etc. and puts them into a vessel that won't melt. He uses a small fire of charcoal and to bring the heat of the fire to melt the bronze to 2020F, he would traditionally use bellows to fan the flame. Now, he uses an old leave blower. Then the bronze has cooled, the mold is broken, and the bronze pieces cleaned with citrus juice. Our Ashanti bronze master reported that he had visited the United States at the invitation of a middle school teacher.
In the open air market, currency are traded, jewelry sold, pots & pans, clothing, and a vast number of foodstuffs are sold, including freshly butchered meat. The butchers didn't like me taking photos of them while they worked, so I have only this one image of a smiling butcher and his scale. Reportedly, bush meat is sold in markets like this, but I didn't see anything but chickens, beef, lamb, pork, and fish. There were lots of flies buzzing around, so I was disinclined to buy.
Close to the city center on a hill that dominates the city, there is a complex of run down colonial era brick and clapboard buildings, which were originally the location of the Ashanti king's fortifications, later British military housing, and today Ghana military housing. The soldiers aren't paid very much, so families keep goats.
My new compact printer gadget helped boost my ability to get lovely images. The young handsome people working in the fabric section of the marketplace easily matched the brilliant colors of their background.
The Ashanti Cultural Arts Center also has some furniture makers, some who use plank boards carved in ornate ways, and others who make cane furniture. We were lucky enough to have a friend include some of the cane furniture in a container that she shipped to California, allowing us to avoid the complications of shipping the furniture ourselves. But, we didn't buy our furniture here.
The African cotton fabrics are in general wonderful for their rich colors. There are a great many exotic print fabrics available in the marketplace, but watching batik coloring of fabric is fun. My friend and guide found a like minded young woman who explained to me how the work was carried out. I was by this time pretty sweaty from a day of hiking in the tropical heat, but my host wanted my guide to take a picture of us together. I printed a copy off on my portable printer, and then took pictures of her and them together. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to make clothes on this visit, but naturally I did buy some sample fabrics for my wife to sew.
Some of the best shopping is done at this park like atmosphere of artisans at work. Ashante Kente cloth is a very tightly woven double sided technique that turns out a relatively narrow, but unlimited length fabric. Kente cloth is used for sashes of various types. Kente cloth strips are sewn together to provide wider cloth.
In Kumasi you will see several statues in the centre of the city, that all have a strong religious and historical meaning. Like most statues in Ghana they look funny: most of them are made of cement and painted in bright colours. Three of these statues are placed in the middle of the major roundabouts in the city.
- In the middle of Prempeh II Circle (in the middle of the business area of Kumasi) you can see a small statue of this former King of the Ashanti, or Asantehene as the locals call him.
- At the roundabout close to the Okomfo Anokye Hospital you will see another Asantehene hold up the "Golden Stool", the Holy seat of the Ashanti's.
- And in the middle of the a central roundabout opposite the Wesley Methodist Cathedral you can find a statue of an Asantehene with a large brown lion, symbol of the strength of the Ashanti's.
Other statues can be found in the National Cultural Centre, of which a series of statues are places at the entrance. There you can find a row of statues of the Asantehene's: very, very small men...
The National Cultural Centre in Kumasi is completely different from the one in Accra. While the one in the capital is a crowded labyrinth full of pushy salesmen, the Kumasi one really is about the culture of Ghana and especially the Ashanti's.
The Centre covers a large area close to the Kumasi Zoo. the terrain is nicely situated on top of a hill, full of palm- and banana trees, green lawns and other colourfull plants. Inside the walls you find a museum about the Ashanti history, a national library, a restaurant and some stalls where traditional souvenirs can be bought.
Right in the middle there also is a theatre where you can see traditional dances and music. When I was there, the theatre was closed, but inside they were practising. Through some narrow openings in the walls surrounding the theatre, I still could see some of their skills.
More than any other city in Ghana, Kumasi has an old centre where you can see beautiful remainings of the Colonial Era. Especially in the valley between the main "circles" in the centre, you'll see a lot of these old buildings.
There are several old churches (like the Wesley Methodist Cathedral) that are built in a typical Victorian style, as well as a lot of houses. Most of these houses are now covered by thick layers of colourful paint and commercial signs, but especially the first floors are still what they looked like in the time that the British still ruled of the city.
In the centre of Kumasi you will find what is probably the oldest building in the city: Kumasi Fort. This building was built after the British finally defeated the Ashanti during the war in the end of the 19th century. The British burned the complete city to the ground and started the rebuilding with a solid fort that still exists.
The building is easy to recognise between the modern buildings around it. The walls are painted in a deep, red colour and all around it you see militairy vehicles. That is because today it is used as the War Museum of the city. All kinds of objects of the Ghanaian Army, the Second World war and of course the British-Ashanti War.
The most famous place in Kumasi is its central market, also known as Kejetia Market. It is said to be the biggest market in Africa, and it indeed is huge. It covers a total area of 10 hectares and there are about 10.000 people who work there every day.
A walk over Kejetia Market really is an adventure. Everywhere you hear people shouting, you smell their goods, you see all the colours of the rainbow, and all the time you just have to go with the flow, because thousands of people are walking the same way as you do. You hardly have to to stand still and have a look.
Kejetia Market surprisingly actually has a structure. In one lane you see all the vegetables you can think of, in another lane (several hundreds of metres long) you only find plastic goods, and along the railway that crosses the market in the middle, you see nothing but second hand clothes.
The market really is a must see when you are visiting Ghana. THIS is African culture, this is where you see the real Ghanaians and the real Ghanaian goods. From the sides of the area, you have a great view over the little stalls and their rusty iron roofs. From here too, it is almost the only possibility to take a picture of the spectacle, because nobody allows you to do so inside the market.
There is no way you can plan a walk over the market. You cross it and see where you end up. It is situated in a valley, so whenever you leave the market you have a good view over the city and you can find your way back easily.