Awoke today feeling better, but not so wonderful that I was prepared to risk breakfast. Water pressure was very low this morning, so our showers were somewhat limited. Still another couple of Imodium and I could face the world. However you will find that stools figure rather prominently in today’s offering.
First to the Asante King’s palace, now a museum. The British imprisoned the Asante king for 28 years in the early part of the C20th, sending him into exile on the Seychelles. The governor demanded the golden stool from the Asante, but tipped off by someone, they hid it when British troops raided the palace. Not finding it, the troops burnt the wooden and thatch structure to the ground. 28 years later they returned the king to the Asante region and built him a new palace, but the king refused to move into it until the Asante people could pay for it. It was then theirs and no longer belonged to the occupiers! Furthermore the golden stool was retrieved from hiding and is still used in ceremonies today. Unless the king is sitting on it it is kept on its back so that no evil spirits can occupy it.
On our arrivals at the palace we were shown a short video about the Asante Kingdom and then we met our guide. He was a real character, both informative and very amusing. We went room by room through the museum where we were not allowed to take pictures. Cabinets contained the chief’s guns, a ceremonial axe and some war drums – thank goodness, as the video informed us, the Asante are a peaceful people! We also saw a variety of chairs and stools. I rather list track of the stools, but there is at least a white stool and a black stool, but why I wasn’t sure.
From there we went to the cultural centre and were allowed to wander around through the grounds and, of course, the craft shops. There was an open air prayer meeting going on, so it was unbelievably noisy. I say open air, but it was being held in a church, but so big was the crowd it had spilled out into the grass, in at least 3 directions. Large speakers carried the charismatic preacher’s voice over the congregation and probably half of Kumasi, if it could be given the chance. The preacher repeated key phrases which he then encouraged the congregation to repeat again and again whipping them up into some sort of religious ecstasy. One of these phrases was something like, ” Those who use witchcraft against us …..die, die, die”. This was clearly not a gospel of repentance and forgiveness and there was little evidence of the ‘peace that passers all understanding.
We went into lunch in the Kentish kitchen and catering company, run by a charming woman who informed us that she had trained at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London. The food looked very good, but I kept my fast.
Replete we entered a large bowl shaped arena for en exhibition of traditional drumming and dancing. A small group had travelled up from Accra to display for us and very good they were too. We sat on the stage with the, mercifully in the shade. I never understand why at these sorts of things, they always insist that those watching should have a go. Is it that they want us to appreciate how hard it is? I don’t need to try it to know that. As far as I am concerned any form of dancing is well beyond my skill set. Is it that they take pleasure in our humiliation? After all there is nothing more embarrassing than a group of white people trying to find a sense of rhythm. Or is it that they think we want to have a go, so that we can say on our return to Blighty, ‘ I danced with some Asante dancers, you know.’ Whatever the reason, I try to hide away in these situations. This time with only 11 of us that was impossible and I found myself dancing with some very attractive girl who kept barking orders about what I should be doing. At least I didn’t injured her, even though I felt she was asking for it!
Humiliation over we were given the choice to return to the hotel or walk to the market. As I was feeling better, Christine and I chose the market. Kumasi market is the largest in West Africa an is a full on experience. We walked along roads, competing with mini-buses and cars for the limited space, past stalls selling everything from vegetables and fruit to lumps of rock. The latter are apparently used as charms and to prevent nausea in women…..don’t ask! I quickly learned that photographs were not welcome, except for general overviews. We pushed our way through the crowds and squeezed between mini-buses. We came to a sort of cobbled area which was filthy with plastic bags and other things the provenance of I would not like to guess at. There is no litter problem in Ghana; you just through it on the ground and the problem is solved!
It was at this point that Nathan told us we hadn’t yet entered the market. We hung a sharp left and headed down a narrow alley where there were clearly more permanent stalls. The first section seemed to consist entirely of ironmongery including rows and rows of gleaming machetes. Then we came to a fish area. The only fish I recognised was mackerel, but there was quite a range, all out in the open. From there an area of clothing and material and then we plunged down another alley into the household goods area. It was unbelievably crowded, hot and noisy. Nathan gad only taken us into small part of the market, but that was enough. Thankfully we climbed the hill out of e maelstrom and to the waiting coach.
On our arrival back at the hotel we found there was no water. Hot, sweaty and in need of a loo this did not go down well. Linda headed off to sorg the problem out and we now have a dribble which means we can wash. I also had to persevere to get my washing back. Four goes and someone had the bright idea of looking in the laundry and there it was, not under a stone in the garden, or in a kitchen cupboard – well fancy that!