The Portuguese were the first Europenas to arrive in Western Africa and the fort of Elmina, originally the São Jorge da Mina Castle, was constructed in 1482 over 3 years. The castle is the oldest building in Africa constructed by Europeans south of the Sahara. Whilst the original Portuguese interest in the area was the mining of gold with the start of the colonisation of Brasil the demand for slaves grew quickly and Elmina played an important role in this trade.
The castle was captured by the Dutch in 1637 who wanted to expand their presence in the West African trade region. At this time the Dutch also constructed Fort Coenraadsburg on the hill above the town of Elmina on the site of a fortified Portuguese chapel. The New fort helped protect the main castle of Elmina from attacks by land. The Dutch later sold the colony to the British and it became part of the British Gold Coast, which is now known as Ghana following its independence in 1957.
Nowadays the town of Elmina is a busy fishing port. Colourful wooden hulled fishing boats are crammed into the small harbour. Each boat is decorated with prayers, names of family members, Bob Marley songs or favourite football teams, Chelsea was a particular favourite when I visited in 2015. Nearby the local fish market is packed out with people and fish, right to the edge of the quay sides to the point that one wrong step would see you in the waters of the harbour. It seems like the entire population of the town is crammed into this area. Women carry large woven baskets of fish on their heads whilst people haggle noisily over prices and men chop the heads of fish with dull cleavers, all whilst being over looked by these haunting monuments of the colonial past.