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Kumasi - Capital City of the Ashanti Region

Kumasi is the second largest city in Ghana, with over 1.5 million people. Located in the Ashanti Region, Kumasi takes about four hours to reach from Accra. The city is a mix of urban and a laidback atmosphere, especially on the outskirts of the city.

The ancient capital of the Ashanti kingdom, Kumasi is still the heart of Ashanti country and the site of West Africa's largest cultural centre, the palace of the Ashanti king. To add to the appeal, it's surrounded by rolling green hills and has a vast central market as vibrant as any in Africa.

Kumasi Central Market
Kumasi Central Market

Features of the city include:

The citys major attraction is the National Cultural Centre, a 10 minute walk west of the market. The sprawling complex encompasses a fascinating museum of Ashanti history, a popular library, an excellent crafts shop and an exhibition hall. Classes in traditional dance and drumming are available. One of the centre's more interesting exhibits is the fake golden stool used to trick the British, who'd heard that the real Golden Stool held the strength of the Ashanti empire and demanded it be brought to them. It was decades before they discovered the ruse. The real stool is kept at Manhyia Palace and is brought out only on special occasions. It's so sacred that not even the king is allowed to sit on it, and it's never allowed to touch the ground. There's a photo of it in the museum.

Kumasi Zoo
Kumasi Zoological Gardens

If you're looking to escape the heat, one option is to head next door to the zoological gardens, with its lovely gardens and somewhat depressing zoo - picture caged chimps toying with broken beer bottles. Watch your step, as crocodiles and porcupines roam freely. Half a kilometer to the west, the Anokye Sword sticks out of the ground exactly where - according to legend - the Golden Stool descended from the heavens to mark the beginning of the Ashanti people. Legend has it that if the sword is ever pulled out, the Ashanti kingdom will disappear.

In the villages around Kumasi, artisans specialize in crafts such as goldsmithing, wood carving, cloth printing and weaving. Bonwire is the place to go for kente cloth, Pankrono is best for pottery, Ahwiaa for woodcarving and Ntonso for adinkra cloth. Private taxis and tro-tro are the best ways to reach any of the craft villages.

How to Get About Cheaply: The Tro-Tro

tro tro minibus
Tro-Tro minibus

A tro tro, pronounced traw-traw (like draw), is a general term for any public transportation vehicle other than a bus or taxi that is designed to carry many people.

Tro-tros are as common on Ghanaian roads as potholes. These minivans provide a vital public service by transporting up to twenty passengers around the city and countryside. It looks like a minibus and is usually packed with people and decorated with stickers, cultural symbols or religious artwork. It is the cheapest way to travel around town.

The tro-tro system also works around a tenet central to Ghanaian society: waiting. There's no schedule, no map outlining routes. You just have to wait at the side of the road for the right one to come along.

guideFind out more about how to use a tro-tro to get around.