Hanging out in Accra’s Golden Triangle: Nmai Dzorn, Adjiringanor, Trasacco and East Legon
One of Africa’s most vibrant metropolises, Accra today is a city for good times, art, and food. Late night bars and clubs stand shoulder to shoulder with a plethora of late night churches. In Osu, Accra has its own Oxford street which perhaps attracts the most tourists especially to its fine restaurants and night life. The plushest areas and most sought after addresses include Airport residential area (where I had coffee at Josie’s Cuppa Cappuccino recently), Cantonments, Labone, Roman Ridge, Spintex, Dzorwulu, Airport hills as well as the Golden triangle area. The genesis of Accra can be traced along the coast particularly in the James Town area where it all started.
The Golden triangle constitutes the core of 4 relatively newly developing/developed neighbourhoods. They are Nmai Dzorn from the upper tip of the triangle, Adjiringanor directly below it and Trasacco and East Legon (and part of Adjiringanor) at the base. These 4 are hemmed in by road boundaries. On the west from the upper tip of the triangle is the Nmai Dzorn-Adjiringanor road, around the Adjiringanor road as well as Freetown and Lagos Avenue towards the base. On the East the triangle is bounded by the University farm road starting from the Nii Sowah Din memorial JSS school (or Nmai Dzorn School junction as its popularly known). Both the east and west boundaries have the N1 or Tema motorway serving as the base of the triangle. The city’s only airport, the Kotoka International airport as well as its most popular mall (Accra Mall) at the Tetteh Quarshie interchange are all located within 15-30 minute drive from the Golden triangle. The upscale Villagio estate is also located in the vicinity of the Tetteh Quarshie interchange.
These 4 areas have spawned the latest restaurants, bars, movie houses and shopping centres in Accra. It is home to Accra’s plushest mansions and where the rich and powerful congregate banks and financial institutions flood in to cater for their needs or perhaps more accurately to tell them where to invest their moneys. On the Lagos Avenue alone in East Legon there must be arguably enough banks as one would typically see in London’s square mile or the financial district of New York city. The seams of the golden triangle as is usually the case in plush areas in most cities is bursting. Development in the surrounding areas such as the East Legon hills situated in North Nmai Dzorn is triggering a mini “gold rush” as investors scrape together funds to buy land and properties.
MyWeku Restaurant is sited in Nmai Dzorn off the Nmai Dzorn-Adjiringanor road. Zoomlion a wholly owned Ghanaian company and one of Africa’s foremost waste management businesses is headquartered here. Galaxy Secondary International school is located within 5 minutes walk from Nmai Dzorn towards Ashaley Botwe. Tower Hamlets International school as well as the Canadian International school are all located in Nmai Dzorn. Shop N Save a major grocery outlet have opened a branch in Nmai Dzorn in the last 3 months. Controversial pastor Obinim has his church, a couple of half completed apartments and his guest house – Abroso – in Nmai Dzorn.
It is not so much the plush mansions that interests me about Adjiringanor. My favourite bit of this neighbourhood is the commerce that envelopes both sides of the Adjiringanor road. Home furnishing stores, luxury car dealerships as well as more mundane every day street food stores vie for attention on the road. Jay Gyebi’s Mukase chic is now located here off the Nmai Dzorn-Adjiringanor road near the Ability square.
Ex President J.J Rawlings’ private residence is located on the East Legon-Trasacco estate road. A couple of restaurants including Coco Vanilla are also located on this road. In the main the Trasacco area contains Ghana’s most expensive estate. The estate gave the area its name.
East Legon is the oldest in the Golden triangle. Unlike other old neighbourhoods, however, it has managed to continually remould and regenerate itself. It is fully developed with excellent tarred roads. Most of its old buildings have received a make over as more and more businesses flood into the area to snap them up either for rent or to purchase. It remains the heart beat of the golden triangle. The two most important roads in East Legon, Lagos avenue and the Boundary road are home to numerous businesses. Restaurants and eateries such as Starbites, Padthai, Pinocchio, Burgher & Relish, Lord of the Wings are all located here. It is also home to the popular ANC shopping centre and Odile Tevie’s Nubuke Foundation.
