Tamale looked a lot more like what I expected Sub-Saharan Africa to look like. Looking out the window as our plane flew in, I could see the expanse of red sand speckled with trees, thatch-roofed mud huts and huge termite mounds. The white bodies of cows and goats came into view as we got closer. 

As we drove the few miles into town, I noted a few general things about Tamale (most of which were pretty consistant everywhere we went in Ghana): 

  • Especially in Tamale, there were goats and skinny African sheep (which look pretty much just like goats) everywhere. They’re not fenced in or anything. They just wander around and apparently know who they belong to and wander home at night. 
  • There seemed to be a lot more motorcycles than I see in the states 
  • Everyone carried things on their heads. It was quite impressive how the women carried big bowls full of stuff on their heads. They must have necks of steel. They start young. Many of the younger girls were also carrying stuff.
  • Everything was bright and colorful, especially the clothes. The flight attendants on our domestic flight from Accra to Tamale were wearing bright orange skirts. Schoolchildren wore uniforms with shirts in shades of vivid blue, pink or yellow. Women wore dresses or skirts in colorful patterns. 
  • A woman with a baby would carry it on her back with a piece of cloth wrapped around the baby and tied around the woman’s chest. (Photo courtesy of Katrina). 
  • Younger girls usually keep their heads shaved until they are of marrying age (I think around 17, but I’m not sure). 
  • A lot of the shops have kind of ridiculous christian-ish names such as “Clap for Jesus Auto Parts” or “O Lord Barbershop.” Similarly, almost all the cars have stickers in their back window with sayings. My favorites were “except Jesus,” and this message from the back of a dirt truck; “home spoilers shall be shamed.” 
  • The North part of Ghana is about 60 percent Muslim. We heard the call to prayer everyday in Tamale and sometimes saw groups bowing on their prayer rugs if we happened to be driving somewhere at a prayer time. 
  • The buildings are mainly little shack-like structures. A lot of buildings and walls were turned into ads, painted red, yellow or neon green and emblazoned with the name of one of the big Ghanaian phone companies such as Glo or Vodafone. 
  • It seemed like there were kids everywhere! A lot of them didn’t wear shoes and seemed to be left to their own devices much of the time. They were always the most happy to see us, sprinting out to the edge of the street just to smile and wave as we passed. They were adorable, and thankfully we got to hang out with a bunch of them at the Tamale Children’s Home the whole first week of the trip!