Not So Naughty Nassau
Stepping into the Culture
By Sandra Scott
Don’t me wrong, I love the hedonistic life
provided by all-inclusive resorts but the isolated, cocoon-like existence does
not provide any insight into the culture of the Bahamas. I like balance so
after a few days wallowing in the lap of leisure I stepped out to discover the
Nassau is geared for the tourist trade but it is still
possible to feel part of the community. It can be done in three easy steps.
Step One: Learn the history
The Bahamas are an independent nation and a member of the
British Commonwealth of Nations, retaining many of the traditions brought over
by the British. Nassau, on New Providence Island, the capital of the 700+ island
nation, is rich in beauty, history, and personality.
Since its founding in 1656, the
island has been prized for its sheltered harbor. Forts were built as protection
from maundering pirates. Fort Charlotte, high on a hill a short walk from the
center of town, is the largest. Guides offer tours of the 1788 fort. Its
ramparts offer one the best views of Nassau. Fort Fincastle, shaped like a
paddle wheel steamer, is located next to the water Tower where one can take an
elevator to the top for another spectacular view.
The Queen’s Staircase, near Fort
Fincastle, is one Nassau’s most visited attractions. Walk down the 65 steps
carved out of solid limestone by slaves in the late 18th century. This 102-foot
staircase was named in honor of the 65 years of Queen Victoria’s reign.
Parliament Square in downtown Nassau is the traditional
center of the Bahamian government. The picturesque pastel buildings erected in
the early 1800s by Loyalists, including the Houses of Parliament, surround a
marble statue of Queen Victoria. Each season, the Opening Ceremonies of the
Supreme Court fill the square with pomp and pageantry.
The Changing of the Guards is a display
of pomp and pageantry at Government House, residence of the Governor General,
and the queen’s representative. The Royal Bahamas Police Force Band performs 10
a.m. on alternate Saturdays.
Step Two: Learn the Culture
Most Bahamians are descendents of slaves brought from
Africa to work the plantations. The Emancipation Act of August 1,1834 freed the
slaves. Conveniently located on Bay Street, the Pompey Museum of Slavery and
Emancipation illustrates the history of slavery, abolition and emancipation.
The museum located in the Vendue House, whose name is derived from the French
word meaning sold. During the 1700s it served as the Bahamian locale for the
Food is an integral part of every
culture. Skip the fast food places and dine on great Bahamian food at
restaurants displaying the logo designating it as a place for “A Real Taste of
the Bahamas.” Try some traditional dishes such as conch salad and chowder. Most
meals are served with peas 'n' rice and Johnny Cake. Unlike the American version
the Bahamian Johnny Cake is made with flour. End the meal with scrumptious Guava
Bahamians pull out all the stops for Junkanoo, celebrated with parades on December 26 and January 1. Learn about this
unique and exuberate celebration at Educulture’s Junkanoo Museum. The Junkanoo
Expo located at the Prince George Dock in the heart of Nassau, gives the
everyday tourist the chance to view some of the “over-the-top” one-person
floats. At “Junkanoo in June” people can feel the “rush” as the bells, brass
and drums lead the colorful Junkanoo dancers in an explosion of color and
sound. Bahamian crafts and food are also spotlighted.
Step Three: Meet the People
For 30 years the Bahamian Tourism Board
has promoted a “Meet the People Program” that matches up visitors with a
like-minded Bahamian. As a former teacher I choose to visit a school and spent
the morning at the Carmichael Primary School with Miss William’s third grade. It
was a two-way learning experience.
As part of the program, on the last Friday of each month,
visitors are invited to an afternoon of tea, entertainment and company at the
Government House Ballroom.
To really feel part of the community
stay at the family-owned and operated Dillet’s Guest House, an authentic
Bahamian home offering today's comforts and yesterday's charm. The 60-year-old
authentic Bahamian home is nestled on a large treed property with a swimming
pool and in one of the “Small Treasures of the Bahamas.”
When you leave Nassau, the images of turquoise seas and
long white beaches will quickly fade, but the personal contacts and
relationships made while learning about the “real” Nassau will be your
“treasures of the Nassau.”
If you go:
Bahamian Tourist board:
Dillet’s Guest House:
Educulture Junkanoo Museum:
Images by Sandra Scott
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