Top Historical Sites In Ghana

Ghana is one country with a very storied past and chequered history having enjoyed both good and bad times. This storied past has left the country with dozens of historical sites where people, especially students could visit and get more insight into the history of Ghana and how far we have come as a nation.

Some of these historical sites date back to the era before the arrival of the Europeans in Ghana, some also date back to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade era when indigenes were being captured and shipped to Europe, and finally, the colonial era when the country, then known as Gold Coast was administered and ruled by the British.

Below are some of the historical sites in Ghana worth visiting:

Cape Coast Castle

History of the Cape Coast Castle dates back to the 16th century when the Portuguese traders arrived on the shores of Ghana and established a trading post on the shores of the Cape Coast sea in 1555. The shift from goods trading to human trading took off in roughly 1654 after the Swedes through a company known as the Swedish African Company had taken over the trading post and further developed it into a well-constructed timber fort with the intent of continuing the trading activities the Portuguese were into.

This however changed when the Swedes realized there was a huge demand for black slaves in the Americas and Europe. The Swedes then abandoned their plans to continue making the fort a trading post and instead converted it into a slave post where they kept captured slaves and shipped them to Europe and America. The fort later fell into the hands of the British who developed it into a complete castle to continue the slave-trading business.

Laranbanga Mosque

The Larabanga Mosque located in Larabanga, in the West Gonja District is one of the oldest mosques in Africa and the oldest in Ghana built in the year 1421. Originally the mosque was built with mud, reed and clay materials as that was the most popular building material at the time of its construction. However, in the 70s, cement materials were applied to its outer layer to give it more support and withstand the test of time. The biggest attraction at the mosque is an old Quran believed to have fallen from heaven to Imam Yidam Barimah in 1650.

Daboya Salt Mine

Over a half of the salt consumption of Ghana in the 1700s and 1800s was supplied by Daboya as a majority of the women and men in the town were engaged in the salt mining business, making it one of the most active and commercially vibrant towns in Ghana.

People from all walks of life especially northern and western Africa used to journey for miles just to come to Daboya and see this amazing town that was making history and prospering at an alarming rate. However, the salt business in Daboya collapsed in the mid of the 20th century when Ghanaians became more interested in granulated and iodised salt, putting Daboya out of business. Today these historical salt mines have become historical sites where thousands of people visit every year to learn more about the famous Daboya Salt Mines.

Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum

The Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial Park was built on the old polo ground and dedicated to the first president of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in 1992. With a total land surface of 5.3 acres, the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum is the largest Historical Museum in Ghana. Just in front of the Mausoleum is the huge statue of Kwame Nkrumah, which can be seen from afar.

Some of the famous photographs found in the museum include Dr. Nkrumah’s pictures with Queen Elizabeth of England, Pope Pius XII, Fidel Castro, President Nasser of Egypt and John F. Kennedy of U.S.A.

Wa Naa’s Palace

Wa Naa’s Palace is among the oldest traditional palaces in Ghana built in the early part of the 19th century by the Wala people to serve as the royal home to the chief and his family as well as trusted and top officials of the chief. The Palace was built in ancient Sudanese mud-brick architectural style, giving credence to historical accounts that suggest that the Wala people, who today dominate the Upper West region, originally migrated from the northern part of Africa, precisely Sudan.

The structure sits comfortably in the heart of Wa as a major historical site that is visited regularly by tourists.

Ussher Fort

The Ussher Fort is an old historical site in Ghana, built in the year 1649 by the Dutch. The Fort which is located in Accra was originally known as Fort Crevecaur and was built by the Dutch to serve as a shelter for the Dutch traders who came to the Gold Coast to trade in the slave business which was booming at the time.

Built in 1642, the building served as a small factory until it was renovated and converted into a Fort in 1649 by the Dutch West Indian Company. While the Fort was not as imposing and important as the Osu and Elmina Castle, it played a great role in the pre-colonial trade between the indigenous people and the various European nations who all came to have control of the Fort at a point in history.

Nalerigu Defense Wall

The Nalerigu Defence Wall is located in Nalerigu in the East Mamprusi District of the North East region. The wall was built in the 16th century by the then ruler of the Mamprusi ethnic group, Naa Jaringa, and surrounded the entire village of Nalerugu, protecting the people from the vicious slave traders from Burkina Faso and Mali who occasionally conducted raids near the village in a bid to capture people and sell them to the European slave traders on the coasts.

While a large part of the wall has been washed away by erosion over the centuries, the small remaining part of the once famous wall remains a major historic site in the area and receives a lot of visitors, mostly tourists from the Southern part of Ghana.

Fort Batenstein

Fort Batenstein was built in the 17ht century precisely 1656 by the Dutch traders who had arrived in the Gold Coast and taken up residence on the coastal areas of the Western region, near Butre where the Dutch had claimed territorial control at a time when the struggle by European nations for control over important trading routes and areas in the Gold Coast was at its peak.

The Dutch later managed to instigate the local people against the Swedish whom they had come to meet, resulting in the local people attacking the Swedish and forcing them to leave the area. The Dutch after this gained absolute control of the area and made it their territory until a misunderstanding between the indigenes resulted in a brutal civil war known as the Dutch-Ahanta War in 1837. During the war, the Dutch used Fort Batenstein as their military base and also where they kept their captured Ahanta warriors captive.

