A Travellerspoint blog

A Durbar in Cocoa Country

Takoradi, Ghana


For almost 150 years, Ghana, on Africa's west coast, was the center of the British slave trade. Western traders arrived in ships loaded with manufactured goods to barter or trade for slaves. Those who were sold had often been captured in tribal warfare; some had simply been kidnapped to sell to European slave traders. While this painful history can never be forgotten, modern Ghana has transformed itself into a vibrant nation with a rich cultural heritage. Today, Ghana is one of the world's largest producers and exporters of cocoa, as well as a major source of minerals such as gold and diamonds. The country's economic progress is matched by its celebration of traditional African culture. One of the most spectacular displays of Ghana's cultural traditions is the Ghanaian celebration called Durbar. So, you might ask "what is a Durbar ?"

  • A Durbar is a grand, colorful festival that celebrates the rich cultural heritage of Ghana. Typically held to commemorate significant events, such as our visit to a cocoa farming community. The Durbar we attended today was a stunning display of traditional music, dance, and costumes. The chief, with his gold staff in hand, and his entourage, in their traditional attire, greeted each of us with a warm handshake.


As we introduced ourselves, Jeff, wearing his cowboy hat, mentioned he hailed from the cowboy state, eliciting cheers from the enthusiastic crowd. The entire farming community was present, creating a joyful and welcoming atmosphere.


The exchange of gifts was a notable part of the ceremony, with our guide presenting bottles of gin to the chief. In return, the community leaders shared their own gin with us, a potent 90-proof spirit that required only a small sip to appreciate its strength. Attending this Durbar provided us with a unique opportunity to immerse ourselves in Ghana's traditional customs and experience the warmth and hospitality of its people firsthand.

  • Ghana is the second-largest cocoa producer in the world, renowned for the exceptional quality of its cocoa beans. The country's cocoa farms, produce highly sought-after cocoa that is used to make some of the finest chocolates worldwide. Visiting this cocoa farm in Ghana was a fascinating experience. Here we learned about the cultivation process, from planting and harvesting to fermenting and drying the beans.

Interestingly the cocoa pods grow directly on the trunk of the trees. After they are removed, the pod is cut in half and then the beans are removed. After drying on banana leaves for a few days the beans are then placed on bamboo racks to dry. This is one of the reasons for the high quality of the Ghana cocoa beans. They are allowed to dry naturally and slowly in the sunlight as opposed to being heated by other means to dry the beans.


We also gained insight into the lives of these cocoa farmers and their community, and as a result have a better appreciation for the hard work and dedication that goes into producing this beloved essential ingredient of my favorite food.


  • Beyond its vibrant cultural celebrations and thriving cocoa industry, Ghana offers a wealth of other interesting features. Formerly known as the Gold Coast, Ghana gained independence from Britain in 1957, becoming the first sub-Saharan nation to break free from colonial rule. Cocoa, gold, and more recently oil form the cornerstone of Ghana's economy and have helped fuel an economic boom. Ghana is one of Africa's largest gold producers and accounts for about 95% of the country's mineral revenue. Other commercially exploited minerals in Ghana are manganese, bauxite, and diamonds. Manganese is mainly used in alloys, such as steel, to increase the strength and also improve workability and resistance to wear. We were interested to learn that manganese steel which contains about 13% manganese, is extremely strong and is used for railway tracks, safes, rifle barrels and prison bars. As we left the port we observed huge piles of red-colored Bauxite being loaded onto ships. Bauxite is the primary raw material in the production of aluminum. Along with the shipment of minerals and cocoa, this port city is known for fishing and ship building.


As we journeyed through Ghana, we encountered communities with living conditions that echoed those we had witnessed in other African nations - conditions that many Westerners might find difficult to comprehend. However, as we navigated the lively streets and vibrant markets, one striking observation caught me off guard. Take a closer look at the photographs I captured from my window seat during our drive. Can you spot the unexpected detail that left me both surprised and intrigued?


While you might initially be drawn to the incredible sight of women carrying unbelievable loads on their heads or infants strapped securely to their backs; or perhaps you noticed the absence of scooters that flood the streets in heavily populated countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, and India, while most Ghanaians choose to walk to their destinations - But there's another aspect that I wanted to highlight.

Amidst the bustling scenes of everyday life in Ghana, a curious and thought-provoking element challenged my preconceptions and left a lasting impression: despite the sweltering heat of over 90 degrees and high humidity, and poor living conditions, everyone I saw during the two hour drive was impeccably dressed in clean, pristine clothing. This unexpected observation stood out to me, emphasizing the pride and dignity of the Ghanaian people.

The combination of Ghana's lively markets, friendly and well-dressed locals, rich cultural heritage, abundant natural resources, and profound historical significance makes it a destination that will long be remembered. As soon as you step onto this captivating land, you'll find yourself, as I did, immersed in a world that defies preconceptions, expands your understanding, and leaves you with a more enlightened perspective on Africa and its people.

Posted by Where2FromHere 12:36 Archived in Ghana

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