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Togo – Ghana – Benin: Tribal Festivals

 

Each departure will fit with one of the two following festivals: Akwasidae or Egun

Akwasidae
In the Royal Palace of Kumasi (Ghana) we attend the Akwasidae Festival.† There are certain days each year on the Ashanti calendar set aside for a celebration at the Royal Palace. This ceremony is called Akwasidae. During the celebration, the King is seated under a spectacular umbrella of colorful, draped cloth and is adorned in vivid cloth and massive gold jewelry which is centuries old (the Ashanti gold jewelry and masks are considered masterpieces of African art). In front of the King, a narrow passage is formed, made of dignitaries, of various functions: ritual sword bearers, guards armed with muskets, knife bearers responsible for carrying out executions, carriers of beautiful fans made of ostrich feathers. Seated at the side of the King are the Ashanti elders and the advisors under the authority of the Royal Speaker, holding in his hands, the symbols of power covered in gold. The ceremony is made up of a procession of the royal court attendants who bring forth gifts, storytellers who recite the history of the Ashanti Kings, drummers, and trumpeters playing horns of ivory. Corpulent dancers dressed in vivid, red costumes, perform an erotic dance. The queen mother then will join the ceremony accompanied by her attendants.† This traditional ceremony takes place in one of the last African Kingdoms to have kept its ancient rituals alive. We will live the splendor, the flavor, and the atmosphere of the grand monarchs of the forests of yesteryear.

Egun
Traditional festival of Fon and Yorouba in the South of Benin.† Egungun is a very powerful masks secret society. Egungun masques are the reincarnation of deceased people. These masks are known and feared for their aggressiveness and the unpredictable way of moving that often make the crowd escapes from their charges. Intensively colourful the masks are covered of a multitude of pieces of cloth in many tones of red.

Duration: 12 Day Safari
Location: Ghana
Togo
Benin
Category: Exploration
Tour Code: TAA901
Price: € 2200 (6-9 travellers)

 

 

Travel Recap:

Day 1 On arrival in Lome you are met at the airport and transferred to your hotel for overnight.
Overnight: Ibis Hotel
Day 2 Morning tour of Lome before you travel from the capital of Togo to the Volta Estuary, crossing the border into Ghana.† Lome is the vibrant capital of Togo and the only African city having been colonized by Germans, British and French. It is also one of the rare capitals in the world on the border with an other country. These elements have developed a special identity reflected in the style of life and in the architecture of the town. Lome is cross point for people, trade and cultures. Visit the central market with its famous Nana Benz, women who have concentrated in heir hands the market of expensive pagne (cloths) coming from Europe and sold in all West Africa;¬† the colonial buildings in the administrative quarter with a flavor of colonial time; the fetish market- where an eclectic assortment of all the necessary ingredients for love potions and magical concoctions are sold. Excursion along the Volta river estuary. We are in the region where the Volta River reaches the Ocean. With a boat it is possible to wander in this "water-land" and to appreciate the environment.
Overnight: Hotel Manet Paradise [B, L, D]
Day 3 Travel to Accra, the capital of Ghana, which has maintained its unique identity despite the fast paced development currently underway in this intriguing African city.† Our first visit of the day is to people specialized in building fantasy coffins. These handcraft-coffins are in shape of: fruits, animals, fish, cars, airplanes; the only limit is the intended occupant's imagination. Started in Africa, these flamboyant coffin designs are collected and exposed in museums. On the agenda is also a visit to the National Museum, one of the first works of independent Ghana. The idea inspiring the Museum is to relate Ghana art to the rest of the continent and to prove the existence of an African history as part of general history of the humanity.† We end our day exploring the old quarter of James Town, inhabited by the autochthonous population known as the Ga.
Overnight: Hotel Till's Nb One [B, L, D]
Day 4 Today's excursion takes you to Elmina Castle, the oldest permanent building in Africa. The Portuguese built the castle in the 15th century. At different times in the castles chequered past it has been used to trade gold, ivory, and slaves.†Outside the castle, there is a wonderful fishing village complete with a harbor full of large colourful fishing canoes. Every day these canoes are piloted by the skilled fisherman who confronts the strong ocean for their livelihood.†The alleys in the old town have a lively atmosphere, harkening back to a time when Elmina was a wild colonial town.†In the old town we turn out attention to the Posuban. The Posuban are the shrines of the 'Asafo companies'. It is at these shrines the warriors used to place their offerings on the large colourful statues.
Overnight: Anomabu Beach Resort [B, L, D]
Day 5 Kumasi is the historical and spiritual capital of the old Ashanti Kingdom. The Ashanti people were one of the most powerful nations in Africa until the end of the 19th century, when the British annexed the Ashanti country to their Gold Coast colony.†The honor offered today to the Asantehene (=King) is the best evidence of the past splendor and strength of Ashanti.†Today with nearly one million inhabitants, Kumasi is a sprawling city with a fantastic central market, one of the biggest in Africa. Every kind of Ashanti craft (leather goods, pottery, kente cloth) is found here, along with just about every kind of tropical fruit and vegetable.