Forts and Castles in Ghana: Cape Coast Castle

History of the Cape Coast Castle dates back to the 16th century when the Portuguese traders arrived on the shores of Ghana and established a trading post on the shores of Cape Coast in 1555. The purpose of the trading post was primarily to serve as a place of shelter and storage of goods such as gold and timber which the Portuguese traders exchanged with the indigenes in a batter trading system.

Little did anyone know the trading post would decades later become an infamous castle where indigenes were held captive and then shipped across the Atlantic to the Americas and Europe after being acquired from local slave merchants in the hinterland.

The shift from goods trading to human trading took off in roughly 1654 after the Swedes through a company known as the Swedish African Company had taken over the trading post and further developed it into a well-constructed timber fort with the intent of continuing the trading activities the Portuguese were into.

This however changed with the high demand for human labour in the Americas and parts of Europe, convincing the Swedish traders to abandon the commodity trading business and indulge in transporting slaves across the Atlantic to Europe and the Americas.

With the trade in human trafficking becoming booming and generating great and immeasurable wealth for the European traders, the Cape Coast shore became a battleground among the Europeans with each seeking to have control over the area and fort as the Cape Coast seashore was a major exit and entry point for the European traders.

The fort later fell into the control of the Dutch who also continued the trans-Atlantic slave trade for some time and further developed the fort to make it more resilient to attacks and large enough to keep the slaves captive until they were shipped.

The British were the last group of people to have had control of the fort before worldwide outcry and activism brought the horrendous practice of trans-Atlantic slave trade to an end. The British, however, did not leave after the practice ended, staying behind to colonize Ghana, making the British government the official owners of the Fort until 1957 when Ghana gained independence and the British government left the shores of the country, handing over the castle to Ghana in the process.

Inside the castle are pieces of evidence of the heinous crimes committed against the indigenous people, with objects like shackles used to chain slaves kept in the dungeons on display. Other notable things one should expect to see upon visiting the castle are the Door of No Return, sediments of decayed bones and flesh of slaves who died before shipment but their bodies were left to rot away by their slave masters.

The Cape Coast Castle is definitely a place every Ghanaian must visit at a point in their life, to learn about the suffering and tragedy our forefathers faced.

Barrack Obama and hollywood celebrities who shed tears at Cape Coast Castle

2019 was declared the Year of Return by the Government of Ghana at the beginning of the year as part of activities to mark the legacy of the first set of slaves that were shipped from West Africa to America exactly 400 years ago.

The project has so far been a success with so many African-American celebrities and public figures returning to the continent of their motherland, precisely Ghana to take part in the celebration.  One common place all these visiting celebrities visit upon arriving in Ghana is the iconic and ever popular Cape Coast castle, which played an all-important role in the trans-Atlantic Slave trade.

Some of the celebrities shed tears at the castle after being taken on a tour and being told how the activity was carried out and how brutal their forefathers were treated. With the recent news of Steve Harvey shedding tears upon visiting the Cape Coast castle, we go back to memory lane to recollect some of the top celebrities and public figures who cried after visiting the Cape Coast Castle.

Barrack Obama

One of the first things the former US President did when he won election in 2008 was to visit Ghana and make a historic trip to the Cape Coast Castle. His visit which took place in 2009 caught the world’s attention as it was one of the few and rare moments in history where a sitting US President looked visibly emotional and on the verge of shedding tears in public.

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia Obama, Marian Robinson and a friend tour Cape Coast Castle in Ghana on July 11, 2009.    (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia Obama, Marian Robinson and a friend tour Cape Coast Castle in Ghana on July 11, 2009.
(Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Steve Harvey

For Steve Harvey, the task of holding back his tears upon visiting the castle was way too much for him as the iconic television host ended up shedding tears and looking visibly shaking by what he had seen and heard from the castle tour guides. Pictures of him shedding tears ended up on the front pages of most international magazines and online news portals including the Daily Mail and TMZ.

Steve Harvey at Cape Coast Castle
Steve Harvey at Cape Coast Castle

Gillian White

The famous actress and wife of actor Jai White is another Hollywood celebrity who has shed tears at the Cape Coast castle. The actress together with his partner, Jai White and children visited Ghana in January 2019 to take part in the Year of Return program. As expected, Gillian and her family traveled to Cape Coast in the central region of Ghana to visit the castle. Gillian couldn’t hold back her tears as she toured the castle that was used to keep slaves captive before being shipped to Europe.

Gillian White
Gillian White

Anthony Anderson

American sitcom king, Anthony Anderson, is all the time in his jovial mood and hardly would one see him with a grim face or even imagine it, but when the famous comedian visited the Cape Coast castle upon his arrival in Ghana, he lost his usual jovial and happy looking appearance. For once, Anthony Anderson looked emotional, sad and in utter shock as he was told the harrowing experience his forefathers were subjected to by their European slave masters. While he did well to hold his tears back, one could easily see the lively actor and comedian was emotional.

Other popular actors including Boris Kodjoe, Netherland international, Memphis Dapay and actor Jai White have all visited the castle in recent years but barely managed to hold back their tears. One thing is for sure, you cannot visit Cape Coast castle and not get emotional especially for blacks living in other parts of the world other than Africa.