If you want to learn about Beninese history, the former capital of Abome is a good place to start. The Dahomey Kingdom, which it was called at the time, used to be huge stretching far through West Africa and Abomey was where the King had his palaces. We visited two of these, which now makes up the Musée Hisroeique de Abomey. The entrance was 2500CFA, which included a guide in French. She showed us some wall carvings of torture methods like putting burning charcoal up someone’s behind and the King’s throne standing on human skulls and explained about the fierce female warriors called the Amazons , but other than that the tour of the museum was quite slow paced and the rest of the long was quite boring in my opinion. One quite funny thing happened when we got to the King’s grave though. Our guide asked the girls in our group if they were having their period, and the ones who said yes were asked to stay outside. The King was a respected man and his dying wish of not letting menstruating women and people wearing hats and scarfs in to his grave was still being practiced.
During the 18th century when Europeans were buying slaves from Benin to use overseas, some peaple escaped to the lakes. The animist beliefs of the Beninese king at the time dictated that anyone who were living on these sacred waters should be spared so people went by the thousands and a stilt village was created. Today there are about 35 000 people living in the stilt community of Ganvie where there are even shops, restaurants, a hotel, a mosque and churches.
It was pretty easily reachable from Cotonou, just costing 500CFA for thr half hour bush taxi ride to Abomey-Calavi where you could walk down to the dock to catch a boat. As we were a big group we paid just 2000CFA for a two hour tour, stopping at a souvenier shop and restaurant along the way. Pretty cool place to visit if you are ever in the neighborhood.
Cotonou was noones favorite city. Streets were much more busy than Togos biggest city Lomé and options for camping were almost non existent. The city center was a huge roundabout with a red star and monument in the middle.
The cool thing though was the super cheap motorcycle taxis that were practically everywhere and the biggest market in West Africa called the Dantokpa Market. Here there was a animist/voodoo section which felt much more authentic than the one outside of Lomé. Even though it was smaller it had much more stuff like leaoppard feet, ape bodies, elephant head and other stuff that the government has forbidden long time ago. At the market we also found some good fabric that we will use to make tailor made suits once we get to Nigeria or Cameroon.
A lot of people believe that Cotonou is the capital of Benin and pass out on the quieter actual capital Porto Novo. Having spent the last couple of days looking for our group in Cotonou, Abomey-Calavi and Galvie without luck, me and Travis decided that we would just be tourists on our own in Porto Bovo and wait for them to message us their location when they have internet.
It is not judt present day that the city id important. Previously it was the seat of one of the three Beninese kingdoms and a port where up to ten thousands of slaves were sent to Brazil every year. We got to visit two museums where one of them called the Silva Museum explained the slavery history and the ethnographic museum explaining the use of Kallabash fruit all over Africa and another part showing Eygun masks and traditions.
Walking around the city was also quite pleasant. People were very welcoming greeting us as we walked by. The city also has some nice portuguese colonial buildings, a green park with a huge statue of their first king and mosques, churches and voodoo temples right next to each other. The temple called Kpakliyao was particularly cool looking like a cone and being a place where sacrifices were made- right in the cradle of the voodoo religion.
I just discovered a genius way of displaying all posts on a Google Map using Map My Posts. The widget works with WordPress and can be downloaded from this page. It is really easy to install and simple for people to use. It simply groups your posts by country and add them to a clickable map like the one below:
I am also using a similar Wordpress widget called Map Route, which will be able to show you where I am going next:
[route height=”500″ width=”900″]