Kumasi is the capital city of the Ashanti region, a very important and historical centre for Ghana. Tradition is held very high in Kumasi and blends very well with modernity. There is a wide range of attractions in Kumasi.
The Manhyia Palace, the seat of the King of Ashanti and members of the royal family is situated in the northern part of the city. The Palace has a courtyard and a courtroom where matters dealing with the constitution and customs are deliberated upon the traditional council. Visitors can get a good insight into traditional African democracy, which is still very present in the customs of the people when they visit the courtyard. The meetings are open to the public.
Lake Bosumtwi, the largest natural lake in Ghana, is about 32 kilometres southeast of Kumasi. The Ashantis believe that the souls of their dead come to the lake to say goodbye to god called Twi. One theory says that the huge meteorite formed the lake. Another says that it is the crater of an extinct volcano.
The citys major attraction is the National Cultural Center, a 10 minute walk west of the market. The sprawling complex encompasses a fascinating museum of Ashanti history, a popular library, an excellent crafts shop and an exhibition hall. Classes in traditional dance and drumming are available. One of the centre's more interesting exhibits is the fake golden stool used to trick the British, who'd heard that the real Golden Stool held the strength of the Ashanti empire and demanded it be brought to them. It was decades before they discovered the ruse. The real stool is kept at Manhyia Palace and is brought out only on special occasions. It's so sacred that not even the king is allowed to sit on it, and it's never allowed to touch the ground. There's a photo of it in the museum.
If you're looking to escape the heat, one option is to head next door to the zoological gardens, with its lovely gardens and somewhat depressing zoo - picture caged chimps toying with broken beer bottles. Watch your step, as crocodiles and porcupines roam freely. Half a kilometer to the west, the Anokye Sword sticks out of the ground exactly where - according to legend - the Golden Stool descended from the heavens to mark the beginning of the Ashanti people. Legend has it that if the sword is ever pulled out, the Ashanti kingdom will disappear.
Manhyia Palace, better known as Asantehene's Palace, is the palace of the highest Ashanti ruler. Ashanti kings have never lived in luxury, and visitors are often surprised by how sparse and unpretentious the palace is. The current king lives in a more recent palace directly behind the old one, and if you bring a gift and enquire politely, you may be able to meet him. You might also try to arrive on the Adae Festival - there are two every 42 days - when the king's subjects come to pay him homage.
In the villages around Kumasi, artisans specialize in crafts such as goldsmithing, wood carving, cloth printing and weaving. Bonwire is the place to go for kente cloth, Pankrono is best for pottery, Ahwiaa for woodcarving and Ntonso for adinkra cloth. Private taxis and tro-tro are the best ways to reach any of the craft villages.
Though it's over 250km north-west of the capital, Kumasi is Ghana's second largest traffic hub, so you'll have no trouble getting there and away. There are several flights per week to Accra and Tamale, as well as buses, trains, taxis and tro-tro