Sunday, December 3, 2023

Benin Travel Guide - Travel S Helper


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Benin, officially the Republic of Benin (French: République du Bénin) and previously Dahomey, is a nation in West Africa. It is bounded on the west by Togo, on the east by Nigeria, and on the north by Burkina Faso and Niger. The bulk of the population lives along its tiny southern coastline on the Bight of Benin, which is part of the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean’s northernmost tropical region. Benin’s capital is Porto-Novo, although the country’s seat of government is in Cotonou, the country’s main city and economic center. Benin has a land area of 114,763 square kilometers and a population of roughly 10.88 million people in 2015. Benin is a tropical, Sub-Saharan African country that is heavily reliant on agriculture, with subsistence farming providing significant employment and revenue.

Benin’s official language is French. Indigenous languages such as Fon and Yoruba, on the other hand, are widely spoken. Roman Catholicism is the largest religious organization in Benin, followed by Islam, Vodun, and Protestantism. Benin is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, La Francophonie, the Sahel-Sahel Community, the African Petroleum Producers Association, and the Niger Basin Authority.

From the 17th to the 19th centuries, the primary political entities in the area were the Kingdom of Dahomey, the city-state of Porto-Novo, and a wide territory to the north with numerous distinct tribes. Because of the high number of slaves carried to the New World during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, this region was dubbed the Slave Coast as early as the 17th century. Following the abolition of slavery, France took over the nation and renamed it French Dahomey. Dahomey obtained complete independence from France in 1960 and went through a turbulent era with numerous different democratic administrations, military coups, and military regimes.

Between 1975 to 1990, the People’s Republic of Benin was a Marxist–Leninist state. It was succeeded in 1991 by the present multi-party Republic of Benin.

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Benin - Info Card




West African CFA franc (XOF)

Time zone



114,763 km2 (44,310 sq mi)[3]

Calling code


Official language

French, Arabic, English, Aguna, Aja...

Benin - Introduction


Benin’s tropical south has two rainy seasons each year, from April to mid-July and from mid-September to the end of October. The rainy season lasts from March to October in the subequatorial north. The ideal season to visit the nation is from November to February, when temperatures moderate and the weather is dry and low in humidity.


Benin is geographically smaller than its neighbors, with a land area of 112,620 km2, comparable to Honduras or the US state of Ohio. From south to north, the nation is split into five geographic zones: the coastal plain, the plateau, the high plateau and savannah, hills in the northwest, and rich plains in the north.


The country is made up of more than 60 ethnic groupings. The main tribes in the nation are the Fon (40%), Aja (15%), and Yoruba (12%) in the south, and the Bariba (9%), Somba (8%), and Fulbe (6% ) in the north.

The most common religion (43 percent) is Christianity, which is most prevalent in the south, while Islam is most prevalent in the north (24 percent ). Many tourists are drawn to Benin because of the significant impact of Vodun, which is followed as a primary religion by about 18% of the population and was disseminated throughout the world mainly via the enormous number of slaves sold by the Dahomey Kingdom.


The south of Benin is home to the bulk of the country’s inhabitants. With a life expectancy of 59 years, the population is youthful. This nation is home to 42 African ethnic groups; these diverse tribes arrived in Benin at various periods and also moved inside the country. The Yoruba (who migrated from Nigeria in the 12th century); the Dendi (who migrated from Mali in the 16th century); the Bariba and Fula (French: Peul or Peulh; Fula: Fule) in the northeast; the Betammaribe and Somba in the Atacora Range; the Fon in the area around Abomey in the South Central; and the Mina, Xueda, and Aja (who migrated from

Other African nationalities who have recently arrived in Benin include Nigerians, Togolese, and Malians. Many Lebanese and Indians are also engaged in trade and business in the international community. A significant proportion of the 5500 European population is made up of employees from the numerous European embassies and international assistance missions, as well as nonprofit organizations and different missionary groups. A tiny proportion of the European population is made up of Beninese residents of French heritage, whose ancestors governed Benin until leaving after independence.


