The great city of Accra

In Ghana
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Palm trees along the coast

Fieldwork in Ghana

As a social and cultural anthropology student, we were ‘forced’ to go abroad and do fieldwork for our Master’s research. Obviously, anthropologists like to see the world and get to know cultures so no one complained. After an intense process of choosing my destination (I considered Mexico, Venezuela, India and Ethiopia…), and more importantly, the topic of my thesis I took off for a three-month adventure in Ghana. Celebrating NYE 2015-2016 in Accra and skipping Dutch winter.Before going on fieldwork we established a research plan that consisted of a thorough literature study of our topics, a time planning and a plan of where to stay and who to meet. The thing is that I am a really bad preparer, I start packing my bags half a day before I have to leave, I never read a travel book beforehand (I like to read it afterward so I know the context) and I just book the first night. I had never been to Sub-Saharan Africa so it should have been a good idea to plan this time but I didn’t. I booked one night at ‘Pink hostel’ in Accra and would see what would cross my path that day.

In front of the Pink hostel, there was Stephan, a Ghanaian taxi driver that also worked as a travel guide. He spoke a little Dutch because he had worked with KLM pilots and asked me if he could take me around the city. I thought that was a great start, to see the city with a local. We had a great day and we had a ‘biertje’ (Dutch for beer, a word he knew very well) at Green Grass pub, a very nice and local place with great food. I told him I wasn’t sure about the hostel so he drove me to different hostels to see if there was one I would like better. I ended up at hostel ‘somewhere nice’ and the rest is history.. for some reason I couldn’t leave that place so it ended up being my home for three months.

At the hostel, I found out that Accra is seen as a not so nice place for travelers. Almost every traveler lands here stays here maybe one day or two and leaves as soon as they can. I really got to appreciate Accra and I actually love the city. So here are my tips to love it too:

Places to stay

Obviously hostel ‘somewhere nice’ is a perfect place to stay if you want to have a home away from home. It provides a safe and relaxed haven in a hectic and smoky city. The owners are Czech and the lovely staff is Ghanaian. They are great and prepare really good breakfast. They really became my friends. Another good, safe and comfortable hostel is called ‘Agoo hostel’. It has a really nice common area with lots of colors and a large table to share conversations, games, and food.These two hostels are located in Kokomlemle, a neighborhood full of container shops and chop bars (food stands). It is not in the center of the city but there are cheap taxis around all day. It’s a very local neighborhood, which is always a good thing I think. A couple of more developed neighborhoods are Labone and Cantonments, there you will find the nicest housing and up-scale restaurants. The major hotel chains are located there, so if you are looking for that, those are the best places to look.

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Places to chop

Streetfood

Ghanaians say ‘chop’ for eating. What’d you chopping? There are many great places to get food. In Kokomlemle, and in more local neighborhoods, locals set up their chop stands at around 5 in the afternoon and prepare you the best local dishes. These dishes is a matter of taste though.. I am quite a picky eater so that was a little problem sometimes but you can get really good fu fu (made from cassave) accompanied with groundnut soup, fried yams, jollof rice (rice cooked in a tomato/onion/spicy spices sauce) and waayke (rice with beans) with shito (sauce made of fish oil, dried fish, tomatoes, garlic and different spices). All foods are very spicy in Dutch terms. I am happy I like spicy food.

Local food

If you don’t want to eat on the streets and want to be served I have two recommendations of local restaurants that have the best foods for cheap. At Green Grass pub in neighborhood Nima where Stephan took me you can get very good rice with barbecued chicken or tilapia. In neighborhood Osu (downtown) there is an Ivorian restaurant called Chez Clarisse where I could be found at least once a week. Their tilapia is the best I have ever had in the world. They prepare it with hot sauce, grilled onions, and tomato and you can choose to have rice, couscous, fried plantain or fried yam with it. YUMMY!

Burgers, pizza and brownies
If you want to eat more international dishes there are many restaurants in the center and the more expensive neighborhoods. One is Burger and Relish in Osu that has great burgers and fries.  There is also a fancy restaurant with a casual chic dress code that is called Coco Lounge. They have great foods and the place is beautifully designed. If you want to get a good coffee and healthy cookies, sandwiches or brownies you should go to Mango and Wheat. I discovered the place when Stephan took me to Green Grass pub since that’s across the street. The nice thing is that these places are quite fancy but are still very cheap. You can leave with a full stomach for $10.

Vegetarian

If you are vegetarian/vegan it is quite difficult to find good food in Accra. There is one vegan restaurant along the coast with a good range of healthy food. It’s called Asaase Pa. And at restaurants you will always find some veggie options.

Places to go out

Ghanaians like to dance! They are all very good at it. Actually, the first month I felt awkward dancing, since as a Dutch girl can never dance so well as they do. It’s a lot of shaking and going low, which is never a bad thing.. right?!

Best places in Osu

To go party, Osu is the best place to go. Republic is a very popular café with great live music and DJ’s that play Afropop like Shatte Wale and Stonebwoy. On Wednesdays, they have a karaoke night. Republic is popular by both Ghanaians and travelers/expats. Not far from Republic there is Firefly Lounge where you can dance the night away. Also not far from these two places there is Container, as the name says, it’s a container and it’s a great place to have a drink on the street.

Everybody’s gotta love Accra!!

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