Tamale (pronounced ) is a large city, officially called Tamale Metropolitan District. It is the capital of Northern Region, Ghana. Tamale is the third most populous settlement in Ghana, in terms of population, with 537,986 inhabitants according to the 2012 census. The town is located 600 km north of Accra. Tamale is mostly populated by Dagomba people who speak Dagbani and are moderate followers of Islam, as reflected by the multitude of mosques in the town, most notably the Central Mosque near the chief's palace. The Sunnites and the Ahmadiyyans also have their own central mosques, North of the town centre along Bolgatanga Road.
Located in the northern part of the country, the town grew from a conglomeration of villages where one could find an architectural blend of traditional mud houses and more modern buildings. The mud houses vanish fast out of the streetview because they crumble away in a few years. While the majority of the houses are roofed with corrugated iron sheets, a good number of them in the outskirts (recently urbanized villages like Vitting, Shishao and Tuunayili) are still roofed with grass. Some of these mud structures have TV antennae and electricity wires, but house owners tend to prefer to rebuild their houses with cement before they attach to the wires of the grid.
Due to its central location, Tamale serves as a hub for all administrative and commercial activities in the region, doubling as the political, economic and financial capital of the region. The center of Tamale hosts regional branches of Ghana's financial institutions and a considerable number of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), CARE International, ActionAid and World Vision, so much so that Tamale is often referred to as the NGO capital of Ghana.
Tamale has developed and transformed very fast within the last few years and is reputed to be the fastest growing settlement in West Africa. The new dimension of Tamale's development is the rush by various companies to open branches in the town. The hospitality industry has grown significantly with new hotels and guest houses built around the town.
Amongst Tamale's new and modern facilities include the newly-constructed Tamale Stadium, replacing the town's former principal football pitch, Kaladan Park, with a world-class venue. Indeed, many improvements to Tamale's infrastructure occurred in the period leading up to the 2008 African Cup of Nations tournament. Further improvements were made, particularly to Tamale's road system.
The metropole experiences one rainy season from April to September or October with a peak in July and August. The mean annual rainfall is 1100 mm within 95 days of rainfall in the form of tropical showers. Consequently, staple crop farming is highly restricted by the short rain season.
The dry season is usually from November to early April. It is influenced by the dry North-Easterly (Harmattan) winds while the rainy season is influenced by the moist South Westerly winds. The mean day temperatures range from 28 (December and mid-April) to 43 (March, early April) degrees Celsius while mean night temperatures range from 18 (December) to 25 (February, March) degrees Celsius. The mean annual day sunshine is approximately 7.5 hours.
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Located on the crossing of three ancient trade routes, Tamale started to grow as a commercial town centuries ago. The North-South road from Paga and Bolgatanga to Salaga and Kumasi saw raiders with their slaves passing, whilst other merchants brought their goods into the little town. Salt came from Daboya, to the North-West of Tamale, and followed a road that continued to Yendi. A third road linked Gushegu and the northern part of what is now the country of Togo to the capital of the Gonja kingdom, Damongo. The present locations of the central market and the palace of the Gulkpe naa, opposite Barclays Bank and near the library, mark the junctions of the ancient roads.
Around this palace, a residential neighborhood began to grow. It is now known as Dagbangdabi-phong (the name means "oldest Dagomba men area"). This was followed by Changli, Belipiela and Bolanaphong ("gods' area") further to the South. Each neighborhood got its own local chief. As the distances to the market place grew, people started to settle elsewhere around the crossing, so that the quarters of Tishigu and Abu-Abu came up. An influx of Northerners from present-day Burkina Faso led to the building of Moshi Zongo. In the same time, the remote village of Vitteng came into existence.
