Exploring Benin: A Blend of History, Culture and Adventure

Ganvie known as The venice of Africa

Nestled in West Africa, the Republic of Benin, formerly known as Dahomey, is a country rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. From its vibrant traditions to its breathtaking landscapes, Benin offers travelers a unique and immersive experience. Let’s take a closer look at what this fascinating destination has to offer.

Republic of Benin: A Glimpse into History and Culture

Kingdom of Dahomey:
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Benin was known as the Kingdom of Dahomey, dominated by the Fon people. It was during this time that the legendary all-female military regiment, known as the Dahomey Amazons or Ahosi, gained prominence for their fierce combat skills.

Religious Diversity:
Benin boasts a diverse religious landscape, with Christianity and Islam being the two major religions. However, traditional belief systems such as Vodun and Orisha still hold significant influence, reflecting the country’s rich cultural heritage.

Practical Benin Travel Tips

Visa Application:
Travelers can conveniently apply for a 30-day visa through the e-Visa Benin platform. The process is streamlined and takes approximately 20 minutes, making it hassle-free for visitors.

Language:
French serves as the official language of Benin, while Fon, Yoruba, and other local languages contribute to the country’s linguistic tapestry. Hiring a French-speaking guide can enhance your travel experience, but learning a few basic French phrases is advisable for smoother communication.

Currency:

The official currency is the West African CFA franc (XOF). Familiarize yourself with the exchange rate to ensure seamless transactions during your stay.

Culinary Delights

Beninese cuisine offers a delightful array of flavors and textures, reflecting the country’s cultural diversity. From hearty stews to savory snacks, here are some culinary highlights to savor:

      • Wo: A corn-based dough used in various dishes.

      • Tchantchanga: Grilled beef or mutton, a popular choice for meat lovers.

      • Djewo (Salted Paste): Corn flour dough with a savory twist.

      • Ninnouwi (Crincrin Sauce): A flavorful sauce that complements many dishes.

      • Gboman: A hearty vegetable stew bursting with fresh flavors.

      • Monyo: A zesty condiment made from mustard, onions, and vegetable oil.

      • Telibo: A unique paste made from yam pods, offering a blend of sweet and savory flavors.

      • Watché (Atassi): A delicious combination of rice and beans, a staple dish in Beninese cuisine.

    Navigating Transportation in Benin

    Getting around Benin is relatively straightforward, with options ranging from motorbikes and taxis to ride-sharing services like Uber. Motorbikes are a convenient and affordable mode of transportation within cities, while taxis provide comfort and convenience for longer journeys.

    Accommodation and Nightlife

    The Golden Tulip Benin

    The Golden Tulip Hotel offers comfortable accommodation with a range of amenities, including a pool, spa, and gym. Enjoy a sumptuous breakfast buffet featuring local and international delicacies and indulge in a dinner buffet showcasing the rich flavors of Beninese cuisine.  

    Code Bar Food in Benin

    For nightlife enthusiasts, Code Bar is a must-visit destination, offering an eclectic mix of food, drinks, and entertainment. Dance the night away to pulsating beats and unwind in the vibrant ambiance of this popular hotspot.

    Must-See Attractions

    Ouidah, Benin

    Temple de Python Benin

                                Temple of Python:

    During your visit, you’ll have the chance to explore a unique python temple where locals pay their respects to these intriguing creatures. Keep an eye out for devotees sporting three distinctive marks on their cheeks and foreheads, symbolizing their connection to the temple. Here’s the interesting part: You can interact with the pythons, whether by holding them or gently draping them around your neck. Not to worry, these pythons are harmless, lacking any venomous tendencies. It’s worth mentioning that the snakes are released for feeding once a month, and encountering one in a household is considered a stroke of luck, underscoring the deep reverence they enjoy within the community.

                                Chacha Square:

    This site was once a bustling slave market, where kings from Benin traded men, women, and children to British, French, and Portuguese merchants. Standing beneath the shade of the tree, I couldn’t help but shudder at the thought of the countless souls who passed through this place, their lives forever altered by the brutality of the transatlantic slave trade. If only the ancient tree could speak, what tales of horror and resilience it might impart, bearing witness to the darkest chapters of human history.

                                Door of No Return:

    After going through several rituals, like being blindfolded and walking around circles of trees and objects, the slaves were taken to the beach to be shipped out to places like Brazil, Haiti, and the Americas. There, by the shore, stands a memorial arch, a solemn reminder of those who passed through it, never to return. Over 2 million people were transported from the port of Ouidah, Benin, adding to the somber legacy of the transatlantic slave trade.

    Cotonou, Benin

    Amazon Statue Benin

    Amazon Statue: Erected in 2022, this monument honors the courageous women warriors of Benin.

    Lake Nokoue

                                         Ganvie:

    Often dubbed the “Venice of Africa,” stands out as one of the continent’s most extensive settlements built entirely on water. Witnessing life unfold in this remarkable village is a sight to behold—where fishing, shopping, dining, water fetching, and even cooking all take place on the tranquil waters. Families in Ganvie typically own three boats: one for the father’s fishing endeavors, another for the mother’s fish-selling activities, and a third for ferrying children to and from school. It’s a way of life where swimming is a vital skill, learned as early as age three or four. For those seeking a deeper immersion into this unique lifestyle, Ganvie offers the opportunity to spend the night, with a restaurant onsite to savor the flavors of this extraordinary community.

    Porto Novo, Benin

    Grand Mosque built by Afro-Brazilians

    Grande Mosque:

    Discover the architectural splendor of this mosque built by Afro Brazilians. After the Male revolt in 1835, the Brazilian Bahian government made the decision to send back slaves which included emancipated Americans. Construction began in 1912 and was completed in 1925. It has now become a historical site recognized by the Porto Novo government.

    Place Vodun Gbeloko Honto:

    immerse yourself in the cultural heritage of a hub of voodoo tradition and spirituality. “While I personally don’t engage in the practice of voodoo, I do hold a deep appreciation for various cultural traditions. Each January, Benin hosts one of the largest voodoo festivals in Africa, showcasing the rich heritage and traditions of the region.”

    In Conclusion

    Benin is a destination that captivates travelers with its rich history, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality. Whether you’re exploring ancient landmarks, savoring local delicacies, or immersing yourself in the rhythms of everyday life, a journey to Benin promises unforgettable experiences and cherished memories.

     

     

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    2 Responses

    1. This was great coverage of Benin and a place I don’t see covered much. Sounds like there a lot of delicious food items. And very interesting if a python gets into your house it is a sign of good luck. If one got in here, I would just give the house to the python lol. And I love that is called the Venice of Africa. I can definitely see that!

    2. This looks like so much fun! The hotel looks like a great place to relax. I love how easy the visa process is for visitors, too. Hope I can visit one day! 🙂

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    ABOUT AUTHOR

    Tiffany Heard

    Proud graduate of Howard University where she obtained a Masters of Social Work. She has currently traveled the world to over 20 countries and gives back selflessly by volunteering abroad.

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