Hi all – I’m in Ghana st the moment researching the 6th edition of the Bradt Guide & in the interests of objectivity decided to subject myself to the Larabanga experience – one of my least favorite places in Africa.
The good news is there was no hassle when I visited the mosque. True, everything I did was in the company of a guide who assumes that everybody likes the drone of his voice as much as he does, but it was all very friendly and amicable, a far cry from the situation a few years ago. The fee is also set at a reasonable C4 per person (around US$2). Overall I was very impressed and happy that the past issues here seemed to be resolved, and wrote that much in the informal visitors book that was presented to me in a shop across the road from Salia Bros.
Having written my comment I was asked to make a donation to a community fund for the construction of a school in Larabanga. The guys asked me to page back through the visitors book where it seemed every previous visitor in the last month or so had made a significant donation – in most cases in the ballpark of C40-100 (US$20-50), which struck me as very high for travellers (I’d been thinking like maybe C5…)
I assume this is pretty much the routine after visiting Larabanga Mosque , and before other visitors decide to make a donation I suggest they ask themselves the following:
1. If the fund has any official status, why did the request for a donation take place in a shop rather than in the building where the ticket was issued?
2. Why is there no official documentation for the fund and why no receipt book, just a school exercise book that doubles as a comments book?
3. Why are so many of the donations alongside the comments written a similar childish hand and annotated the same way (GHC and the amount) rather than in the hand of the supposed donor who made the comment? (I asked this and they said because a lot of people transfer money to them when they get home, which sounds unlikely, especially as several of these comments had been added in the past few days)
4. Why are those amounts written in the same childish hand consistently much higher than the few that are written in the same hand as the associated comment?
5. Why are the guides not asking for a tip of any sort? The C4 fee goes to the upkeep of the mosque, so if all donations benefit a community fund to build a school, the guides are presumably altruistic volunteers doing this out of the goodness of their heart…?
If you ask yourself these questions and still feel inclined do give the situation the benefit of the doubt, you’re either less skeptical or more gullible than me – but honestly I see nothing to indicate that any donation made at Larabanga will go anywhere but into the guides’ pockets!
All feedback welcome…