On the agenda is a visit to the Ashanti Cultural Center, which has a rich collection of Ashanti artefacts housed in a wonderful reproduction of an Ashanti house. In the afternoon we attend a traditional Ashanti funeral attended by mourners wearing beautifully red or black togas. We say "funerals" but in fact we mean a "festive" celebration: the deceased is considered being still present in his family. The relatives and friends gather, socialize and celebrate his memory. The chief arrives surrounded by the court in the shade cast by large umbrellas as the drums cue the dancers, whose intricate moves are rich in erotic symbols and gestures.
Overnight: Hotel Miklin or Similar [B, L, D]
Day 6 If scheduled: Akwasidae Festival

Sunday morning Kumasi wakes up slowly. It's noticeable with less traffic, which allows us to have a good look at the specialties of this town: the colonial buildings around the market, the hand painted signs - painted in a real 'urban art' style-, the train which passes through the market and sometimes stops right in the middle, the devoted churchgoer on the way to church dressed up in their best Sunday dress. The visit of Kumasi comes to an end with all these last 'looks of the town', and the visit at the Royal Palace Museum, which opens the gate to a unique collection of gold jewels worn by the Ashanti court.
Overnight: Hotel Premier Palace [B, L, D]
Day 7 Kintampo: we are the edge of Kumasi forest. Some water fall offer to us some cool air before reaching the North and its Sahel weather: drier and hotter. The landscape will change from the lush forest to the wild savannah spread with large Baobab trees. We will stop in tinny villages of Gondja tribe and appreciate the great sense of African hospitability. Gondja are farmers the villages are surrounded by plantations of millet, cotton, and yam.
Overnight: Gariba Lodge [B, L, D]
Day 8 A track brings us to the Togo boarder in a rare visited region. In this region of the savannah live the Dagomba. They build round clay huts with thatched roof. The village chief's house is characteristic by being a large hut with a central pole supporting the roof. It's here the council's elder meet. The entry is framed with pieces of coloured burned clay. In one of these villages we meet a very large settlement of witches, exiled from their villages. We will discuss with them about their life in the village and how they are protected by a special shrine, in charge of "cleaning" their spirits from bad wills. Further to the East the region inhabited by the Bassar. They live in large clay houses with conical roofs and keep the secret of the very old procedure of iron production: a mixing of geology and alchemy knowledge. For example: the needed coal is provided by old women (just old women) who go to the mountains surrounding the villages. And the melting will be not successful if the men, during the time of all the procedure, have sexual activity.
Overnight: Hotel Kara [B, L, D]
Day 9 We enter the land of the Tamberma that live in fortified dwellings. Similar in form to medieval castles, they are one of the most beautiful examples of ancient African architecture. Their style impressed Le Corbusier, who talked about ¬ę sculptural architecture ¬Ľ. In fact the houses are built with hands, layer by layer, putting round balls of mud and shaping them following the design of the house. A kind of sensual gesture, mixing strength, care and aesthetic. Their strong tradition beliefs are proved the presence of big shrines, of a phallic form, at the entrance of their homes. With the permission granted us by the inhabitants we will enter their homes so we can better understand their way of life. Actually their houses are a projection of their anthropology and cosmology: the first ground, with its darkness, represents the death: it is the place of the ancestors; the second floor, open to the sky, represents the life: it is the place where the grand mum keeps the babies as long as she has found which ancestor has come back in the new life. All the family, the food and the animals are kept in the house, for the survival of the family group in case of attack of enemies. For centuries these populations have been seeking refuge in the hard to access Atakora mountain chain to escape from slave trade practiced by Northern Muslim African merchants. After dinner in Sokode, we are invited to a nearby village in order to witness the Tem people perform their ancient fire dance. Accompanied by the deep pounding of drums, the fire dancers slowly move closer and closer to the red hot flames, until some of the dancers fearlessly perform intricate dance steps on top of the smoldering coals. However, these dancers do much more than just dance among the white hot embers, they also perform amazing feats of human bravado, grabbing the embers barehanded and passing them over their body without the slightest indication of pain or injury. Some of the dancers even eat the flaming coals without the slightest burn or blister.
