Melania Trump spent her second day in Ghana touring a former slave outpost and learning about some of the country’s tragic past, as part of her first solo trip abroad as first lady.
After receiving ceremonial permission to enter the area, Trump made the brief motorcade drive to Cape Coast Castle, a massive compound on the beach that was built in the mid-1600s. Originally a timber and gold trading outpost, the structure morphed into a “slave castle,” one of about 40 or so similar outposts used by foreigners to trade and purchase slaves, taking them from West Africa and into lives of unwilling servitude.
“This is a very special place,” said Trump, after spending almost an hour taking a tour with the museum’s director, Kwesi Essel-Blankson. “I will never forget the incredible experience and the stories that I heard.”
Trump, who had changed from her heels into flat-soled shoes in order to walk the vast Castle grounds, climbed the stairs of the various levels of the fort, and spent several minutes below ground to see the dungeon, where the slaves were held in tight, dark and dank cells before being traded.
On the wall near the dungeon entrance was a marble plaque that Trump stopped to read: “This plaque was unveiled by President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama of the United States of America on the occasion of their visit to the Cape Coast Castle on the 11th day of July 2009.”
The first lady told the press her own visit to Cape Coast Castle was a memorable experience.
“The dungeons … what happened so many years ago. It’s really a tragedy,” she said.
Trump also walked through the fabled “Door of No Return,” an archway over a small tunnel that led from the main square of the interior castle down to the beach, where large waves crashed upon the shore. This was where the slaves would depart the castle and board slave ships. Trump laid a wreath of white flowers in memory.
At the end of her castle visit, Trump signed the guest book, telling the press she wrote, “thank you for your warm welcome. With love, Melania Trump.”
Before Trump could explore the area, including a visit to Cape Coast Castle, she had to ask the local chief for permission.
While a ceremonial ritual of expected protocol more than an official governmental procedure, the first lady was respectful of the tradition, and agreed to join the chieftain of the regional Fante tribe and his court at Emintsimadze Palace, a white-washed, open-air compound. A large banner with Trump’s picture and the words “Awkwaaba (Welcome) to Cape Coast H.E Melania Trump” hung from a balcony on one of the buildings. The palace is also home to “Obama Hall,” dubbed such after a visit from then-President Barack Obama in 2009.
As Trump entered the chief’s permission ceremony, which last approximately 15 minutes, she was greeted by a seven-year-old girl in native dress who handed her a bouquet of flowers.
Trump, wearing an olive-green shirt and brown pants, with her ubiquitous five-inch high heels, asked the girl her name and said she was “beautiful,” bending down to give her a hug. The first lady was led to a stage area by another group of young girls dressed in brightly colored kente cloth outfits, blowing traditional horns wrapped in ribbons.
Seated in a chair next to Chief Osabarimba Kwesi Atta II, who was on his ornate throne, Trump spoke softly, smiling as she told the tribal leader: “Thank you very much for your warm welcome. I’m very honored to be here in your beautiful country. I’m very happy to be here.”
As the ceremony proceeded, the chief offered Trump a large tray full of kente cloths, handmade sandals and a handmade necklace and bracelet, which she stood to accept. He then granted her permission to visit Cape Coast Castle.
On Wednesday, Trump departs Ghana, continuing her solo tour of Africa — next stops include Malawi, Kenya and Egypt.