As the sun set on the final day of 2023, I reflected on an incredible adventure that brought me to the center of Africa and the crossroads of civilizations in Istanbul. I am Gwen, the creator behind the Gwen Beloti Jewelry brand—a go-to name for women's gold jewelry—and a staunch supporter of narratives that bring people together through shared experiences. More than simply a vacation, this trip to Africa—specifically Ghana—with a quick but enlightening detour in Istanbul, Turkey, was an unforgettable adventure. It was an adventure that brought us closer to our human origins and taught us new things.
The Ghanaian Sojourn
Ghana, a country brimming with history and culture, was the starting point of my African voyage. Batik fabric creation was my first interaction with their colorful and rich community. Stunning designs on fabric are created with wax and dye in this ancient art. The elaborate procedure, a waltz of wax and color, was an immersion into the rich traditions of Ghana rather than just an art class.
Up next, a jollof cooking class, which I highly anticipated as a person who switched to a plant-based diet four years ago. The traditional West African meal jollof is a rainbow of tastes and hues filled with vegetables and grains. As I followed the instructions, I felt like I was stirring a pot of history, with each ingredient telling a tale of the place.
El Mina Castle
A moving experience was our visit to El Mina Castle. Standing as a symbol of the people's resiliency and fortitude in the face of adversity, the fortress spoke volumes about their history. The gloomy reminder of history compelled us to remember but also to learn and progress.
A thrilling seven-bridge canopy trek in Kakum National Park was a challenge I almost didn’t partake in but so glad that I did. I felt free and amazed as I stood precariously over the verdant foliage several feet in the air. Going for a stroll amid the trees was a one-of-a-kind chance to take in the splendor of nature.
Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum
I will always remember my visit to the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum. Like me, Kwame Nkrumah attended a historically black college/university. He was a visionary whose fight for independence and principles changed Ghana and Africa forever. Stepping upon the grounds that honored his memory was a moving experience.
Black Star Square
Black Star Square, often called Independence Square, was another must-see. My thoughts turned to the past and how our triumphs and tragedies have shaped our present and future as I saw this emblem of independence and perseverance.
My voyage took a magical turn during a stopover in Istanbul, Turkey, after seeing Ghana's brilliant colors and genuine kindness. A fascinating fusion of Asian and European influences, this city is a real gastronomic treasure trove. I could tell I was in for a sensory feast the second my shoes hit the cobblestone streets.
The first stop on my food journey around Istanbul was Yemek Nerede Yenir, Supreme Kahvalti, Giriftar Cafe Suleymaniye, where I had a classic Turkish breakfast. I enjoyed a lavish buffet while admiring the skyline on a beautiful rooftop. Each bite was a fascinating journey of tastes and traditions, from the delicious Turkish coffee to the olive, honey, and all the rest. Of course the meal included cheese, which I did not have, but my lovely tour guide indulged.
Later for lunch we enjoyed a delicious vegan meal. The city isn’t known for its vegan cuisine but we managed to find a lovely quaint spot in the old Galata neighborhood. Among the labyrinths of narrow streets and buildings, we came across this restaurant serving original plant-based versions of traditional Turkish cuisine. And, just like the city, the blends were a fusion, putting together the flavors of many cultures and thus, forming a pleasant ‘blanket’ of experience to the sense of taste.
The history of Istanbul is not just a theme of study but of experience. One of the monuments that represented the prosperous Islamic lasting century was the majestic Suleymaniye Mosque, which towering over the city impressed by its mighty domes and minarets. Its huge chapels radiated a palpable holy vibe, and joyous quietude as I walked through them, I was amazed and in awe.
There in the Sultanahmet District was the home of a mixed group of civilizations and timepieces, other cultures developed separately and each era had its own way of life. Walking its streets was almost a walk with history past; there was almost a new age lurking in the corner around every corner. With its lofty height and stately profile, the Galata Tower provided a breathtaking panorama over the city, a breathtaking blend of old and new.
My jewelry line's "Her Pendant Necklace" was at my side every step of the way on this hypnotic adventure. This was more than an adornment; it represented a woman's power, elegance, and perseverance. The engraved words ‘Her Golden Story,’ signified not just my own journey but also the story that every inspiring woman I have come across all around the world told.
Life is all a web- and in it I realize that every event brings threads of colors and textures and this journey was a special addition to my golden story. Wearing the necklace, I was in a constant state of reminding myself of our interdependence in our paths because each one of us always has a story to tell about perseverance, grace, and personal growth.
As I reflect on Ghana, I appreciate all the people who in one way or another contributed to making 2023 a joyful journey. Surely there were challenges but also achievement, all mixed together as a mosaic. Standing on Ghanaian ground, remembering my stay in Istanbul, my heart is filled with joy. This new year 2024 I am already filled with gratitude and eagerly anticipate all that is to come. Cheers to another year filled with exciting experiences, meaningful relationships, and heartwarming tales that bring us all together.