According to the 2002 census, 42.8 percent of Benin’s population was Christian (27.1 percent Roman Catholic, 5 percent Celestial Church of Christ, 3.2 percent Methodist, 7.5 percent other Christian denominations), 24.4 percent were Muslim, 17.3 percent practiced Vodun, 6 percent practiced other local traditional religions, 1.9 percent practiced other religions, and 6.5 percent claimed no religious affiliation.

Local animistic religions in the Atakora (Atakora and Donga provinces) and Vodunand Orisha worship among the Yoruba and Tado peoples in the country’s center and south are examples of traditional religions. The spiritual heart of Beninese Vodun is the town of Ouidah on the central coast.

The major introduced religions are Christianity, which is practiced throughout the south and center of Benin, as well as in Otammari country in the Atakora, and Islam, which was introduced by the Songhai Empire and Hausa merchants and is now practiced throughout Alibori, Borgou, and Donga provinces, as well as among the Yoruba (who also follow Christianity). Many people, however, continue to believe in Vodun and Orisha and have integrated the Vodun and Orisha pantheon into Christianity. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a 19th-century group, is also present in large numbers.


Algeria, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Taiwan, and Togo do not need visas.

Visas are valid for 30 days and may be single entrance (USD40) or multiple entry (USD45). For US citizens, visas cost USD140. A single entry visa to Paris costs €70 for all EU nationals.

Language & Phrasebook in Benin

The official language is French, the previous colonial power’s language. Fon and Yoruba are spoken in the south, Bariba and Dendi in the north, and over 50 additional African languages and dialects are spoken across the nation. English is becoming more popular.

Local languages are utilized as the primary language of teaching in elementary schools, with French being added only after a few years. However, in richer places, French is typically taught at a younger age. In general, Beninese languages are written using a distinct letter for each spoken sound (phoneme), rather than employing diacritics or digraphs as in French or English. This includes Beninese Yoruba, which is written with both diacritics and digraphs in Nigeria. For example, the mid vowels é è, ô, o in French are written e,, o, in Beninese languages, while the consonants ng and sh or ch in English are written and c. However, digraphs are employed for nasal vowels and the labial-velar consonants kp and gb, as in the Fon language name Fon gbe /f be/, and diacritics are used as tone markings. A combination of French and Beninese orthographies may be found in French-language publications.

Yorùbá is a West African language spoken mostly around the Bight of Benin. Yorùbá is undoubtedly Africa’s most influential language, with over 38 million speakers globally. It is mostly spoken in Nigeria, Benin, and Togo.


Benin’s economy is based on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional commerce. Cotton accounts for 40% of GDP and about 80% of official export revenues. Over the last seven years, real production growth has averaged about 5%, but fast population expansion has negated most of this gain. Over the last several years, inflation has slowed. Benin’s currency is the CFA franc, which is linked to the euro.

Benin’s economy has grown steadily in recent years, with real GDP growth projected to be 5.1 and 5.7 percent in 2008 and 2009, respectively. The agricultural sector is the primary engine of development, with cotton being the country’s principal export, but services continue to contribute the majority of GDP, owing to Benin’s geographical position, which allows for commerce, transportation, transit, and tourist activities with neighboring states.

Benin intends to increase growth even further by attracting more international investment, emphasizing tourism, facilitating the development of new food processing systems and agricultural goods, and encouraging the development of new information and communication technologies. Benin’s US$307 million Millennium Challenge Account grant, signed in February 2006, comprised projects to enhance the business environment via changes to the land tenure system, commercial judicial system, and banking sector.

The Paris Club and bilateral creditors have helped to alleviate the country’s external debt position, with Benin benefitting from a G8 debt reduction announced in July 2005, but also pushing for more fast structural changes. Even though the government has lately made efforts to boost domestic power generation, Benin’s economic development is still being hampered by a lack of electricity.

Although trade unions in Benin represent up to 75% of the formal workforce, the large informal economy has been noted by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITCU) to have ongoing problems, such as a lack of wage equality for women, the use of child labor, and the ongoing issue of forced labor.

