Joselyn Dumas’s guide to Accra

The Ghanaian actress and activist gives the low-down on her home city

As the capital of the first Sub-Saharan African country to become independent of colonial rule, Accra has been growing as a cultural, economic and political hub of the region since 1957. Francisco Anzola, Flickr
8 October 2019
8 October 2019

Learn how to join the Global Landscapes Forum Accra, 29–30 October, here.

Known for its fashion, food and dancing, Ghana’s rapidly growing capital Accra is a kaleidoscope of cultures from around the country and West Africa at large. Ahead of the Global Landscapes Forum heading to the city 29–30 October for two days of action on restoring African landscapes, we spoke to Accra native Joselyn Dumas, celebrity T.V. show host and founder of her namesake philanthropic organization, about where to go and what to do when in town.

Dumas's foundation advocates on behalf of the health and rights of Africans children below the age of 16. Courtesy of Joselyn Dumas
Dumas’s foundation advocates on behalf of the health and rights of Africans children below the age of 16. Courtesy of Joselyn Dumas

Culture

“The beauty of Accra is that we are all one people, all Ghanaians, happy to come together to showcase our culture in a unified way. There’s massive urban migration happening right now, so you get the feel of all of Ghana in one spot.

“People in the city are laid back and chill. The attitude is: if there’s nothing you can do about something, why worry? They’re also extraordinarily hospitable. You’ll never get lost in Accra because people will stop to guide you if you’re lost.”

National Theatre of Ghana, designed by Chinese architecture firm CCTN Design, sits in the center of the capital city. Francisco Anzola, Flickr
National Theatre of Ghana, designed by Chinese architecture firm CCTN Design, sits in the center of the capital city. Francisco Anzola, Flickr
  • Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park: The memorial gravesite of Ghana’s first president
  • Osu Castle: A 17th-century colonial fort turned political museum overlooking the Gulf of Guinea that formerly served as the government’s headquarters and is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Black Star Square: More commonly known as Independence Square, a large, breezy square by the Gulf that’s grounds for all major national festivals and events as well as the Independence Arch and Black Star Monument
  • W. E. B. Du Bois Centre for Pan-African Culture: The personal library, museum and final resting place of W. E. B. and his wife Shirley Graham, who made major steps in advancing civil rights in the U.S. and Africa
  • Artist Alliance Gallery: Accra’s foremost art gallery, with three floors showcasing a top-tier collection of traditional and contemporary African
  • Ghana National Theatre: A landmark piece of architecture and performance center whose modern design was informed by the dynamism of the African arts
  • Nubuke Foundation: A vibrant arts and culture space focused on up-and-coming talent

Food

“We’ll never force you to eat our food, but I promise that if you try it, you’ll come back for more. Local delicacies from all over the country can be found in different neighborhoods. But be careful – Ghanaian food can be quite spicy. There are also a lot of restaurants coming up, from Japanese to really amazing Indian, Italian, French. Anything you want, you can find it now in Accra.”

Local cuisine

  • Buka Restaurant: Modern pan-African cuisine in a house with a lovely terrace
  • Chez Clarisse: A down-at-heel spot that serves some of the best Ghanaian food, most notably the tilapia
  • Dimaensa: A trendy bar and grill with excellent jollof, a traditional spiced rice dish
  • Bush Kanteen: A cheap but delicious eatery on the University of Ghana campus that serves a variety of everyday stews and meats as well as a taste of student life
  • Azmera Restaurant: Award-winning ingredient-focused fine Ghanaian cuisine served in dining room filled with local textiles and art
  • Bantama Avenue: Fresh, colorful local fare on a tree-shaded patio with furniture of repurposed crates

International fare

  • Bosphorous Turkish Restaurant: Upscale Turkish fare plus fine wines, Turkish coffee and shisha in a villa with city views
  • Santoku: Creative sushi and cocktails with sleek design highlighted by Japanese wood and a bamboo ceiling
  • Capitol Restaurant: All-day international fare from smoothies and pastries to kebabs and calamari
  • Little Havana Restaurant: Vintage charm, Afro-Caribbean flavors, and the first rum-specialized bar in West Africa
  • Urban Grill: A trendy African-fusion grill house filled with art and the largest outdoor film screen in Ghana for movie nights 

Fashion

“The beauty of Accra is that it’s a fusion of fashion. Everybody brings their own cultural backgrounds from different parts of Ghana, and it all fuses together in their clothes – special colors, fabrics and beads from different regions.

