The Centre

kumasi

051 / pop 1 million

At one time the capital of the rich and powerful Ashanti kingdom, today Kumasi is a bustling multiethnic metropolis. Unlike Accra, Kumasi, which spills over a series of hills, has a clearly demarcated centre, ground zero being an enormous throbbing daily market. The demographic complexity of the city may not be obvious at first glance but the city is a patchwork of ethnic neighbourhoods. Almost half the residents are Muslims and almost half speak Hausa, a language originating in Nigeria.

Information

INTERNET ACCESS

Easylink Internet ( ® 9am-11pm) Across from the Alliance Française.

Internet Link (Prempeh II Rd) Just down the street from Vic Baboo's Café.

Shell Internet (per hr US$1.20; ® 7am-9pm) Entrance around back of Shell petrol station. Unie Internet (per hr US$0.70; ® 7.30am-8.30pm) Next to the British Council.

MEDICAL SERVICES

Pharmacies are dotted around town. Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (Bantama Rd) A large complex near the National Culture Centre; Kumasi's main public hospital.

MONEY

All banks listed here change travellers cheques and have ATMs. There are also several forexes for changing cash.

Barclays Bank head office (Prempeh II Roundabout) Garden City Forex Bureau (Harper Rd) Has the best rates around.

Ghana Commercial Bank (Harper Rd)

Standard Chartered Bank head office (Prempeh II

Roundabout)

POST

Main post office (Stewart Ave; ® 8am-5pm Mon-Fri) Opposite the Armed Forces Museum. Poste restante shuts at 4.30pm.

TOURIST INFORMATION Tourist office ( 26243; ® 7am-5pm Mon-Fri) In the National Cultural Centre complex. Staff can help arrange guided tours of the city and surrounding villages.

See Enlargement

Lebanon St

Train Station

^ Wesley ^ Methodist Cathedral

Prempeh //— Roundabout

A-Life : Supermarket

Commercial St

Prempeh Rd

EATING Q)

Moti Mahal Restaurant... Queens Gate Restaurant. Sanbra Hotel Restaurant.

To Pankrono (8km); Ahwiaa (9km); Ntonso (24krri); Tamale (380krp)

Vic Baboo's Cafe.

DRINKING Q

Vienna City Pub.

TRANSPORT

Asafo Station

Kejetia Motor Park

VanefSTC Bus Station.

Presbyterian Chuich no Bonwire (18km)

Hospital Circfe

Okomfo Anokye QTeaching Hospitc • Okomfo Anokye

Bekwai . Circle \

.LLAssemhíiitíaJJ.

—Asafo Roundabc

Ahodwo Roundabout

^ Santasi Roundabout

Coast (200km)

To Four Villages Inft (2km)1

SIGHTS & ACTIVITIES

Kejetia Market 10 C4

Manhyia Palace & Museum 11 C4

National Cultural Centre 12 B4

Prempeh II Jubilee Museum (see 12)

INFORMATION

Barclays Bank

Easylink Internet

Garden City Forex Bureau. Ghana Commercial Bank...

Internet Link

Main Post Office

Shell Internet

Standard Chartered Bank..

Tourist Office

Unie Internet

Fosua Hotel

Guestline Lodge

Hotel Rexmar

Kumasi Catering Rest House.

Nurom Hotel Annex II

Sanbra Hotel

B2 B2 A6 A2 A1 B1

Sights

The rusting tin roofs of Kejetia Market, often cited as the largest in West Africa, look like a circular shantytown. Once you take a breath and step down into its interior, it's infinitely disorienting but also throbbing with life and commerce.

The National Cultural Centre (admission free; S 8am-5pm) is set within spacious grounds off Bantama Rd and includes a model Ashanti village; craft workshops (hours are irregular); a gallery and crafts shop; the regional library; the tourism office; and the small but excellent Prempeh II Jubilee Museum (adult/student US$1.10/2.20; S 2-5pm Mon, 9am-5pm Tue-Fri, 10am-4pm Sat & Sun), which is a fascinating introduction to Ashanti culture and history.

To get a feel for how a modern Ashanti ruler lives, visit Manhyia Palace and its museum (adult/student USS2.20/1.10; S9am-noon & 1-5pm) off Antoa Rd, up the hill north from Kejetia Circle. The palace was used by the Ashanti kings until 1974. Among the displays are un-nervingly lifelike life-size wax models of the two kings and their mothers and of the most redoubtable queen mother Yaa Asantewaa, who led the 1900 revolt against the British and who died in exile in the Seychelles.

Festivals & Events

The Ashanti calendar is divided into nine cycles of 42 days called Adae, which means 'resting place'. There are two special days of worship within each Adae when a celebration is held and no work is done. The most important annual festival is the Odwira festival, which marks the last or ninth Adae. The festival features lots of drumming, horn-blowing, food offerings and parades of elegantly dressed chiefs. Contact the tourist office for exact dates.

Sleeping

Nurom Hotel Annex II (§§ 32324; Nsene Rd; r US$7.50) This hotel close to the Kejetia Market and lorry station can be noisy, but it's clean and friendly.