Benin is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of African Business Law (OHADA).

Cotonou is home to the country’s sole international airport and seaport. Between Cotonou and Porto Novo, a new port is presently being built. Benin is linked to its neighboring nations via two-lane asphalted highways (Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria). Various providers provide mobile phone service across the nation. In certain places, ADSL connections are accessible. Benin is linked to the Internet through satellite links (since 1998) and a single undersea cable SAT-3/WASC (since 2001), resulting in very expensive data costs. The start of the Africa Coast to Europe cable in 2011 is anticipated to provide relief.

Approximately one-third of the population now lives below the international poverty level of US$1.25 per day.

How To Travel To Benin

By plane

The primary airport in Cotonou receives a large number of foreign aircraft. From here, you may fly to Paris, Amsterdam, Moscow, and a number of West African destinations. To enter the country, you must provide evidence of a yellow fever vaccination, which must be readily accessible at the airport.

By train

Benin has no international rail service.

By car

There are land crossings with all neighboring countries, but owing to violence, only the two coastal borders with Togo and Nigeria are advised.

How To Travel Around Benin

By bus

There is a very punctual and dependable bus system that runs a tour-style bus through every major city in Benin every day, as well as certain international services in and out of Benin. There are many main routes with buses of varying quality. Confort Lines and Benin-Routes are the two major systems. Confort Lines seems to provide a wider range of routes, and you even receive some water and a little lunch for longer journeys. Confort Lines reservations for XOF500 may be made in advance at any regional office or by phoning +229 21-325815. Bus routes connect Porto-Novo, Cotonou, Calavey, Bohicon, Dassau, Parakou, Djougou, Natitingou, Tanguieta, Kandi, and even Malanville.

Buses operate on the two main paved highways that go north and south, and you may have the bus stop at any location you choose, at varying prices. Because the bus operates on set rates, there is no need for a price negotiation. To give you a sense of the cost, buses from Cotonou to Natitingou (or vice versa) cost XOF7,500 one way, and XOF5,500 from Cotonou to Parakou (or vice versa). These are only a few instances; there are buses that travel as far as Tanguieta and Malanville.

By bush taxi

Bush Taxi service is available between most cities, every day in larger cities and on a regular basis in the most distant ones. The overall cost for long-distance travel will be somewhat more than by bus, but comfort and security will be considerably lower. Drivers often attempt to increase the number of passengers in the vehicle so that passengers may have an intimate encounter with the local community. Bush cabs, on the other hand, provide flexibility that bus systems do not; you can always get a taxi pretty fast (at the autogarres). A bush taxi may be a more flexible and affordable alternative for journeys of 3 hours (about 150km) or less. However, unlike buses, costs must be negotiated in advance. The cost is determined on the destination and the price of petrol. Inquire what other passengers are paying and always attempt to pay upon arrival, but this is not always feasible. A good alternative for non-budget visitors is to purchase all of the seats in a bush taxi, or at least all of the seats in one row. It not only saves time waiting for the taxi driver to fill up every seat, but it’s also far more pleasant than being packed in with a bunch of sweaty individuals! If you do this, you’ll usually need to pay the driver up advance so he can purchase gas along the route.

By car

Hired drivers are more expensive, but they are the most common mode of transportation for foreigners. The price is determined by the driver, and it is best to have a local (Beninois) assist you in negotiating. A three-hour vehicle trip from the south central area :::to?::: via the major route, for example, costs approximately 30,000 – 40,000 FCFA if rented, while a bush taxi costs about 5000 – 10,000 FCFA.

The traffic is a mess, and the laws of the road are seldom followed. An International Driver’s License is needed if you want to drive yourself in Benin. As in the United States and Canada, traffic travels on the right side of the road.

It is advised that you hire a local guide.

Authorities roadblocks occur often at night, and going alone with a driver (particularly if you are a woman) may place the driver in an uncomfortable situation of explaining and/or paying the police.

