In the coastal country’s capital Accra, the South African musician savored street food and a different kind of music, in tandem with the sound of the waves.
For Unathi Nkayi, life is all about investing in experiences, be it in her music or her travel sojourns.
The popular South African musician and Idols South Africa judge has lived in and visited several countries around the world, but one of her most abiding memories of a holiday was last year in the coastal African country Ghana.
“I felt the beauty of the continent in Ghana and her pride and respect and her anointing,” Nkayi tells FORBES AFRICA.
In December, she accompanied a friend who was traveling to the West African country, and spent six days in the capital Accra, well into the New Year.
They stayed at the Mövenpick, situated on a busy street down the road from the military base, the presidential house and in close proximity to the beach.
“I’m a beach person so wherever I travel for leisure, I have to be on the coast,” says Nkayi.
On New Year’s Day, she was at one of Ghana’s most popular beaches, Labadi Beach, and it was the most beautiful she had seen – and what attracted her to it more, were the Afro beats emanating from it as she arrived at the parking lot.
The air was spiked with a medley of music, from Burna Boy to Tiwa Savage to D’banj and Wizkid.
As she sauntered closer to the white sandy shores, the music got louder and it became apparent it came from the restaurants serving food to serpentine queues of visitors on the beach.
With music in the air, and the clear blue waters of the ocean under her feet, Nkayi experienced a serene calm as she closed her eyes and shut out her city life in far-away Johannesburg.
The two-hour professional spa massage she received on the beach, with the sound of the waves in her ear, made her de-stress totally. After that, it was time for some soul food on the busy streets of Accra.
“You park on the streets and your table and chairs are on the street. And then, they bring you a tank with live fish and you choose,” she says of the unique experience savoring local delicacies.
She relished her fish with jollof rice and some plantain, the local staples that took her on a culinary journey.
“It was very multicultural in that sense, and experiencing the vastness of Ghana which is absolutely beautiful.”
Apart from the food, the culture and the scenery, Nkayi greatly appreciated the people.
“They are the most gracious people I have met,” she says of their welcoming nature.
Nkayi grew up in Namibia, England and Wales, studied in the Netherlands and Spain, has traveled to France and Belgium, but says nothing compares to visiting countries like Ghana.
“There’s a grace and respect I feel that I don’t feel in the rest of the world,” she says. “It is almost royal.”
She was especially impressed with the way Ghanaian men treat women.
“They adore women… there’s a deliberate acknowledgement of the feminine presence of power,” she says.
Hailing from a country where the femicide rate is one of the highest in the world, she was struck by these genteel attributes.
“For example, there are certain things I do not wear in South Africa. There are certain parts of my closet I only go to when I go on holiday [to places like Ghana], and that is because I know that the West African man will not whistle at me, and he will not call me ma bhebheza [meaning ‘my baby’ as a form of cat-calling].
“There’s an adoration West Africa has for women that I don’t get to experience in any other part of the world,” she says, adding this is something all countries could learn from.
More on Ghanaian hospitality: on one particular morning in Accra, she and her friend visited a local couple who cooked them a three-course meal for brunch.
Alcohol of every kind was offered, including some of the finest from Nkayi’s home country, South Africa.
But what she loved most was the sauce that accompanied her meal.
“There’s a Ghanaian fish sauce I love called shito,” she says.
It’s a hot pepper soup that consists of fish or vegetable oil, ginger, dried fish, prawns, crustaceans, tomatoes, garlic, peppers and spices.
The couple gifted her with three jars of shito that they made, which she carried back home, and thrust into her freezer, so she could enjoy them for longer.
And what can South Africa learn from Ghana?
“Everything!” says Nkayi.
“We need to be more open, and we need to be more hospitable. We need to look at our own continent the same way we marvel at traveling to America or Europe… Africa is beautiful and I marvel at how complex she is.”
Nkayi hopes to visit Ghana again, but not just yet.
Her next trip is to another pristine beach, at Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, for the carnival in February 2020.
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