Guestline Lodge ((§123351; mahesh161usia>yahoo .com; r US$16-30; (S) (Q)) There's no better place in Kumasi for independent travellers on a budget. The VanefSTC station is a block away, there's internet access and there's a relaxing and sunny courtyard. Look first before deciding on a room since they vary in quality, size and appeal.

Sanbra Hotel 31256; Bogyawi Rd; r US$18-30; ® (E)) Popular with Ghanaians because of its restaurant as much as for its clean but basic tiled-floor rooms; some of the more expensive rooms even have small balconies.

Kumasi Catering Rest House ((§) 26506; Government Rd; rwith fan/air-con US$22/49; I®) This charming guesthouse set within shady grounds a short walk from the centre has huge rooms furnished with '70s style furniture. Also on site is a popular restaurant with a large menu (mains US$3.80).

Fosua Hotel (l§) 37382; www.fosuahotel.com; r US$38; ® E O)) This is the highest quality place to stay in the city centre. Occupying the top floor of the Aseda Complex a block from the VanefSTC station, the rooms here are clean and comfortable.

Four Villages Inn (i§) 22682; www.fourvillages.com; Old Bekwal Rd; s/d US$60/70; ® E) Several kilometres south of the centre is this bed and breakfast, equally popular for its four comfortable individually designed rooms as for the garden, terrace and indoor atrium.

Hotel Rexmar (@ 29111;[email protected];s/d US$76/ 90; ® E (D g)) Rooms at this low-rise hotel complex south of the Santassi Roundabout aren't exactly luxurious but you do get a private porch and access to one of Kumasi's nicest pools. There's a good restaurant attached.

Eating & Drinking

Vic Baboo's Cafe (Prempeh II Rd; mains US$2.20-5.50; Sfrom 11am; (E) Almost every foreigner in Kumasi ends up at this café. It has the biggest cocktail menu in the city, and Indian, Chinese and Ghanaian dishes plus sandwiches and pizza, with several veggie options. Last order taken around 9pm.

Queens Gate Restaurant (Prempeh II Rd; mains US$4.40) There's no better spot for people-watching in Kumasi than the 3rd-floor balcony at the Queens Gate. Everything from omelettes to soups, salads, burgers and Ghanaian dishes are served.

Sanbra Hotel Restaurant (Bogyawi Rd; mains US$5;

) As far as the centre of Kumasi goes, this restaurant in the hotel of the same name deserves several Michelin stars. It has a huge menu with European, Chinese, Ghanaian, seafood, pizza, lobster, sandwiches etc.

Moti Mahal Restaurant (mains US$4.40-10; IE) One of the most expensive restaurants in Kumasi, with a large selection of Indian cuisine, Moti Mahal is off the Southern Bypass Rd.

Vienna City Pub (Harper Rd; gl) Home sweet home for many expats who can wash away their nostalgia with the pool table, foosball, darts, Guinness and imported beers.

Getting There & Away

Kumasi airport is on the northeastern outskirts of town, about 5km from the centre. Citilink and Antrak have flights between Kumasi and Accra twice a day (US$63).

The huge Kejetia motor park is the city's main transport hub, from where you can get tro-tros to most regional destinations as well as non-VanefSTC buses to Accra and other points south. In addition, transport for Accra (again), Cape Coast, Takoradi and local destinations such as Lake Bosumtwi leave from Asafo station, east of Asafo Roundabout.

The VanefSTC bus station is on Prempeh Rd. Buses to Accra (ordinary/luxury US$5/7, four hours) leave regularly between 3.30am and 5pm. VanefSTC buses also pass through Cape Coast (US$7, four hours) on their way to Takoradi (US$7, five hours). There are two buses a day to Tamale (US$10, eight hours).

For details of the train service to Takoradi and Accra, see p355.

around kumasi Craft Villages

Because of their proximity to Kumasi, the craft villages in the region offer a convenient if also touristy way to experience how some of Ghana's traditional workshops operate.

There are two villages just on the outskirts of Kumasi, on the Mampong road beyond Suame Roundabout. Pankrono, 8km away, is a major pottery centre. One kilometre further is Ahwiaa, known for its woodcarving and aggressive sales approach. Ntonso, 15km further, is the centre of adinkra cloth printing. Bonwire, 18km northeast of Kumasi, is the most famous of several nearby villages that specialise in weaving kente cloth.

The easiest way to visit these villages is probably to hire a private taxi for a half day (US$8) or full day (US$22). You can also arrange a tour through the Kumasi tourist office.

Lake Bosumtwi

For a break from the bustle and choking pollution of Kumasi, take a trip to tranquil Lake Bosumtwi, 38km southeast of Kumasi. A crater lake, it's ringed by lush green hills in which you can hike, visiting some of the 20 or so small villages around its perimeter.

To spend the night at the lake, try the Lake Point Guesthouse ((D 220054; r US$19), set on landscaped grounds that lead down to the lakeshore a few kilometres from Abonu. The spacious and clean rooms are in freestanding bungalows.

Occasional tro-tros run direct to Abonu (US$1.10) from Asafo motor parkin Kumasi.

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