Accra: sight-free, soccer-insane city by the sea

gh5_blackstar1.jpgThere are no "sights" in Accra. None to write home about, anyway. There is a National Theatre, a museum (I think), and a zoo that we have yet to visit, but in general, I agree with our guidebook that, from a tourist's perspective, Accra is downright "disappointing."

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There are no “sights” in Accra. None to write home about, anyway. There is a National Theatre, a museum (I think), and a zoo that we have yet to visit, but in general, I agree with our guidebook that, from a tourist’s perspective, Accra is downright “disappointing.”

But as a travel writer who has had to paint pictures of cities like Managua and Belize City, I’m sensitive to “hidden charms.” Indeed, that is what Philip Briggs challenges readers of the Bradt Ghana Guide to be, calling Accra “one of those cities that rewards casual exploration.” Some readers may consider this a cop-out, and some editors may scoff at listing “amiability” as a city’s chief attraction (as Briggs does), but I sympathize and totally agree.

In fact, I consider a lack of obvious destinations a blessing, forcing one to fine-tune one’s traveler’s antennae in order to appreciate the subtle sense of such a place. One slows down–indeed has no choice but to crawl at a snail’s pace through Accra’s ever present, exhaust-spewing traffic, our various taxi drivers cutting across so many back roads and neighborhoods, all vain attempts to save time. Taxi windows frame a thousand interesting images that are, in fact, worth writing home about.

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But there is something more during these two months: in addition to the famous friendliness of Ghanaians, I must add “ecstatic enthusiasm” and “football-fueled fervor” to the list of Accra’s main attractions, as the national soccer team, the Black Stars, competes in their first ever World Cup. The people’s passion is fun to be a part of, especially last Saturday when the streets filled up after the Black Stars’ stunning 2-0 victory over Czechoslovakia. It’s interesting to see how much and in what ways football is appreciated all over the world. After all, it differs everywhere, with different boards like the ECA for European football (you can click here to learn more about that board) and the training tactics used. What doesn’t change is the excitement and dedication of fans! It’s always enjoyable seeing fans excitedly sharing new football fantasy news for their teams, especially after such a big win.

One Ghanaian friend who was attending a traditional funeral that day said the drummers were shouting “Goooooal!” while they played, each time their team scored. In Mamprobi, we raced out of our gates as soon as the game was over (Tay, Ya-ya, Effo, Koko, Odaltrey and I) to see mobs of young and old taking to the streets in the gathering dusk, drag-racing cars, running wild with red-yellow-and-black capes, chanting, singing, and dancing.

This week will be even more exciting as our household, our office, our neighborhood, Accra, and the entire country get ramped up for Thursday’s game (which will decide if Ghana will represent all of Africa in the next round). . . against the United States.

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