Location, Geography & Climate
Much of the attraction of Ghana is based upon its legacy as the center of the gold, ivory, and slave trade during the 17th and 18th centuries, when the mighty Ashanti empire held sway here. However, Ghana also possesses one of the best game reserves in West Africa, a multitude of good beaches, and plenty of hospitality.
Ghana's distinguishing geographic feature is the Volta River, on which was built the Akosombo dam in 1964. The damming of the Volta created the enormous Lake Volta, which occupies a sizeable portion of Ghana's southeastern territory.
Lake Volta is also the site of Kujani National Park, though Ghana's best-known park is Mole, located in the north. Unfortunately, neither Lake Volta nor the river itself have yet been developed for touring--although lake cruises are offered, the great majority of water traffic consists of cargo ships.
Rainfall is fairly heavy, particularly from April through September.
History & People
Ghana's rich history centers on the once-great Ashanti empire, which rose to power during the late 17th century and continued to prosper as a center of the 18th century slave trade. The Ashanti capital, Kumasi, was during this period one of the finest and most advanced cities in Africa, and the Ashanti state even employed significant numbers of Europeans as advisors and administrators. The European presence in Ghana is also marked by the multitude of colonial forts that dot its coastline--strongholds that anchored the European trade in gold, ivory, and slaves. Although Ghana, then known as the Gold Coast, was largely considered a British territory by the latter half of the 19th century, it wasn't until 1900 that the British succeeded in defeating the Ashanti and the area's other strong kingdoms.
More on the Ashanti
If Ghana was late in coming under European control, it was also the first African nation to win back its independence, in 1957. However, corruption and internal military strife proved to be apparently intractable problems, and Ghana went through an extended period of instability in the 1960s and 1970s marked by military rule. The country has been since then been moving steadily toward political stability and economic prosperity, and seems today to possess one of the most promising futures of any of the West African nations.
Most of Ghana's 17 million people practice either Christianity or Islam, which are prevalent depending on the region. Christianity prospers in the south, while Islam dominates the rural north. Local religions also endure in Ghana, and are often practiced syncreticaly with the mainstream religions. The country's main holiday, Akwasidee, comes from the Ashanti religious calendar, and features an ornate ceremony involving the Ashanti king, known as the Asantehene.
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