March 25, 2023
Benin is a new country for us. Cotonou is on the coastal strip between Lake Nokoue and the Atlantic Ocean. The city is cut in two by a canal, the lagoon of Cotonou, dug by the French in 1855. The Oueme River flows into the Atlantic Ocean at Cotonou. The population is about 700,000.
When we met to get our bus tickets for our tour, Game Village on Stilts, we found that there were 5 buses needed and only 3 were there. So after we waited about 30 minutes and no buses arrived, the destinations staff told us that instead of the 8:45 departure, we should come back at 9:45 but if anyone wanted to cancel and get a refund, we could. We opted to wait and I got a cappuccino at Baristas. Then we went to the open deck to watch the dancers and drummers. About 40 people did cancel and I assume some booked taxis to do the same tour. I think the staff was hoping enough would cancel that we would only need the 3 buses. Well, eventually that was the case, and we set out on 3 buses.
We had many guides with us and later we found out why. The two main ones on our bus both talked at once from different points in the bus and it made it very hard to hear. No microphones were available and they didn’t seem to understand that only one should be talking because we couldn’t hear what either one was saying.
We spotted the American Embassy.
We stopped at the Bella Naija statue, a 30m tall statue honoring the women warriors of Dahomey. It is also called the Benin Amazone. Benin was once the center of a powerful regional kingdom called the Kingdom of Dahomey. There was a powerful women’s corp which grew to about 6000 women and was known to be fierce and cruel.
This statue is in honor of the Amazones of Dahomey who were the subject of the recent movie “The Woman King” and depicts these warriors who fought against French colonial rule more than a century ago.
We passed by markets and noted these men selling cosmetics from the pallets on their heads.
We then drove through the city and on to Aborney Calavi where we boarded boats that took us to the village on stilts. Along the way, we saw many people fishing by casting large nets. From time to time we saw small cages where the fish may be kept for several days. There are other large areas that are lined with leaves that attract the fish. Here, the fish might be growing for a year or more, and these are the ones that can be sold for more money.
We saw people of all ages in small canoe like boats, some with makeshift sails, some with motors and some that were propelled by paddles. We learned that each family in the village has three boats, one for the children, one for the wife and one for the husband.
The village has 45,000 residents and there are schools, churches, mosques, pharmacies, restaurants, hotels and really everything a village would need. But no bathrooms, the people use the water for everything. It didn’t smell bad though.
Each boat had 8 passengers plus a guide – so that is why there were so many guides on our buses.
Here are some pictures from the village and our boat trip there and back.
We got out of the boats at a restaurant/shop. We didn’t buy anything except that Norm had a $2 beer which we all thought was a great bargain. The price listed in their local currency, the CFA Franc, was about 96 cents!
I wonder if these statues would be outlawed in Florida?
On the way back, we had a different guide who told us more information about voodoo which pretty much confirmed what we heard yesterday. He also said that when he was younger, he ate everything but now he believes that the god he worships most commands him to eat only vegetables.
When we returned to the port, I met a port agent who said that our ship is the first one to come there in 5 years. No wonder many people stared at us as we visited their village. He also told me that on January 10 of each year, there is a big voodoo celebration that is like our Christmas.
We last visited west Africa in 2015 and it seems mostly the same as then. Benin is much cleaner than some of the other countries, though. Geoffrey (one of our guides) said that the city cleans up every night. Here there is lovely landscaping and clean streets.
What a different and interesting time we had the last two days. Next we have a sea day and on Monday, we will visit Sao Tome and Principe.
div dir=”ltr”>I especially liked this post and the post before it. Thank you so much for the gre
Interesting tour. Thanks for sharing.