Tourism in Ghana mainly revolves around visit the beach and the historical attractions. The town of Elmina has them both. El-mina, has the famed Palm beach where relaxing in the African sun is unavoidable. Although, the township is locally known as Edina, its actual and official name is Elmina means the mine. The town got its name from the extensive gold mining that was carried out in the colonial era ever since European invasion.
The second, yet the main attraction of the town is Saint George’s Castle generally known as Elmina Castle located about 75 miles west of Accra. This humongous castle is situated in the coastal town of Elmina, in the Cape Coast area of Ghana facing the sea. The Castle of Elmina is most probably the oldest European-built structure in sub-Saharan Africa. It is the reason why most people fly to Ghana and pay a pilgrimage to the souls of those who departed for no return from this very place.
The History of this castle is full of pain, sadness and deep sorrow. Although, the Portuguese, who founded this Castle in 1482, erected it to protect the gold-rich lands discovered in 1471. At the time, it was named “Sao Jorge and Mina” and completed according to its original plan in 1486. The Portuguese navigators selected the castles site, as it was strategically located at the end of a narrow promontory bounded on two sides by the Atlantic Ocean and the Benya River or lagoon, providing easy access to the sea for trade. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Portuguese enjoyed a trade boom importing vast quantities of old and new cloths, blankets, linen, copper, brassware, millions of “manilas” (metal bracelets), iron kettles and bars in exchange for gold dust and ornaments supplied by Mina. However, the trade created a need for labor and soon, the castle of Elmina started to serve as a slave castle.
The Dutch conquered it in 1637 and continued to use it as a base for slave trade. They expanded the castle shortly after they took over and gave it its present shape and structure. The slave trade continued under the Dutch until 1871 when the fort became a possession of the British Empire
The Gold Cost as Ghana turned as one of the richest markets for slave traders during the peak of the slave trade, hundreds of thousands of people were captured and passed through Elmina and were shipped into the Americas and Caribbean over a period of around 300 years. The actual number of people killed, tortured, transported, sold and raped is unknown to date. The areas that were originally built for storage of commodities and gold were converted into dungeons for the captured slaves. Men and Women were kept in separate Dungeons and in small storage rooms, dozens of men were forced to live for months, on scare ration and extreme conditions causing half of them to die before even their shipping.
The castles tall stone walls, with chipped white paint and dull red roof confined within it hundreds of slaves at the same time. From outside, the wide courtyard, green and lush, tall palm trees facing the blues of Atlantic Ocean create a heavenly picture. But as soon as you step in, the horrific interior is quite the reverse. The castles narrow door with a skull and bones carved on the top, is called the Death Door from where the more rebellious slaves were sent to beheaded. The wide stone courtyard, is the place where the slave women were brought and their white masters picked one of them to satisfy their urges, the woman getting pregnant were freed, those who did not were made to live until they were shipped or dead.
The last door to see in the Elmina Castle, is the Door of No Return The narrow tunnel leading to this door only wide enough to fit one person, is the point from where slaves were loaded on ships and sent far off forever. Half of them, would die during the horrific captivity and tortures while those sent off shore, would barely make it to their destinations while kept in ships basement, with no food or waters for days.
The castle is a living monument of the limits at which humans can reach and harm each other. The extreme at which colors of skin can decide ones fate. Castle of Elmina, is a must visit for those daring to swallow the pain that flies in its air, to date. It is the burning heart of Ghana.