Saturday, 9 June 2012


Accra has its charms, but they are somewhat limited. After a few weeks stuck in the city, Hannah and I had tired of traffic jams, dust, and men pissing by the side of the road. It was time to escape for the day. The question was: where?

Bojo Beach is our usual fall back option, but the gathering clouds suggested it wasn’t a day for sunbathing. We picked up our Bradt guide, and headed to Deli France to mull the options over a cappuccino and croissant (good cafés are one of the city’s charms).

Hannah was in favour of a hotel pool but I persuaded her we should do something a little more cultural. So we decided to head to see the coffin workshop in Teshie, a small town wedged between Accra and Tema. Not an obvious day out, but these coffins, carved into curious and quirky shapes, have become something of an attraction. The guidebooks sell it as a chance to see one of Ghana’s artisan handicrafts being made. The guidebooks are wrong.

Our taxi driver promised that he knew where the workshop was. He didn’t. All we knew was that it was near Coco Beach, Teshie’s own stretch of plastic-bag-and condom-covered sand. It wasn’t. The Ramada Hotel was, however, so we decided to go for a swim first.

The Ramada Hotel’s pool was refreshingly quiet after the ones in Accra, where the poolside is overrun with men looking like James Bond villains and women showing off how good their surgeons are. And the heat in Ghana, even on a cloudy day, makes any pool a welcome refuge.

Two hours later, we headed out to try to find the coffin shop on the way back. The drivers gathered opposite hissed to get our attention. We picked the one nearest and asked him if he knew how to get to the coffin shop.

“Yes, I know it. 15 cedis.”
“No, it’s just 5 minutes away. 3 cedis.”
“No my friend, Labone coffee shop, 15 cedis.”
“Ah no, we said cof-FIN.”
“Yes, yes, 15 cedis.”
“No, cof-FIN – where you put dead people”.
“I know it, the one in Labone.”

We actually spotted the workshop as we drove and quickly asked the driver to stop. Inside were four coffins – a fish, two coke bottles, and one Guinness bottle – and a dusty, deserted workshop with a courtyard behind. I asked the man sat by the door if we could see where they make the coffins.

“They make them here. 10 cedis to look. Each.”
“But I can see them from here.”
“10 cedis to look around.”

I muttered a colloquial take on ‘forget this’, and we headed off, away from two laughing Ghanaians and Africa’s crappest tourist attraction. Teshie has few other sights except rubbish pits, sewers and straggly goats, so we jumped into the next taxi and sped back to Accra. Which at least has good coffee shops, albeit some that apparently store corpses. 

* I wasn't in the mood for taking photos, but you can see the coffins here:

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