We spent a week in Ghana with some of the African continent’s most dynamic women creatives. You can check out what we were up to with Maame Adjei, Yagazie Emezi, Twiggy Moli, Sedi Ramone, and Velma Rossa on Instagram.
Our mission in life was the Chale Wote Street Art Festival but we wanted a mid-week escape that would help us see more of Ghana. That meant digging into the crates so to speak and going beyond the typical Accra — Cape Coast — Kumasi triangle that every tour operator will try and sell you. These cities and their landmarks are amazing, but Ghana is a huge country with regional cuisine, languages, and style that deserves a bigger piece of the narrative.
We decided on Ghana’s unexplored Northern and Upper Eastern Regions and have a few tips for those of you looking to replicate what you see on the gram.
Fly don’t drive
The ambitious traveller in you will tell yourself that an 8-hour road trip across Ghana is a good idea. Let us be the first to say that unless you’re planning on being in the country for at least a month your time is better spent napping in the comfort of a 45 minute Africa World flight from Accra to Tamale, the biggest “city” in the region.
Tamale is a quaint town with broad roads and a few interesting mosques, like the one donated by slain Libyan President Mu’ammar Quadaafi. It will take you about 20 minutes to get from the airport to town and we suggest having your hotel sort your transport.
Africa World Airlines
Tel: +233 24 243 8888
Zaina Lodge is the best thing to hit Mole National Park since the Elephant
We had the chance to sneak preview Zaina Lodge, Ghana’s first luxury property inside of Mole National Park and were stunned by the sheer size of this sustainably designed property. Zaina won’t be complete until late September 2015, but upon entering we immediately took note of the incorporation of local structures into the architecture, the attentive staff, and impeccable views of Mole from Zaina’s vast terrace spaces.
The property has an infinity pool with a built-in waterfall cliff that serves as a great “usie” backdrop if you’re standing just on the terrace below. We are big on food here at Tastemakers, and Zaina’s offering does not disappoint. Chef prepared meals and carefully crafted cocktails make sundowners a must before a night drive or a night in. Our favourite was a pineapple, ginger, vodka concoction called the Zaina Sunset.
The staff is super generous with every pour and the alcohol content is sneakily elusive — make sure you’re good to tee-toe your way back to your glamper-style “tent” and rise early to check out the elephants. The attention to detail is what truly makes Zaina shine — our favourites were the “Made In Ghana” toiletry items, from black soap and shea butter in the bathrooms to the entire roof being crafted from teak wood grown by local foresters.
Zaina Lodge in Mole National Park is about 2 hours from Tamale Airport and opens fully with 17 guest rooms in October 2015. Airport transfer from Tamale is included with your stay, be sure and ask to make a pitstop for some tasty grilled kebabs on the way there — your driver will know a street-side spot that’s delicious and safe!
Actor and Designer Maame Adjei of ‘An African City’ overlooking the soon to be infiniti pool
Off-roading to find the elephants in Mole National Park
Shea Butter infused body lotion #madeinGhana
Do Explore Bolgatanga and Smaller Villages in the Upper East
Just a short distance away from the North is the Upper Eastern Region of Ghana, home to Bolgatanga a city famous for its amazing rafia weavers. The durable, colourful, baskets are sent south to Accra for trading and have also made their way into high-end stores like Anthropologie and West Elm.
Our friends at luxury handbag line, A.A.K.S., work with local women weavers here who’ve perfected their craft over decades. As a landscape, “Bolga” as it’s referred to, is populated with acacia and mango trees, termite mounds, and goats — we can’t forget the goats! They lie in the street, run along the roadside, and follow little children around throughout the farmland that dots the district.
One important village to note is Sirigu, home to the SWOPA women’s art cooperative. SWOPA stands for the Sirigu Women’s Organization of Pottery and Art in Northern Ghana and is responsible for the strikingly coloured homes in the region. Contrasting red, black, and white dyes are used in a wide variety of patterns on the outside walls of housing structures, on pottery, and on wall hanging and is now synonymous with the North.
You can tour the village, learn their weaving technique, and get some history on the slave raids that happened frequently and influenced the design of the structures in a half day trip from Tamale or a full day trip from Mole National Park.
The SWOPA welcome centre has a small restaurant where chicken and jollof rice dominate the menu most days — if you arrange your visit at least two days in advance a welcome ceremony can be organized by the guides.
Shea nuts, the source of the moisturizing goodness we know as shea butter
The inner workings of a Sirigu compound
Velma Rossa admiring the gently faded painting of a Sirigu wall