One of the few countries to escape the turmoil that engulfed West Africa in the latter years of the 1990s, Ghana has long been a haven – both for refugees and those in search of a break. Blessed with a tropical climate, the country is one of the world’s largest exporters of cocoa and boasts a ruggedly beautiful coastline and some truly spectacular countryside. Accra, the capital, has leaped ahead in recent years and now offers palm-fringed beaches, a cosmopolitan social scene and some fabulous places to pick up a bargain. While pockets of poverty remain, Accra is transforming itself into a truly modern capital city and the entrepreneurs – and tourists – aren’t far behind. Perhaps that’s why Nada Moukarzel, owner of hip new lifestyle boutique La Maison, chose to set up shop there. She tells RIH why Accra is well worth the six hour flight…

Accra

You should visit Accra because… the people are warm and welcoming, the weather is hot and the culture is rich. One of the most fascinating aspects of the city currently is the stark contrast between the swiftly developing centre and the poverty-stricken periphery. It’s not unusual to see a modern building adjacent to a slum.

The best thing about Accra is… that it’s possible to have both a family life and a work life and be successful in both. It’s a place where you can still enjoy the simple things in life, unlike in more developed countries where there is a faster pace that often revolves around materialistic choices.

The worst thing about Accra is… the traffic, at any time of the day.

Ghanaians are… a very nice, laid back, friendly and happy people.

My favourite spot is… The waterfalls in Hohoe.

My favourite shops are… My shop, La Maison, where you will find an inspiring and curated collection of eclectic interior furniture and accessories; Wild Gecko for local arts and crafts; Suntrade for local beads; and Glover Gallery for Ghanaian art. While there look out for paintings from Professor Glover himself, Eklou, Larry Otoo and many other great painters, sculptures and also antique fabrics (Kente cloth).

Accra

When you’re in Accra be sure to try… Tante Marie for a taste of local food.

My favourite place to eat is… Santoku. It is Ghana’s coolest new restaurant, which is one of the few places to serve up contemporary Japanese fare in West Africa.

Start your night out… With a drink at the bar at Santoku, where they serve champagne by the glass – it’s definitely not what you would normally find in Ghana.

The best parties take place at… Labadi Beach.

Accra’s fashion scene is… all about a fabric company called Vlisco. Colourful fabrics are key to African style and culture. On a trip to Ghana, an African print dress makes the perfect souvenir.

The most overrated sight in the city is… Independence Square.

But you definitely shouldn’t miss… There are so many unique sights in Accra – and Ghana as a whole – but my favourites are the Akosombo Dam, Lake Volta, which is the world’s largest artificial lake, and the Ada and Kakum National Parks.

Accra

To experience the city like a local… Drive around in a trotro (local taxi bus), and visit Kokrobitey village.

Something you won’t find anywhere else… are the endless stretches of the beaches of Cape Coast, which are flanked by coconut trees. For me these sights represent pure Africa.

Take home some… Arty crafts from Wild Gecko, African fabric from Woodin, and Cape Coast’s pineapples and fresh lobsters.