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General Information

To do that voodoo that you do so well…

Come to Benin, the origination point of the slave trade to the Americas. Seventy percent of the population are voodoo adherents, and it was from Benin that voodoo was exported to the Americas. If you're lucky, you can even take part in the on-again/off-again Voodoo Festival in Cotonou. You can hop a cab for fifty cents and head over to Ouidah, to the Voodoo Museum.

But Voodoo is not the only visible culture you'll see in Cotonou. Benin's cultural history is rich, and if you find the right tour, you'll have the chance to see individuals dance intricate and amazing dances, in their cultural tradition. The bronzes of Benin are highly prized by collectors, and at the Grand Marché de Dantkopa, a great open-air market in Cotonou, you may be fortunate enough to find some. If not, buy some monkey glands or (there it is again) voodoo love fetishes.

You'll find plenty to eat, as Cotonou has a variety of very good restaurants. A top of the line meal will set you back all of $10.00, max. And afterwards, there are plenty of nightspots with American and West African beats to dance to.

During the day, take a cab just north to Ganvié, where one of the most interesting attractions of West Africa is to be found: namely, the stilted villages of the inhabitants, who live several miles out on the lake. These were built in the 18th century as a protective measure. Now restaurants and a hotel have been built six feet above the water, completing the community.

Do you crave some real West African exotica? Then Benin is the place to go; it's small, it's undeveloped, but it's packed with cultural experiences.

In contrast to stereotypical horror flick images, followers of Vodun (the origin of our word “voodoo”) believe in a pantheon not too different from more familiar religions: one distant, supreme God and a large number of spirits that interact with humans to act as helpers and guides.


General Information

POPULATION

534,000. The ethnic breakdown includes Fon and Adja (40%), Yoruba (12%), and 39 smaller ethnic groups.

CLIMATE

In the south of the Benin where Cotonou is located, it's tropical with an average temperature of 87 degrees. The dry season is from December through April, good for cruising.

LANGUAGE

French, officially, but also Fon, Yoruba, and almost fifty other tribal languages.

CURRENCY

West African franc.



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