His Excellency Mike Gabo Oquaye, the Ambassador of Ghana to India, talks about his favourite Indian holiday experiences—from adventuring in Shimla to romancing in Udaipur. By Sush Clays
Cultures around the world always seem to have similarities to one’s own. What about India do you think is closest to Ghana?
One cultural aspect that is very similar is the extended family system. The role of the mother, in both India and Africa, is unique. She is the centre and the engine of the whole family. We love spices like Indians do, and we also share our colonial ancestry. India is an enigma, with First World capabilities and Third World experiences. The country is an example that we want to use for our future, and when it comes to South Asia, India is unarguably our best friend.
Which is that one holiday in India that struck a chord with you?
India is a fantastic country; a subcontinent with lots of beautiful locations. But the one place that was the most unique for me was Shimla in Himachal Pradesh. We stayed at the lovely Wildflower Hall, and it was one of my most memorable family holidays.
What about the country surprised you, and what are your tips for travellers who are visiting India for the first time?
I’ve never had the experience of a common traveller in India. As an ambassador, I get ushered everywhere, so my experience has been quite luxurious. I found the people of South India very warm, talkative, and engaging. Travellers should come to India with an open mind. As with every society, there are two types of people here—the enlightened ones who are very receptive, and those who are reserved. So, don’t let your first experience be your only experience. Another thing I want to get you ready for is food—Indians are going to feed you till your belly bursts. The number of festivals celebrated in one year is unbelievable too!
What is your favourite Indian dish?
The raan (whole roast leg of lamb) at ITC Maurya’s Bukhara. I’ve never seen so much meat in my life. I’m a complete carnivore. So raan with black dal and keema naan is a dish I enjoy to the high heavens!
Any luxury experience in India that stands out for you?
I had the privilege of meeting a businessman who owns one of the biggest pieces of real estate in Maharashtra. We were picked up in a private jet and flown to his estate. The estate had its own fire service, police station, and hospital. He also flew in a group of the biggest Bollywood superstars. They performed for two hours, and it was the best thing I had seen in my entire life!
Wherever we go, we always bring home a piece of that place. What has been your most precious purchase?
I do buy Hackett, Mont Blanc, and other traditional brands in India too. But Indian furniture carved in the wonderful Asian style has been my most significant buy here, like dining chairs with crowned Indian elephant motifs.
All of us discover secrets when we explore a destination. What were yours?
I discovered the secret of Udaipur, where I went on a romantic getaway with my wife. The luxury of the maharajas is unbelievable. Staying there makes one feel like a king too. We had a private dinner à deux on a boat, complete with musicians and dancers.
Very often, holidays inspire us to pick a book about the destination. Has that happened to you?
I read a lot of articles and news, but not many stories. I don’t want an author playing with my mind and giving me twists and turns that he likes. The only book that I have come across since I came here, and gladly shared with my wife, is Kamasutra! I didn’t know India was this enlightened, especially during ancient times.
Any property/hotel in India that has been special for you?
Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur. I would have never imagined a hotel in the middle of a water body. It was a wonder to behold!
Any local experiences that you’d like to recommend to our readers?
Anyone who wants to shop in India should not go to a mall. Hit the streets where every shop is dedicated to different things—some sell handmade furniture pieces, others chandeliers and lights. Go to Gaffar Market in Delhi for pure crystal at affordable prices. Your local experience is as local as you make it.
The writer is the founding partner of Welcome Home Luxury Real Estate Services in New Delhi. Her clients include top multinationals, airlines and embassies in India.