Traveling by vehicle is only advised between large cities. To go from Cotonou to Porto Novo, for example, or from Cotonou to Abomey, etc. Most of the time, you will be forced to share the vehicle with a large number of other passengers who are traveling in the same direction as you. Expect to feel cramped and hot since most bush cabs are in poor condition and drivers attempt to pack as many passengers as possible into the vehicle to make the journey as profitable as possible. However, if you have the additional cash, you may rent a vehicle to drive you anywhere you want to go with no pauses. The price would be determined by the driver, and you would certainly need the assistance of a local (Beninois) to negotiate the price, otherwise you would be taken advantage of. A three-hour vehicle trip from the South Central area along the major highway, for example, would cost about 30,000 – 40,000 CFA if only two passengers were present, but if you shared the ride and picked up others along the way, you would only spend approximately 5000 – 10,000 CFA. This, of course, is dependent on whether or not you have a local present. Traveling in this way without the presence of a native is not advised. The risk is low, but the financial cost would be high. In addition, random police roadblocks at night occur on a regular basis as a means of policing the roads, and if you were driving alone with a driver (particularly if you are a woman), it may place him in an uncomfortable situation explaining to the police, and it may cost you extra money. Traveling by vehicle inside the city is not advised since it is both needless and inefficient. Motorcycle taxis are the greatest method to go about any city or hamlet. They are extremely inexpensive, and the drivers are well-versed in the area. In most cities, you may identify them by their yellow jerseys. Choose your driver cautiously, since drinking and driving is extremely prevalent in Benin. If you need to go someplace and enter a building, for example, they will wait outside for as long as you like for a little fee; just make sure you don’t pay them beforehand! For example, you can go almost everywhere in Cotonou by zem (zémidjan = bike taxi) for as low as 500-1,000 CFA if you bargain with a local. It is advised to travel as much as possible with a native, mostly for economical reasons. It is also not a good idea to drive oneself about in a vehicle. The roads are mainly hard packed sand, with a few paved main roads in towns and on motorways connecting larger cities. There are no regulations of the road, and traffic is chaotic. An International Driver’s License is needed if you want to drive in Benin. Traffic travels on the same side of the road as in the United States and Canada.

By moto

Motorcycle taxis are the cheapest method to travel inside a city or hamlet (moto, zemidjan or zem). They are inexpensive, and the drivers are generally well-versed in the area. A typical trip costs between 100f and 300f CFA, and they are readily identified by their matching colored shirts with their ID numbers on them. Prices must be agreed upon in advance, and payment is due upon arrival. Remember the driver’s ID number, much as you would a taxi driver’s ID in New York City. Choose your driver with caution; drinking and driving is extremely prevalent in Benin, and moto drivers are occasionally engaged in crime rings in big towns.

Motos come in a variety of colors, each representing a particular city (for example): Yellow is the color of Cotonou. Natitingou: light blue with yellow shoulders or green with yellow shoulders Kandi is a light blue dress with golden shoulders. Yellow with green shoulders, this is a parakou. Kérou’s color is green with yellow shoulders.

By boat

Many pirogues (kayak/canoes) are utilized in the fishing business. Normally, a pirogue may be used to visit the lake settlements.

By train

L’Organisation Commune Benin-Niger des Chemins de Fer et Transports operates a railway line that runs halfway across the nation, from Cotonou to Parakou (2132 2206). While the train takes longer than a bush taxi, it is a much more pleasant mode of transportation. First-class tickets are just slightly more costly than second-class tickets, and they are well worth the additional cost. The train departs Cotonou three times a week (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) at 8 a.m., arriving in Parakou around 6:30 p.m., and returns the following day at 8 a.m. from the Parakou railway station, arriving in Cotonou around 6:30 p.m. The first class ticket costs CFA 5600, while the second class ticket costs CFA 4000.

These trains will typically stop in Bohicon, which is 4 hours from Cotonou. The first-class ticket is CFA 1400, while the second-class rate is CFA 1100.

A tour business also rents out colonial-era trains for multi-day tours at exorbitant but good-value rates (CFA 50,000+).

