Kumasi Ghana: The Cultural Pride Of The Ashantis
The Ashanti people of Ghana hold the legacy of being one of the most advanced tribes in the Sub-Sahara region. Even before colonisation, the Ashantis had a constitution, a political system, legal systems, etc. The major city of the Ashanti civilisation, Kumasi, is a testament to the rich history of past Ashantis and the cultural pride of current Ashantis. Visiting Kumasi and learning the history here will show you just how Ashanti people have managed to be both lovers and fighters.
My name is Kwame and I am happy to introduce you to Kumasi, Ghana. I am a student from Accra, the capital of Ghana but I have also studied in London and currently live in New York.
Kumasi, which can be found around 300 miles north of the Equator, is Ghana’s second city after the capital Accra. These two have a “friendly” rivalry going on between them. Situated in a rain forest zone, Kumasi is also fondly known as The Garden City, because of its fabulous range of flowers and plants.
Photo of Kumasi Fort courtesy of Afrotourism
Kumasi Ghana Things To Do & See
1. Kumasi Fort – Ghana Armed Forces Museum, Cnr Stewart & Government Roads, Kumasi Ghana
Although it may resemble coastal forts built by European merchants, the Kumasi Fort was built in 1820 by Osei Tutu Kwamina, the King of the Asante Kingdom. Its building came four years before the first of a series of wars against the British over coastal territories.
The current exhibits in the museum include military equipment and other objects used during the British-Asante wars and the Second World War. The stories told by the artefacts and documents here all testify to the fierceness of Ashanti warriors and their political prowess.
2. Manhyia Palace Museum
The original Manhyia Palace was destroyed in the third British-Ashanti war. It was said to have been a majestic structure, massive, with rows of books in many different languages. The current Manyhia palace was built by the British as a gesture of apology. However, the King of the Asantes of that time refused to occupy the building until he had paid for it in full. This storied palace has since been converted to a museum of Ashanti-land culture. It also serves as a venue for cultural events and festivals.
Photo of Kumasi Manhyia Palace Museum courtesy of Afrotourism
3. Okomfo Anokye Sword Site, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Kumasi Ghana
This tour can be enjoyed in 10 minutes or less as it only features one exhibit. Ashanti history claims that Okomfo Anokye, a traditional priest and trusted advisor to the first Asantehene, Osei Tutu, placed the immovable sword in the ground. The immovable sword was set to unify the loosely allied Ashanti states to defeat the mighty Denkyira overlords. It is said that if this sword were ever to leave the ground, the Ashanti kingdom would fall apart. However, it withstood the British-Ashanti war that razed other Ashanti artifacts to the ground, so it has a good chance of remaining rooted.
Photo of Kumas Ghana Ashanti King by Transafrica Biz
Ethnic groups and tribes in Kumasi
In the heart of Ashantiland, visitors should mostly expect to see people of Ashanti descent. Although Kumasi is Ghana’s second-largest city, no other tribal culture is as prominent as Ashanti. You may be fortunate and see members of the royal families in full traditional regalia and jewellery.
Customs and etiquettes
Ashanti customs are mostly simple. Always greet your elders, only shake hands, and give and receive items with your right hand. As a guest or at dining tables, always wait to be told where to sit. Finally, at dining tables, wait till the eldest man at the table starts eating before you venture your first bite.
Photo below of Nana Yaw Daani II, Co-Ruler of New Juaben, Ghana by Alfred Weidinger
Typical Foods of Kumasi Ghana
Palm wine is a delicious alcoholic beverage that is made from the extraction of palm sap from Palm trees. Some people distill the sap for a stronger version of the drink. This popular drink is best enjoyed fresh as it quickly ferments into vinegar. The Ashanti dedicate a music genre (palm wine music) to complimenting its consumption.
Omo Tuo and groundnut soup
Omo Tuo is a ball of soft rice that is consumed by picking smaller pieces, dipping them in a soup (most likely groundnut soup), and swallowing whole. As it is very carb-heavy, most people eat it religiously on Sundays after church to help them into a heavy Sunday nap.
Light soup, also known as pepper soup, is a simple soup made from tomatoes, garlic, onions, ginger, and scotch bonnets. This soup is enjoyed with fufu (a ball of cooked and pounded cassava) and a protein of choice. As this soup is usually very spicy, it’s not for the light-hearted.
Photo courtesy of Donovan Cara
Ike’s Cafe and Grill
Ike’s Cafe and Grill pays ode to Ashanti architecture with its well ventilated, straw-roofed buildings. The compound has a lake at its centre where you can feed the fish if you choose (fish food is provided). This restaurant serves traditional Ghanaian dishes like Light Soup, Omo Tuo, and more.
The View Bar & Grill
The View is the place to go for Westerners that crave a taste of home. I have had great difficulty and no success in finding a place that makes a better cheeseburger in Kumasi. This restaurant is not far from the famous Melcom Supermarket. It is a great place to unwind after some vigorous shopping.
Photo of Kente weaving courtesy of Donovan Cara
Kente weaving is the most common type of handcraft in Kumasi. Kente was initially worn only by royalty, chiefs, queen-mothers, esteemed warriors, etc. Now, people of importance and the wealthy wear more lavish kente cloths. In contrast, people of less status can purchase synthetic, mass-produced kente cloth made in Asia. As you’re in Kumasi, you can watch the craftsmen who weave the kente cloths and take one home with you if you choose to.
Kejetia Market is the largest open-air market in West Africa, covering over 170,000 square metres. Talking about what this market doesn’t have is a more manageable task than describing what it does have. However, you will most certainly find gold vendors, kente weavers, woodworkers, and electronics stores here.
Photo of Kumasi city centre street by René Mayorga
Day Trips From Kumasi
1. Lake Bosomtwe
This lake is said to have been formed by a crater impact centuries ago. It is considered sacred by the Ashanti people, who traverse it with small wooden planks. Although you won’t be able to do any water sports there, the lake is very serene and perfect for relaxation.
(The image below of this sacred lake is by Sarah Begum. She is also the author of this superb article, Ghana and the sacred lake)
2. Bomfobiri Wildlife Sanctuary
The Bomfobiri wildlife sanctuary is just under two hours from Kumasi. In this sanctuary, you’ll see a variety of animal species like baboons, antelopes, lizards, and more. You can camp here, frolic under a waterfall, look at crocodiles hanging out in another waterfall, and bird watching.
3. Odweanoma Mountain in Kwahu
Every year, during the Easter holidays, people from all around the world visit Kwahu to paraglide. As the highest habitable point in West Africa, this mountainous town about 2 hrs from Kumasi is a perfect place to jump off cliffs (with a parachute). Odweanoma Mountain is the name of the peak where the festivities take place. When it’s not Easter, this mountain still makes for an enjoyable visit if you enjoy a good hike.