I have travelled extensively from historical Istanbul to Lisbon; from Bangladesh to Cuba and Marrakesh to Milan to mention a few. I have lived in London for more than two decades interspersed with a summer in New York/New Jersey. None of these places impresses me more than Ghana’s Accra, especially the Golden triangle area of Accra. Yes, the public transportation system is poor hence there are too many cars clogging the roads, the roads in some of the residential areas, including some of the best areas are woeful and certain amenities and infrastructure are lacking. However, all this withstanding, huge swathes of this 4 million strong city, is as vibrant, colourful, alive, resurgent and commercially bubbly as any I have experienced.
I have spent the last 4 weeks traversing the city and hanging out in the Golden triangle area with two close friends (James and Matt) from England. Apart from a single backpacking trip to Cape Coast we hang out mainly in Nmai Dzorn, Adjiringanor, Trasacco and East Legon. We explored every nook and cranny of Nmai Dzorn. The gym at the NHTC estate became a regular morning and early evening hang out for James. Local Ghanaian restaurant, Agartha, became the place to get fufu and goat light soup. Asmau our favourite Hausa koko seller, a little further away from our base, on the Nmai Dzorn Papafio road which leads to East Legon hills, became our go to spot for takeaway breakfast.
The Nii Sowah Din Junior Secondary school area (School junction) became a place to banter with locals and to get call and data credit on our phones for the internet and to make calls. The local Nmai Dzorn Shop N Save was the place to get imported and locally manufactured high end goodies and food stuff. Across the road from another hang out, the Jokovan Nigerian restaurant and next to the entrepreneur Dzine Dzakuma’s ready to wear Ghanaian clothing shop, was what I imagined was a cool little bakery (Tettey’s bakery) destined to become popular as its the first of its kind in the area. Unfortunately as England beckoned, we never got the chance to taste its goodies as it still had the “opening soon” sign on it on our departure.
Our biggest exploratory mission in Nmai Dzorn was arduous. We trekked from our location in our residence next to the MyWeku restaurant to the Zoomlion headquarters to the vast University of Legon farm lands, through to Trasacco then back a few meters away from the Adjiringanor road. We must have walked for just over 2 hours. The mission was to track down the private residence of former President of Ghana, Jerry John Rawlings. We did! We did not fancy the walk back so we took a taxi which dropped us off home in a little over ten minutes from the ex-President’s home.
The Nmai Dzorn-Adjiringanor road (we lived off it on Nii Adjei Mensah street opposite Barons bar and grill) became our only route out of town towards the Accra mall, Spintex, the airport and beyond towards the beaches at Kokrobite and Bojo beach.
In other parts of the Golden triangle – Adjiringanor and East Legon, we experienced the restaurants (my favourite had to be the Living Room restaurant) and the local culture. I was invited to what was an extraordinary mini trade fair full of about 50-60 young creative entrepreneurs showcasing their businesses at the Crystal park off the boundary road in East Legon to hundreds of cool and hip folks. The Living room restaurant became a regular takeaway spot and for some reason we were always lucky to have had our orders taken by surely the best waitress in Accra, Mabel Torgbor!
My East Legon neighbourhood highlight was interviewing the founder of the Nubuke Foundation, Odile Tevie on Lome Avenue in East Legon.
The rate at which businesses including international schools are moving in to serve the needs of this burgeoning middle to upper class part of Accra indicates that the cultural and economic landscape of the Golden triangle will look as different as it did when I was here only 11 months ago! If the “opening soon” signs on eateries, hotels, fashion shops and other creative businesses are anything to go by then this bit of Accra will become unrecognisable in the next few years. I used to say to folks that there is no need to venture into central Accra as the Accra mall and other businesses made East Legon fully self-sustainable. Now I believe the Accra mall area will soon become too far to travel to shop or eat as Nmai Dzorn, Trasacco and Adjiringanor also become self-sustainable. Hanging out for us revolved mostly around food and not once did we feel the need to move out of our enclave in Nmai Dzorn to hunt for good restaurants or more informal street type eateries. Long may that continue!