Destinations in Benin

Regions in Benin

Northern Benin
Tribes and arid landscapes

Southern Benin
The coastline, the capital, and the most of the attractions

Cities in Benin

  • Porto-Novo — Porto-Novo is the capital, at least in name.
  • Abomey — The Royal Palaces of Abomey are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
  • Cotonou — Cotonou is Benin’s biggest city and de facto capital, as well as the location of the international airport.
  • Grand Popo — Grand Popo is a beach tourist town on the Togolese border.
  • Kétou
  • Parakou — Parakou is the most populous city in the central area.
  • Malanville — Malanville is the largest city in the far north and is located on the Niger border.
  • Natitingou — The most populous city on the route to northern Togo or Burkina Faso.
  • Tanguiéta

Things To See in Benin

Benin is probably best known to the rest of the world as the home of the Vodun religion, or voodoo. There are voodoo temples, roadside fetishes, and fetish markets all throughout the nation, but the most well-known is the skull and skin-filled fetish market in the Grande Marche du Dantopka—enormously Cotonou’s crowded, huge, and chaotic main market. The most significant fetish in the nation is the monstruous Dankoli fetish, which is located on the northerly route near Savalou and is a suitable place to entreat gods.

Benin was a significant hub of the slave trade during the Dahomey monarchs’ reign, and the Route des Esclaves in Ouidah, which ends at the beachfront Point of No Return monument, is a tribute to individuals who were abducted, sold, and sent to the other side of the globe. Ouidah’s local museum, located in a Portuguese fort, concentrates on the slave trade, among other aspects of local culture, religion, and history, and is a must-see for anybody traveling through the nation.

Abomey was the capital of the Dahomey Empire, and its destroyed temples and royal palaces are now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The ruins, their bas-reliefs, and the Abomey Historical Museum in the royal palace (which contains macabre tapestries and even a throne of human skulls) bear witness to the wealth brought to the Dahomey kings by the slave trade, as well as the brutality with which they oppressed their enemies, providing fodder for human sacrifice and bondage.

Ganvie, home to 30,000 people who escaped the harsh Dahomey monarchs by constructing their town on stilts right in the middle of Lake Nokoué, is without a doubt an interesting and naturally attractive location, and a popular visit as one of West Africa’s biggest lake cities. However, it has been harmed to some degree by the strained connection between residents and tourists. (For visitors interested in West African lake communities, Ghana may provide much more rewarding experiences.)

While the country’s biggest city and commercial hub is frantic Cotonou, the capital, Porto Novo, is tiny and one of West Africa’s more attractive cities. The majority of the country’s main museums are housed here, among the decaying architectural heritage of French colonial control. Grand Popo is another popular destination for visitors looking to unwind, although not so much for the city itself as for the beaches.

Benin in the north is significantly different from the mainly congested, filthy towns of the south, of which Cotonou is a prime example. Pendjari National Park and W National Park (shared by Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger) are two of West Africa’s finest for wildlife watching, and are located in magnificent, steep highlands.

The Somba people’s distinctive and quirky mud and clay tower-houses, known as tata, in the north, west of Djougou near the Togolese border, are a little-known expansion into Benin of the kinds of structures used by the Batammariba people in Togo just west. Almost all visitors to this region go to the UNESCO-designated Koutammakou Valley across the border; the Benin side is even further off the beaten path.

Food & Drinks in Benin

Food in Benin

Street sellers offer anything from beans and rice to grilled chicken, goat, and/or turkey in every city/village. Prices are negotiable. But be cautious; always pick a seller whose food is still hot and whose dishes have been kept covered with a lid and/or cloth.