The colonial period brought western thinking about garden cities to Tamale and at the back of Sakasaka grew Kalpuhin Estates, even now a pleasant neighborhood with plenty trees, big gardens and small houses which are not fit for the traditional extended or polygamic families. In the 1970s, urban extensions like Zogbeli, Lamakara and Lamashegu were built, neighborhoods characterized by checkboard planning of square house plots and orthogonal streets and alleys. Since the year 2000, Tamale seems to grow more rapid than any metropolis in Africa, so that the whole district of Tamale is now urban agglomeration.
Tamale has a Mayor–Council government system in which the mayor is vested with extensive executive powers. The Mayor is appointed by the president of the Republic of Ghana and approved by the town council, the Tamale Metropolitan Assembly, although cries have been made by the residents of the town to increase accountability of the office by having the Mayor elected. The current Mayor of Tamale is Alhaji Haruna Friday appointed by H.E. President Atta Mills in 2009. The name "Tamale Metropolitan Assembly" serves both for the local parliament and for the local executive. Local policies are always executed in this name, so that, for example, illegal constructions often show the command "remove by TMA" (meaning that the Tamale Metropolitan Assembly or its executive has ordered to remove the building as it is contrary to current urban land use planning). As the local executive, Tamale Metropolitan Assembly is the strong arm of the Mayor, his or her civil service. If mention is made of Assembly women or men, however, the reference is to the elected representatives of the inhabitants of Tamale. They form the assembly properly speaking, and must decide about local bye-laws before they can come into force. The name "Tamale Metropolitan District" is used in the geographical sense, to refer to the area within its borders.
Tamale is the principal center of education in the north of Ghana. Currently there are a total of 742 basic schools within the metropolis. This comprises 94 kindergartens, 304 primary, 112 Junior High and 10 Senior High Schools. The rest are technical/vocational institutions, two (2) colleges of Education, a polytechnic and two universities –one public and the other private.
In the Education Ridge neighborhood in the northwestern party of the town and covering an area of about 3 km, 20 schools ranging from kindergartens through junior high and senior high schools, teachers’ training colleges, the Tamale Polytechnic and a university are located. The numerous trees lining the streets in this part of the town give it a tropical rainforest outlook. The University for Development Studies (UDS) has two campuses located in Tamale and one in nearbye Nyankpala. The headquarters of the University for Development Studies is also located in Tamale.
Tamale is served by Tamale Airport. Located approximately 7 miles (11 km) from downtown Tamale, the airport is mainly used by commercial airlines such as Citylink, Starbow Airlines and Antrak Air, which run regular flights between Tamale and Accra’s Kotoka International Airport along with other regional capitals. The Deputy Minister of Transportation has stated that the Airport will be made an International Airport by end of 2012. But as is often the case in Ghana, political promises fall short of reality and the issue of its International status is not likely to be discussed until the next election cycle. This will eventually facilitate flights to other parts of West Africa and Mecca, Saudi Arabia in particular.
Public transportation in the form of taxis is the most convenient means of getting around Tamale for visitors to the town. The popular means of travel for the locals, however, is by bike and motorbike. This phenomenon is helped by the existence of bike paths in the town, making it one of the most bike-friendly settlements in Ghana. Transportation out of town is facilitated by the "tro-tro" private mini-bus system, and MetroMass and STC bus lines, along with a host of charter bus companies, all of which provide a means of transport that connect Tamale with the many other major surrounding towns and cities.
Tamale currently has sister city relations with:
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- Tamale Children’s Home Tamale, Northern Region (Ghana). catointl.org
- Touring Ghana - Northern Region. touringghana.com.
- The Gulkpe naa is one of the seven district chiefs in the Dagbon; in rank directly under the Paramount Chief, he overlooks the local chiefs in and around Tamale.
- Introduction to Tamale and the Northern Region. sclou.org.
- Tamale Airport Listings. Ghanapedia.
- Sister City International Listings - Directory Search Results - Tamale, Ghana. sister-cities.org.
- Tamale establishes links with sister city in Burkina-Faso. ghanaweb.com. 31 December 2003.
- TAMALE : Sister city relations should improve trade and investments. ndn.nigeriadailynews.com. 2 July 2007.