• Benin,
    © iStockphoto.com / Peeter Viisimaa
  • Benin
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Benin

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
Between Nigeria and Togo, and headed up by Burkina Faso and Niger, the ex-kingdom of Dahomey extends to the Atlantic Ocean. An old African power built on the slave trade, Dahomey became independent in 1960 and called "Benin" in 1975 to signal its revival. Today, the country is rich in history due to the palaces of the old kings, but also in the voodoo traditions that are still firmly rooted in the Beninese culture, where they began. Although relatively few tourists travel to Benin, this flat country offers a variety of scenery: in the north, the savannah and the national parks of the W and the Pendjari; to the south, the plain scattered with lakes, lagoons, marshes, and the beaches bordering the Atlantic.

Our Editorial team's advice

At Cotonou, go and walk around Plakodji, the district where the Pla, originally from Grand Popo, live on the opening of the lagoon, at the tip of the town.
In Natitingou, go to the Saint-Paul Centre, where you will enjoy a superb view over the whole of the region of Atakora. Ask the parish priest to show you the way as it is not at all touristic.
If you are staying in Benin in December, do not miss the customary celebrations of the Gani, in Nikki, capital of the kingdom of the Bariba, during which the different Bariba chiefs confirm their allegiance to the king of Nikki and give him presents.

pros

  • +A stay in Benin easily allows you to combine a desire for nature with cultural discovery.
  • +The country's political situation is stable.

cons

  • -Certain regions are inaccessible in the rainy season.
  • -Swimming in the sea is only possible and safe in certain well-defined places.

Traditions

Voodoo, of which Benin is the birthplace, is a traditional polytheist cult based on the idea that God is in everything and is everywhere in the universe. It is expressed by the adoration of numerous divinities. The cults therefore address themselves to Héviosso, the god of thunder, Ogoun, the god of iron and blacksmiths, and to various divinities (Dan) that procure happiness for man and as such are opportunities for festivities.

Food

The basis of Beninese food consists of two dishes: "amiwo" and "ablo". Amiwo consists of peanut maize flour pasta cooked in a sauce with condiments, tomatoes and chicken stock. It is generally served accompanied by chicken. Ablo is a steam-cooked rice and maize cake.

Souvenirs

Theoretical - opening hours for shops: 9:30AM - 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM. The considerable diversity of craftwork in the Beninese markets is a delight for the visitor. The Guèlèdè masks from Ketou, the basketwork, the pottery, the carved chairs, the nickel, copper, bronze or silver jewellery will all be equally pretty souvenirs of your trip.