  • Kuli-Kuli
  • Boulets de Poulet avec Sauce Rough (Chicken Meatballs with Red Sauce)


In Africa, Beninese cuisine is renowned for its unusual ingredients and delicious meals. Fresh meals are served with a variety of essential sauces in Beninese cuisine. The most prevalent component in southern Benin cuisine is maize, which is often used to make flatbread, which is mostly eaten with peanut or tomato-based sauces. The most frequent meats used in southern Beninese cuisine are fish and chicken, although cattle, goat, and bush rata are also eaten. The primary staple of northern Benin is yams, which are frequently served with the sauces described above. Northern regions residents consume beef and pig meat that has been fried in palm or peanut oil or cooked in sauces. Some meals include cheese. Fruits such as mangoes, oranges, avocados, bananas, kiwi fruit, and pineapples are frequently consumed, as are couscous, rice, and beans.

Meat is often very costly, and meals are typically low on meat and heavy on vegetable fat. The most prevalent method of meat preparation is frying in palm or peanut oil, while smoked fish is popular in Benin. Grinders are used to make corn flour, which is then formed into a dough and served with sauces. The term “chicken on the spit” refers to a classic dish in which chicken is cooked over a fire on wooden sticks. Palm roots are occasionally tenderized by soaking them in a jar with saltwater and chopped garlic before using them in recipes. Many individuals cook on outdoor mud stoves.

Drinks in Benin

The beer is inexpensive and delicious! Local bars (buvettes) may be found on every street corner in every area. Depending on the pub, you may buy a bottle of local beer “La Béninoise,” Heineken, Guinness, Castel, and other beers. They are all about 250 CFA for a small bottle and 500 CFA for a big bottle. Beer is exorbitantly priced at nightclubs, costing up to 30000 CFA each bottle! Stick to the neighborhood pubs or avoid purchasing alcohol at a nightclub. There is also the native vin de palme (palm wine), an alcoholic beverage produced from palm tree sap. A fermented palm liquor (Sodabi) is also available; a liter costs approximately 2000 CFA and is VERY powerful.

Money & Shopping in Benin

Benin uses the West African CFA franc (XOF). Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Sénégal, and Togo also use it. While technically distinct from the Central African CFA franc (XAF), the two currencies are used interchangeably at par in all CFA franc (XAF & XOF)-using nations.

The French treasury backs both CFA francs, which are linked to the euro at €1 = 655.957 CFA francs.

Banks may be found in all major cities, and the majority of them feature cash machines. Remember that many companies and offices, including banks, shut for many hours throughout the day.

Prices for products bought at a shop, restaurant, lodging, bus tickets, and so on are not negotiable, but almost everything else is. It is fairly unusual for foreigners to be offered a price that is twice the actual purchase price, depending on the item.

All throughout Benin, one may find every kind of African product.

Culture Of Benin

Long before French became the main language, Beninese literature had a rich oral history. L’Esclave, the first Beninese book, was written in 1929 by Félix Couchoro.

Following independence, the country’s music culture was lively and creative, with local folk music blending with Ghanaian highlife, French cabaret, American rock, funk and soul, and Congolese rumba.

Angélique Kidjo and Djimon Hounsou were both born in Cotonou, Benin. Wally Badarou, a composer, and Gnonnas Pedro, a vocalist, are both of Beninese origin.

Biennale Benin began in the nation in 2010 as a collaborative event named “Regard Benin,” carrying on the initiatives of various organizations and artists. The initiative was transformed into a Biennial in 2012, managed by the Consortium, a coalition of local organizations. Abdellah Karroum and the Curatorial Delegation curate the international exhibition and creative program of the 2012 Biennale Benin.

History of Benin

Precolonial history

Benin now includes three regions that had distinct political and ethnic systems prior to French colonial rule. Prior to 1700, there were a few significant city states along the coast (mainly of the Aja ethnic group, but also of the Yoruba and Gbe peoples) and a swath of tribal territories inland (composed of Bariba, Mahi, Gedevi, and Kabye peoples). The Oyo Empire, situated mainly to the east of modern Benin, was the region’s most powerful large-scale military force, conducting raids and exacting tribute from the coastal kingdoms and tribal areas on a regular basis. The situation altered in the 1600s and early 1700s when the Kingdom of Dahomey, of Fon ethnicity, was established on the Abomey plateau and started annexing territories along the coast. By 1727, King Agaja of the Kingdom of Dahomey had captured the coastal towns of Allada and Whydah, but the Kingdom of Dahomey had become a vassal of the Oyo empire and did not attack the Oyo-allied city-state of Porto-Novo directly. The development of Dahomey, the competition between the kingdom and the city of Porto-Novo, and the continuation of tribal politics in the northern area lasted into the colonial and post-colonial eras.