Overnight: Hotel Central [B, L, D]
Day 10 On the way down, the fetish of Dankoli will be the gateway to the voodoo world. Pilgrims plant thousands of wood sticks to testify their prayers to the voodoo. When they are satisfied, they come to sacrifice the promised ransom: a goat, a chicken, a cow. A mound of blood, palm oil and sodabi (local liquor) proves le long line of pilgrims, which have found here a solution to their existential problems. The Royal Palace in Abomey. The walls of the palace are decorated with bas-reliefs representing symbols of the ancient Dahomey kings. Now a museum listed among the World Heritages by the UNESCO, the palace displays the items belonging to the ancient kings: thrones, ancient cult alters, statues, costumes and arms. A way to learn about this Kingdom whose economy was for so long based on the slave trade. A perpetual status of war enabled the Kings to capture and sell thousands slaves. In the middle of the royal courtyard is a temple build with a mixture of clay and human blood. At the height of their power there were up to 4,000 women in the palace harem.† Walking among the buildings will help the visitor to remember the past splendour of the court, who challenged with pride also the Western powerful armies coming to colonize the continent.
Overnight: Hotel Dako [B, L, D]
Day 11 Very close to the Ocean coast, crossing Lake Nokwe by boat, we reach Ganvie, the largest and most beautiful African stilt village. The approximately 18,000 inhabitants, of the Tofinou ethnic group, build their huts on teak stilts and cover the roofs with a thick layer of leaves. Farming fish is the principal activity. The village has been able preserved his particular customs and the environment. In fact despite the long-lasting human presence in a closed environment, the lake is not over fished. Life unfolds each day within the canoes that men, women and children, thanks to the brightly colourful poles, guide with ease. It is with these canoes that men farm and fish, women deliver goods to the market, children go to school and play.†Today, in Ouidah, with its Afro-Portuguese architecture, we find sitting face to face the python temple and the Catholic Cathedral. The laid back attitude of the locals mixes with the thunder of the distant waves on the beach and the rhythm of the drums creates an atmosphere outside of time, very well described by Bruce Chatwin in his book, "The Vice-Roi of Ouidah". Walking the streets, we visit the python temple and we finish our tour of the city by following the "slave route" to the beach where the slaves embarked.

Overnight: Hotel Casa del Papa [B, L, D]
Day 12 Travel from Ouidah to Lome, crossing back into Togo. Today provides your lastl insight into African life: the great voodoo celebration. A village hidden in the high grasses of the Savannah: at least three generations of adepts are having a Voodoo ceremony. To the hypnotic rhythm of the drums and chants, certain dancers fall into a deep trance: eyes rolling back, grimaces, and convulsions, impervious to fire or pain. Sakpata, Heviesso, Mami Water and other voodoos are showing their presence and taking possession of their adepts. In this narrow village, surrounded by the crazy ambiance of the voodoo celebration, finally we understand what people say: "In your Churches you pray God; in our voodoo shrine we become God!".

You will also have time for some last minute shopping before transfer to the airport for your onward arrangements.
Day Room: Hotel Napoéon Lagure or sim.
 
End of Services
TRANSPORT minibus and/or 4 x 4
VISA: Togo: multiple entry visa.
Ghana & Benin: single entry visa
MEALS Lunch: picnics or meals at restaurant (tourist menus)
Dinner: at restaurant of hotels (tourist menus)
LUGGAGE Max 44 lbs, type duffels bags
Cost Includes: Full board from breakfast day 2 to lunch day 12
Transfers as stated
Accommodations as stated
Touring as stated

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