Today our tour lands us in Tamale, the capital of the Northern region. The place to be. The most hospitable city of Ghana, the gate way to north. This is a relatively new city which at the turn of the last century was just a cluster of villages known mainly for the numerous shea butter trees -the ‘tama’ -from which it got the name Tamale.
In 1905 it became the capital of the Northern Province of the British colony of the Gold Coast. The North played a very important role in the 2nd world war. Two of the vestiges of the period are the old barracks and the old airport, which was built for military purposes. In addition to these, there is the monument to the royal wedding between King George V and Queen Elizabeth I.
Now it is the capital town of the Northern Region of Ghana. Tamale is Ghana’s fourth-largest city. It is a home to not less than 360,579 according to the 2010 census and is the fastest-growing city in West Africa. The town is located 600 km (370 mi) north of Accra. Most residents of Tamale are Muslims, as reflected by the multitude of mosques in the city, most notably the Central Mosque.
Due to its central location, it serves as a hub for all administrative and commercial activities in the Northern region, doubling as the political, economic and financial capital of the Northern region. The centre of Tamale hosts regional branches of financial institutions and a considerable number of international nongovernmental organisations. Though Yendi is the traditional capital of the Kingdom of Dagbon as the local and the district chiefs of Tamale are subservient to the Dagomba Paramount King in Yendi
Tamale has developed and transformed significantly in the last few years. The new dimension of Tamale’s development is the rush by various companies to open branches in the city. The hospitality industry has grown significantly, with new hotels and guest houses built around Tamale. Tamale grew from a conglomeration of towns where one could find an architectural blend of traditional mud houses and more modern buildings.
Tamale’s new and modern facilities include the newly constructed Tamale Stadium, replacing the town’s former principal football pitch, Kaladan Park, with a world-class venue. Indeed, many improvements to Tamale’s infrastructure occurred in the period leading up to the 2008 African Cup of Nations tournament. Further improvements were made, particularly to Tamale’s road system.
The most recent development is the Tamale Teaching Hospital, a mega structure and a world class referral centre for the three Northern regions. This hospital serves as training institution of University for Development studies medical school and the nursing training institutions in the city.
Upon arriving in the city, one will be quick to notice that the roads of the city are occupied with motorcycles with mapukas being the most patronised. This, however, does not interfere with the steady smooth flow of traffic on the major roads of the city.
Tourism in Tamale
For the cultural tourist, visits to Jakarayilli and Kukuo, suburbs of the city will be rewarding, as they are centres for traditional weaving and pottery.
The City is also noted leather ware and the place to see the complete chain of activities involved from tanning raw cowhide to finished sandals, bags or boots is Zongoni.
The artisanal blacksmiths who make simple tools, musical instruments and bangles can be found at Sabongida. Shea butter is the raw material for body creams. Production of this important cream is undertaken in villages around the city and all districts from the shea fruit.
All these traditional crafts and products can be bought in all the markets around the town but the best places to see these crafts are the Center for National Culture and Aboabo Market.
In spite of its status as the fastest growing city in West Africa and the fourth-largest regional capital, the city is unique in the coexistence of centuries’ old traditional culture and modernity typified by the modern office blocks standing side by side with old round huts with conical thatch along dual carriageways.
Other cultural features to be observed in city are the numerous shrines spread in all major traditional quarters such as Choggu. However, to get a more practical benefit of shrines, which are usually only used for divination you have to travel some 24 km to Tali near Tolon where a sacred grove has been used to create centuries old virgin vegetation around a shrine, the Jaagbo Shrine, which serves as a sanctuary for birds and wildlife.
To get a better insight into city’s culture, groups can arrange to pay courtesy call on any traditional chief, the chief of Tamale, the Dakpema or the Yaa Naa ‘s representative the Gulkpe Naa. Better still get lessons in culture at the Centre for National Culture or the Tamale Institute for Cross Cultural Studies.
The central district is a modern avenue of shops lined dual carriageway and so you have the choice to shop for all you need or sit in a bar for a cold drink or eat in a restaurant.
Hotels in Tamale
The hotels in the city provide good value for money. The best hotels in the city offers clean rooms, a telephone, a refrigerator, a wardrobe and an en-suite bathroom. Some of the best hotels are the Global Dream Service Apartment, Safui Memorial Lodge, M&J Hospitality Lodge, Mariam hotel, Picorna Hotel, Radach Hotel and Discovery hotel and a host of others are lovely places in the city you should stay in.
24km from the city you enter the Savelugu/Nanton District. This is the cradle of the Dagbon. The first capital, Yeni Dabari is found near the shrines of Sitobu, founder of Dagbon, Nyagse who conquered most of present day Dagbon and Luro who consolidated the Kingdom.
Tolon/Kumbungu District is in the southern part of the region. It is a distance of about 24km from Tamale. The district prides itself in natural, historic and cultural attractions.
The scenic beauty of the savanna vegetation is best seen in the flat low lying landscape of this district and a shea butter plantation provides beautiful afforestation near Kumbungu.