Ghana: Elmina – Elmina Castle

Elmina Castle is a massive fortified castle at the tip of a promontory in the center of Ghana’s Coast. It is the most spectacular and famous one among roughly 40 colonial forts and castles of the Gold Coast (present day Ghana). Elmina was built in 1482 by the Portuguese and as such is the oldest European structure in the entire sub Saharan Africa. Elmina stands for “mine” as the fort and the city were the main trading post for the African gold in the 15-17th centuries – at one point 1/10th of the world’s gold passed through here. Eventually, slave trade took over when thousands of West Africans were shipped to Brazil and later the Caribbean (after the Dutch took over the Gold Coast). Nearly a thousand slaves were held in the castle’s squalid basement at any given time waiting to pass through the “door of no return” and onto the cargo ships bound for the new world. The castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been more or less restored and whitewashed.