Akwasidae Festival Ashanti Kingdom. Travel serendipity. Very little was showing on TripAdvisor in Akosombo, Ghana. The first hotel was sold out. The second was a little too local. We headed into town to find some food and was unsuccessful. We then turned the car around and headed back to the local hotel but spied another hotel on the lake. We pulled the car in at dusk and walked to the lake and spied two docks with tables. As I decided which dock to sit at, a couple beckoned me over. It was a Canadian couple on a 4-week trip of Ghana. They were heading to Kumasi to visit the Ashanti Kingdom the following day, just like me. Except, they knew something I didn’t. The Ashanti Kingdom holds an incredible and colorful ceremony every 6th Sunday.
Lake Volta, where I met the Canadian couple
But, I nearly visited Kumasi and missed all of this. My poor research, actually very little research resulted in my ignorance.
But due to luck, I learned about the event just hours before. But it would have not happened, if the first hotel was not sold out, we found food in town, or I sat on the dock on the right instead of the left, where I spoke to the Canadians. This is the serendipity of travel.
Marlon, my friend/guide/driver (he’s a triple threat), and I left in near darkness heading to Kumasi in the center of Ghana.
The Ashanti people transitioned from a tributary state to a hierarchal kingdom in the 1670s while in 1680 Kumasi became the capital of the kingdom. Legend recalls the king united the dispersed clans as the chief-priest called down a Golden Stool from the heavens into the lap of King Osei Tutu I. The Golden Stool was a symbol of the united Ashanti Kingdom. The Golden Stool remains at the palace in Kumasi today. Osei Tutu began a massive consolidation and centralization of the Ashanti people. The empire’s wealth grew over time due to its strategic location on the Trans-Saharan trade routes and trading with the Europeans on the coast.
After nearly a century of warfare with the British, the Ashanti were finally defeated in 1901 after the War of the Golden Stool, and Ashanti Kingdom was annexed with some of the Royal Family exiled to the Seychelles. Upon Ghana’s independence from the British in 1957, the Ashanti Kingdom entered in a state union with Ghana. And since 1999, the king rules as an absolute monarch. The Ashanti people today number over three million beating hearts.
We arrived at the Manhyia Palace at midday. The Manhiya Palace (today a museum) was built by the British in 1925, after the Brits destroyed the previous one. The 1925 iteration was given to the Ashanti as a gift. King Prempeh I accepted the Brit’s offer only after they paid the British for the value of the palace.
The grounds of the palace were teeming with activity and anticipation for the event. And a wide smile crossed my face, besides seeing this amazing celebration, there was a special guest visiting, Prince Charles. My travel serendipity continued.
Prince Charles comes to Ghana
Akwasidae Festival is held every six weeks on the grounds of the palace. This day is to honor and commemorate the ancestors of the Ashanti Kingdom. The King, bedazzled in gold, hosts this event and is greeted by his subjects and other royal members in the courtyard adjacent to the palace.
I stood in front of the gates of the palace, school children were lined up, clutching both UK and Ghana flags, waiting to welcome Prince Charles. Heavy security patrolled the grounds. Local chiefs paraded in with their entourages. Locals buzzed around in anticipation. Western tourists milled about. Two buses passed me overflowing with the press. The energy was contagious.
I passed down the road with the children lined up anticipating the next batch of VIPs, as I avoided security teams and the next local chieftain.
Outside the royal courtyard, several chiefs had lined up with their entourages, protected by colorful umbrellas. Throngs of people continued onto the courtyard.
I followed the crowds into the palace grounds and I was simply dazzled by the colors and sounds of the gathered masses awaiting their King. I easily imagined this event taking places a hundred or two hundred years ago. Hundred of locals were bedazzled in their finest colors and traditional outfits, seated throughout the courtyard. Many were protected by vibrant and ornate umbrellas. And some were attended by their entourage.
At the back of the courtyard were scores of tourists who were visiting for the day, covered by a tent. Music blared. Some of the chiefs had brought their own musical ensembles. They appeared to be competing, with who could produce the loudest music.
I positioned myself near the center of the grounds and mixed in with the official press. I took advantage of my great positioning by taking in the scene and taking tons of photos for over an hour. Eventually, security discovered me and pushed/directed me toward a group of tourists.
At the exact moment when I was moved away from my perch, Prince Charles entered the grounds, and I was swept into his collective. Within the current, I nearly collided with the Prince, before I was ejected out of the scrum. I laughed at myself at my continued serendipity.
Soon after, the King entered the courtyard.
I spent the rest of the day taking in the amazing Akwasidae Festival, thanking my good fortune.
Akwasidae Festival Ashanti Kingdom
Ghana, my 128th country.