Kente cloth on sale at Kumasi’s Kejetia Market © Adam Jones, Wikimedia Commons
Surging throngs of humanity and constant traffic jams emanate in every direction from the market and lorry station, creating an emphatically modern mood that can be positively overwhelming to newcomers.
The modern capital of Ashanti Region, Kumasi has also served as the royal capital of the Ashanti Kingdom for longer than three centuries. Yet, contrary to the sort of expectations conjured up by the epithet ‘ancient Ashanti capital’, one’s first impression upon arriving in Kumasi, particularly if you disembark near Kejetia Circle, is less likely to be rustic traditionalism than daunting developing-world urbanity. This is the largest settlement in the Ghanaian interior, with a population of approximately 2.2 million according to 2018 estimates, and one of the most hectic cities we’ve encountered anywhere in Africa. Surging throngs of humanity and constant traffic jams emanate in every direction from the market and lorry station, creating an emphatically modern mood that can be positively overwhelming to newcomers, particularly those arriving from the relatively provincial north. For all that, Ghana’s second city ranks as a ‘must-see’ in most people’s book. True, historical Kumasi amounts to little more than the late 19th-century fort and a cluster of colonial-era buildings in the old city centre (known as Adum). But the city boasts several worthwhile sites of interest, ranging from the Prempeh II Jubilee Museum to the sprawling and redeveloped Kejetia Market, and is also a useful base for any number of day or overnight trips into rural Ashanti.