The culture and customs of the Dahomey Kingdom were well-known. Young boys were often apprenticed to elder soldiers and taught the military traditions of the kingdom until they were old enough to join the army. Dahomey was also renowned for establishing an elite female military corps known as Ahosi, i.e. the king’s wives, or Mino, “our moms” in the Fon language Fongbe, and recognized as the Dahomean Amazons by many Europeans. This focus on military preparation and success gained Dahomey the moniker “black Sparta” from European observers and nineteenth-century travelers like as Sir Richard Burton.

Portuguese Empire

Dahomey’s monarchs sold their war prisoners into transatlantic slavery; otherwise, the captives would have been executed in a ritual called as the Annual Customs. By about 1750, the King of Dahomey was earning an estimated £250,000 per year from the sale of Africans to European slave merchants. Though the authorities of Dahomey seemed to oppose the slave trade at first, it thrived in the territory of Dahomey for almost three centuries, starting in 1472 with a trade deal with Portuguese traders, which led to the area being dubbed “the Slave Coast.” Court rules requiring the decapitation of a percentage of war captives from the kingdom’s numerous wars reduced the number of enslaved individuals shipped from the region. By the 1860s, the population had dropped from 102,000 individuals each decade in the 1780s to 24,000 people per decade.

The decrease was caused in part by Britain and other nations prohibiting the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

This decrease lasted until 1885, when the final slave ship sailed off the coast of modern-day Benin Republic headed for Brazil, a former Portuguese territory that had yet to abolish slavery.

The name Porto-Novo is of Portuguese origin and means “New Port.” It was initially planned as a slave trading harbor.

Colonial period (1900 until 1958)

By the mid-nineteenth century, Dahomey had started to lose its position as a regional power. This allowed the French to seize control of the region in 1892. In 1899, the French included French Dahomey into the broader French West African colonial territory. France gave the Republic of Dahomey autonomy in 1958, followed by complete independence on August 1, 1960. Hubert Maga was the president who guided them to independence.

Post-colonial period

After 1960, ethnic conflict led to a period of instability over the following twelve years. Several coups and regime changes occurred, with Hubert Maga, Sourou Apithy, Justin Ahomadegbé, and Emile Derlin Zinsou ruling; the first three each represented a distinct region and ethnicity of the nation. After the 1970 elections were marred by violence, these three decided to establish a Presidential Council.

Maga handed up control to Ahomadegbe on May 7, 1972. Lt. Col. Mathieu Kérékou deposed the governing triumvirate on October 26, 1972, becoming president and declaring that the nation will not “strain itself by imitating foreign ideas, and desires neither Capitalism, Communism, nor Socialism.” However, on November 30, 1974, he declared that the country was officially Marxist, with the Military Council of the Revolution (CNR) in charge, which nationalized the petroleum sector and banks. He renamed the nation the People’s Republic of Benin on November 30, 1975.

When the CNR was disbanded in 1979, Kérékou staged sham elections in which he was the sole candidate permitted. He established connections with China, North Korea, and Libya, and he nationalized virtually all companies and economic activity, leading international investment in Benin to dry up. Kérékou tried to restructure education, promoting his own aphorisms such as “Poverty is not a fatality,” which resulted in a huge departure of teachers and other professionals. The dictatorship funded itself by contracting to transport nuclear waste from the Soviet Union, then from France.

Kérékou converted to Islam in 1980, changing his initial name to Ahmed, then changing his name again after claiming to be a born-again Christian.

Riots erupted in 1989 as a result of the regime’s inability to pay its troops. The banking system failed. Kérékou eventually abandoned Marxism, and a convention compelled him to free political prisoners and hold elections. Marxism-Leninism was also outlawed as a system of governance in the country.

