From the Horse’s Mouth – Ghana


Contributions by Muriel Bruce
Facts you did not know about Ghana – (Ghana, a nation on West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, is known for diverse wildlife, old forts and secluded beaches, such as at Busua. Coastal towns Elmina and Cape Coast contain posubans (native shrines), colonial buildings and castles-turned-museums that serve as testimonials to the slave trade. North of Cape Coast, vast Kakum National Park has a treetop-canopy walkway over the rainforest.)

1. How are birthdays celebrated?
People enjoy parties but really only celebrate the bigger birthdays. This is also mainly amongst suburban families and expat communities. In smaller towns and villages birthdays are generally not celebrated.

2. When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?
Greetings are generally a handshake with the right hand for both men and women. Families will hug but they don’t kiss as public displays of affection are not common in Ghana.

3. What languages are spoken in your country?
English in Accra but in the villages there are more local languages and English is rare. The official language and de facto lingua franca of Ghana is the English language, but even though Ghana is a relatively small country there are over seventy different tribal groups, each with its own distinct language

4. Do you use a twelve-hour clock or a twenty-four hour clock?
The twelve- hour clock is more common.

5. What side of the road do people drive on? What do we need to know about driving in Ghana?
In Ghana we drive on the right side of the road. When driving in Ghana you have to exercise extreme caution and be very attentive to other drivers’ moves as many accidents result in fatalities. There are many potholes and also many pedestrians and cyclists which can be very problematic. Watch

6. How important is punctuality?
According to the locals GMT stands for Ghana Maybe Time. Within business often those who see themselves as more powerful feel it is their right to be late for meetings. Be aware that if you are invited to a function that is scheduled for 5 p.m. you should not be surprised if you arrive on time and the rest of the guests only start arriving at 7pm. There is a lot of traffic but this should not be an excuse for arriving late. Shops, banks and offices etc, however, generally open on time.

7. What types of music are popular? Who are some of your most popular musicians?
Music is a big part of life in Ghana. There are many bars/pubs and clubs that offer a wide variety of music styles. There is also some traditional music, which is often played at weddings.
Koo Nimo is one of the last true veterans of highlife roots and palm-wine music, which dominated Ghana’s popular music scene throughout much of the twentieth century.
During World War II, elements of swing and jazz were introduced and formed what is known as classic highlife. E.T. Mensah and his band, Tempos, popularized highlife throughout West Africa. Watch
During the 1960s, highlife was influenced by Congolese music, pop, and soul. The new era of experimentation in the early 1970s led to the creation of Afro-rock, Afro-beat and Afro-funk. The new wave included the groups Osibisa, Magic Aliens, and Boombaya. Watch

8. Are there any Traditional Dances?
There are a variety of Ghanaian dances from traditional dances to different dances for different occasions such as celebrations and funerals.
This is an excerpt of Adowa dance, music and song. Recorded in Kumasi, Ghana, West Africa. Watch

9. What traditional Festivals are celebrated in your community?
Ghana has many exciting traditional festivals; these are occasions of great cultural pomp and pageantry on the indigenous calendars of the many ethnic groups. Festivals are very important occasions in Ghana; during this time many people travel to their ancestral home for the celebrations and to mark the occasion.
Festivals are celebrated to mark both the beginning and the end of the traditional year and to celebrate great events of the past and purify the traditional state. These occasions and celebrations can be the marking of a successful harvest, the initiation of adolescent girls into womanhood and the showcasing of new Kente and other traditional textile designs. View a website here.

10. What are your seasons like?
There are really only two seasons – the Wet season from April/May to Sept/Oct and the Dry season from November to March when it is very hot and dry. Average temperatures range from 21°C – 28°C.

11. Tell us an interesting fact about your President?
John Mahama was born on 29 November 1958 in the northern Ghana region. He is a historian, communications expert, a former minister of state and Member of Parliament. He succeeded to the presidency by virtue of being the vice president following the death of the then president John Atta Mills in 2012.
John Mahama has been married to lordina Mahama for over 28 years, and they have eight children. Despite his busy schedule, he still finds time to spend with his family.

12. What are Ghana’s major industries?
Manufacturing, Telecommunications, Gold, Cocoa, and now Oil. Ghana is rich in natural resources.

13. How do people spend their free time?
There are a lot of small resorts on the coast and most people head to the beach on the week-ends.

14. What do people drink?
Local drinks include asana or maize beer, palm wine, coconut juice and akpeteshie or palm wine. There is a Guinness brewery and popular local beers are Star and Club.

15. What is a popular local dish?
The main dishes in Accra include kenkey with hot pepper and fried fish, banku with fried fish and pepper or with okro or groundnut soup, red red or yo-ko-gari, bean stew, fried plantain or tatale, omo tuo (rice balls) served with palm or groundnut soup. A Sunday afternoon special is fried yam with chofi (turkey tails) with hot, fresh pepper sauce, kebabs (meat of liver doused in spicy powder then grilled).
Fufu – Boiled cassava and plantain pounded into a dough-like mass.
Banku – Ground fermented corn and cassava that is boiled and stirred into a thick starchy mass.
Kenkey – Ground fermented corn that is boiled and pressed into banana leaves.
Omo tuo – Plain rice balls
Yam – Like the potato you are familiar with, yams are eaten either boiled or fried. Fried yams are eaten with hot pepper or with a spinach-like Palava sauce rather than with a soup or stew.

16. What do you pay for? (USD 1.00 = approx. Ghana Cedi 3.80)
In a restaurant – A 2-Course meal – Approx. Cedi 100.00 for 2 people, a cup of coffee – Cedi 6.00, a Coca Cola- Cedi 1.50
At a shop – A loaf of bread – Cedi 4.00

17. Safety?
Ghana is generally a peaceful country. The crime rate is amongst the lowest in the West African region, and violence is fairly rare. In contrast to many other African countries, expats in Ghana have little to worry about, especially in the city centres of the large metropolises.

** Meaning: From the highest authority. From the source.
Origin: In horse racing circles tips on which horse is a likely winner circulate amongst punters. The most trusted authorities are considered to be those in closest touch with the recent form of the horse, that is, stable lads, trainers etc. The notional ‘from the horse’s mouth’ is supposed to indicate one step better than even that inner circle, that is, the horse itself