I am in the travel business, so I need to know why so many people call Jamaica, Little Ghana.
Many Jamaicans seem to have the same initial reaction when they arrive in Ghana for the very first time. “It feels so familiar. It reminds me of home. I feel so comfortable.”
Why was that, I wondered. So I did a little research and here’s what I learned.
Familiar Faces and Welcoming Hospitality
Many Jamaicans see themselves reflected in the faces of the Ghanaian people. There is a reason for this. According to ship records kept during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade era, the majority of enslaved Africans taken from Africa to Jamaica were the Akan people of the Gold Coast region, now known as Ghana. The Akan ethnic group comprises 47.5% of Ghana’s population today. So no wonder there are similar physical features shared between Jamaicans and Ghanaians.
And there is nothing quite like the easy-going, world renowned hospitality of Ghanaians which welcomes visitors right from arrival at the airport. Akwaaba! (Welcome!) This resonates with Jamaican visitors because it is the same kind of welcome that they extend to visitors to Jamaica.
The Land and Weather
Ghana and Jamaica are tropical countries and tourists from all across the globe flock to their beautiful white sand beaches adorned with swaying palm trees that hug the shores. But more than beaches, both countries also boast peaceful rolling hills and valleys with similarly constructed homes built into the hillsides. There are also rugged mountains and rainforests, and emerald green lush regions, as well as as waterfalls and rushing rivers.
Markets and Food
The open-air markets of Ghana are noisy, boisterous and vibrant places where sellers hawk everything from food to small appliances to clothes and so much more. It looks and sounds chaotic, but there is a definite order to the chaos. To Jamaicans, it is much like shopping at home and the typical haggling or bargaining over prices is not new to them since it is the same way in Jamaica
When it comes to food, some traditions have spanned time and distance. A meal such as Ghana’s waakye is very similar to Jamaican rice and peas. Fried ripe plantain is another common dish, and so are a host of other dishes including goat, Jamaica’s okra stew and Ghana’s okra soup, and of course, there are the familiar fruits such as papaya (paw paw), guava, mango, coconut, pineapple and the list goes on.
Even the sight of street hawkers weaving in and out of busy traffic and cajoling passengers to buy their wares is a familiar sight to visiting Jamaicans. So are the food sellers set up at kiosks along the side of the road where regular customers stop to buy a hot, savory breakfast, lunch or dinner. Make no mistake about it, street food often features some of the most delicious and affordable meals in both countries.
Music and Dance
So much of the world’s music and dance traditions originated from Africa, so the music cadences, beats, rhythm and sounds of Ghana are familiar to Jamaicans. It works the other way too, Jamaica’s distinctive reggae music is evident in some of Ghana’s music today, and Rita Marley’s music studio just outside Ghana’s capital city of Accra, is a testament to that influence.
Tro-tros and Route Mini-Buses
In Ghana it is the tro-tros, and in Jamaica it is the route buses. Different names for the same thing. These ubiquitous vans ply their routes through crowded streets, picking up passengers along the way. By the way, they don’t start moving until they are full, and that means filled to the brim with each seat taken. It also means that schedules are extremely flexible. But these vans are relatively safe and reliable and get people where they want to go. Everyone understands how it works. The driver drives, and the mate hangs out the side of the door or with his head and shoulders out the window yelling destinations and indicating stops. He also collects the money from passengers.
Here’s a Thought
There are a lot more similarities between Ghana and Jamaica, I have mentioned just a few. And to be sure, there are a lot of things that are completely different about the two countries. However, if you are not ready to commit to a long international trip to Ghana at this time, then why not visit Jamaica for a small taste of Ghana?