After the constitution of the newly established government was completed, the country’s name was formally changed to the Republic of Benin on March 1, 1990.

Kérékou was defeated in a 1991 election by Nicéphore Soglo. Kérékou regained power after winning the 1996 election. In a tightly fought election in 2001, Kérékou won a second term, prompting his opponents to accuse him of election fraud.

Kérékou offered a national apology in 1999 for the significant role Africans played in the Atlantic slave trade.

Kérékou and former President Soglo did not run in the 2006 elections since they were both prohibited under the constitution’s age and total term limits for candidates.

On March 5, 2006, an election that was deemed free and fair was conducted. Yayi Boni and Adrien Houngbédji were forced to compete in a runoff. Boni was elected in a runoff election on March 19, and he took office on April 6. Internationally, the success of Benin’s fair multi-party elections has been lauded. Boni was re-elected in 2011, receiving 53.18 percent of the vote in the first round, avoiding a runoff election and being the first president to do so since the restoration of democracy in 1991.

In the March 2016 presidential elections, businessman Patrice Talon won the second round with 65.37 percent of the vote, beating investment banker and former Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou, who was prohibited by the constitution from standing for a third term. Talon took the oath of office on April 6, 2016. Talon said on the same day that the Constitutional Court certified the results that he would “first and foremost tackle constitutional change,” outlining his proposal to restrict presidents to a single five-year term in order to fight “complacency.” He also said that he intended to reduce the government’s size from 28 to 16 members.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Benin

Stay Safe in Benin

The easiest method to remain safe in Benin is to always be in the company of a local you can trust, such as a friend or a professional tourist guide. They know which places are safe and which are not, they know how much things cost so you don’t get ripped off, they speak the local languages, and they know which restaurants provide excellent cuisine that is safe for westerners to eat.

Avoid traveling alone as much as possible for ladies, and aim to be in the company of other people as much as feasible. Do not go alone at night: assaults on beaches are common, as are attacks near hotels, nightclubs, and other places. If you are alone at night, ignore anybody who whistles at you. Benin is a calm nation, and the people are extremely friendly and giving, but muggings and robberies happen anywhere, no matter how tranquil it seems, so be cautious. If you are a victim of a crime, notify the Gendarme (Police) as soon as possible.

Homosexuality is legal in Benin, although societal stigma may create difficulties. It’s best not to flaunt it and to avoid casually discussing it with locals.

Stay Healthy in Benin

Keep an eye on what you eat and drink, as well as where you eat and drink it. If you consume street food, make sure it is served extremely hot, since germs cannot survive in hot food. E.coli bacteria present in undercooked meat is one of the most frequent causes of illness. Drinking water is easily accessible, and bottled water is available from “Possatome,” a natural spring water bottled in the city of the same name. It’s really excellent and costs about 500 CFA each bottle.

The tap water in Cotonou is safe to drink, although it has been treated with chlorine, which some individuals may be sensitive to. Malaria is a fact of life in Benin. Mosquitoes are active from night until morning, and they reproduce in standing water. Medications are only accessible with a prescription. The only mandatory vaccine required for entry into the country is for Yellow Fever. Customs officers at the airport usually do not check to see whether you have it, but it is highly recommended that you get it before entering for your own safety.

Along with polio, hepatitis A and B vaccinations, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Lock Jaw, Rabies, and all other routine children immunizations (as per Canadian public school standards). AIDS is a problem in Benin, as it is in other Sub-Saharan African nations; if you are in a sexual connection with a Beninese partner, you should wear a condom. Other dangers associated with unprotected sex are the same as in any other nation, developed or not: syphilis, chlamydia, HPV, and so on.

If you are planning a trip to Benin, it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you consult with a doctor that specializes in travel medicine. Inquire with your family doctor or a public health nurse about the location of a travel clinic in your region. If feasible, visit them approximately 6 months before your trip to Benin. This material is intended to be a guide and should not be construed as an expert description of how to remain healthy in Benin; such knowledge can only be provided by a qualified health practitioner.



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