The Republic of Benin is a small West African country. It covers an area of 44,310 sqm and is home to about 11 million people. The country first acquired the name Dahomey in 1975, she derived her name from the large water body at the southern end of the colony “the Bight of Benin.” Porto-Novo is the capital city but the largest city is Cotonou which is also home to the government. The interesting about Porto-Novo is it was developed to promote slave trade in the 16th century and home to the Slave Route, a 2.5-mile stretch that was the last piece of African soil slaves stepped on before being transported to the Caribbean.
Snakes in Benin are revered, particularly the Royal pythons. They even eat and sleep in people’s homes. There is a Temple dedicated to snakes called the Temple of Pythons which is home to 50 royal pythons measuring up to 130 square feet. Benin is among Africa’s most stable democracies and the largest exporter of cotton. It is known to be the home to the Benin Iya; the world’s largest archaeological structure and “The Venice of Africa”; a group of villages floating in a lake. The country is also home to the Royal Palaces of Abomey which is a group of 12 palaces spread across 40 hectares.
Benin is indeed a wonderful place in West Africa to visit. Taste dishes such as beans and rice to grilled chicken, goat and/or turkey. A variety of fish is also eaten in the south while beef is more popular in the north.
What don’t you know:
- The last ship to transport slaves left the present day Benin for Brazil in 1885.
- The people of Benin are known as Beninese or Beninois.
- Angelique Kidjo, the famous artist who popularized African music in the West, hailed from Benin.
- There is only one international airport in the country and it is located in Cotonou.
- Major languages spoken are French, Fon, Yoruba.
Must see places:
- Abomey was the capital of the Dahomey Empire, and its ruined temples and royal palaces, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, are one of the country’s top attractions.
- Ouidah’s local museum, housed in a Portuguese fort, focuses on the slave trade in addition to other facets of local culture, religion, and history, and is a real must see for anyone passing through the country.