On the not so Golden Coast

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Cape Coast Slave Trade castle on the beach with palm trees

Ghana’s coast line is known as “Gold Coast”. The main reason for that, I believe, is the high findings in gold in that area. But Ghana’s coast is also known for something else, for one of the main hubs where slaves were shipped out of Africa and to the Americas. I have read quite a bit about the the slave trade. For the ones who are more interested in novels than history books, I can really recommend Ama and Homegoing.

My Christmas holidays officially start as I hop on the big bus at Kaneshi, the biggest market place in Accra. Who would have thought that the days before Christmas are such busy travel days. With enough elbow power, I manage to push myself through other waiting people, sweating in the early morning sun, and gain power over seats up front in the bus. Once the bus roles off the market place, an old man gets up in the front of the bus, takes a deep breath and then announces that he would start a prayer now. It is nothing new that this happens on travels outside of Accra. I just sit there and look out of the window, because I can’t understand what he is shouting through the bus in angry Twi. In Ghana it seems that pastors always want to scare other Christians. Will that make them better believers? Or maybe that will just lead to them giving more money in the end to the self-proclaimed pastor. Unfortunately, this man does not stop before we are almost 2 hours into the journey. Even less fortunate, once he stops, another man from the street comes into the bus and continues preaching until we leave the bus in Cape Coast.

With that much morning prayer, of which I really did not understand a thing, we make our way to a nice beach hotel right on the beach, very close to the Cape Coast castle. The castle is the main tourist point in the city. After dropping off the bags, we sit on a bench by the beach and just look out into the ocean, listen to the ocean. I love oceans. The sound of the crushing waves always makes me realize how powerful nature is. There are a few piglets running around in the sand, searching for some leftover fish pieces the fishermen had left after splitting their catch. Some young girls with huge plates on their heads pass, selling freshly cut oranges and fried plantain chips. In the distance, one can hear laughter of some other visitors who are enjoying the ocean breeze. It all seems very peaceful. At one point, I can’t wait longer and slowly make my way through the soft sand down to the shore line. I tiptoe into the water and watch as the waves come and go. The current here is extremely strong, making me evenĀ  more aware of the power of the ocean. I start tasting salt on my lips and I just stand there, staring out in the ocean with my hair being wildly blown by the wind. Even without the gold right in front of my eyes, I can sense why this coast line has such a valuable name, it truly is a treasure. After a while, I turn around and see the Cape Coast castle closer than I expected. It is a beautiful white building, standing so majestic right next to green palm trees and the blue ocean. It seems unreal that hundreds of years ago, this place was full of suffering and death. What is ever harder to make up, is how the own country men sold their own people to the West. Who would do such cruel acts? I look around at all the people on the beach this afternoon. Everyone is happy, going about their own business, living life in some kind of freedom. But then I remember that even during the slave trade time, the people in Cape Coast lived freely and happily, some of them even doing trade with the Westerners in the castle. Standing there, with water splashing against my caps, my eyes fixed on the big castle, I wonder how humans can be so cruel to each other. How come some people enjoy endless freedom, while their neighbors, their brothers and sisters, fear for their lives…

So here I stand, on a coast that truly deserves its golden name. However, it has a bitter aftertaste when you think about history.

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