“On Fridays, people wear African clothes to work, so you’ll see everything from the smocks worn in northern Ghana to Ankara pants and matching shirts. People will wear this to parties too.”

Ghanaian kente fabrics are woven of silk and cotton in rich colors. Lee D. Baker, Flickr
Ghanaian kente fabrics are woven of silk and cotton in rich colors. Lee D. Baker, Flickr

Markets

“Ghanaians are very entrepreneurial, and anything you could ever want is found in the markets, from foodstuffs to fabrics. There are a lot of arts and handicrafts: wood paintings, wood carvings, symbols to decorate your house, cow hides, things that speak so much of African culture.

“One of the prides of Ghana is also shea butter. Lush Cosmetics uses northern Ghanaian shea butter in just about all their products. It makes your hair and skin beautiful, and you can mix in natural oils to make it more fragrant.”

Everything from fashion to farm-fresh produce can be found at Makola Market. Erin Johnson, Flickr
Everything from fashion to farm-fresh produce can be found at Makola Market. Erin Johnson, Flickr
  • Makola Market: A must-visit traditional market and Ghanaian landmark that dates back 95 years, known in particular for its beads, fabrics and pan-African foods and produce
  • Hamamat: Producer of some of the highest-quality shea butter in Africa, often mixed with other herbs and oils in a variety of skin products

Recreation

“On weekends, people will get outside the city and go to beautiful lake and beach resorts nearby. Some are just 45 minutes by car.”

Stretching 560 kilometers along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, the Ghanaian coastline is a patchwork of beautiful beaches. Andy Lederer, Flickr
Stretching 560 kilometers along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, the Ghanaian coastline is a patchwork of beautiful beaches. Andy Lederer, Flickr

Nightlife

“Nightlife starts on Wednesdays, but they’re usually pretty chill. Thursdays, people also go out, but the most nightlife happens on Fridays. We don’t go out on Saturdays because we’re very religious and must be up for church on Sunday. And it’s very safe – you can stay out until 4 a.m. and be fine.”

  • +233 Jazz Bar: One of the city’s most popular music spots with live bands six nights of the week
  • Bloombar: A buzzing outdoor cocktail bar strung with Edison bulbs
  • Republic: An artsy local night spot with a calendar of quiz nights, DJs, karaoke and more
  • Twist: One of the city’s oldest and most beloved nightclubs that still gets packed for dancing

Tips

  • Days start around 4 a.m., with people leaving the house by 5 a.m. to beat the traffic. Shops generally open around 8 a.m. Dinner is typically around 6 p.m., and bedtime around 9 p.m.
  • The typical greeting is a handshake – often a long one. If you’re greeting someone elderly, wait to be invited to approach. If you’re meeting a chief or someone of status, take to your knees.
  • Average tipping in restaurants and bars is 18 to 20 percent.
  • Local taxis are readily found throughout the city and are the most common means of transportation, though motorbike taxis can save time in traffic. Local buses, known as “tro-tros,” are generally packed to the brim but worth a ride for the experience.
  • Uber exists buy only accepts cash payment.
  • Who’s Charlie? No one knows, but the name is often tacked onto words and phrases in the way of “man” or “dude.” E.g.: What’s up Charlie?
  • The two most celebrated holidays in Ghana are Christmas and the Homowo festival from May until August. Christmas is full of parties, while Homowo, a cultural remembrance of the country’s pre-colonial famine, is filled with traditions of feasting, singing, dancing and giving alms to the poor, culminating in its final days.

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