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Most Interesting Facts about Benin

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Benin

Benin is a nation in West Africa known for its craftsmen, jungle safaris and rich cultural history. On the whole the country is rather relatively unknown, so, here are some interesting facts about the country!

Interesting Facts:

1. The flag shown above was the one adopted by the Republic of Dahomey to replace the French colour. The flag’s colours carry significance with the yellow for the northern savannas, the green for the palm groves and the red in memory of those who shed their blood for Dahomey.

2. Although the country strived for independence from France, they French influence is still pretty strong. The official language itself is French, they celebrate crucial French holidays and even sing the national anthem in French.

3. It is the birthplace of “voodoo”. Unlike the distorted representation in movies, the form of voodoo (called Vodun by locals) practiced here involves the faith in spirits, importance of the 5 elements of the Earth and the correctly represented worship of serpents. In fact, they even have a Temple of Serpents, a small 130 sq. ft. sized room that houses 50 royal snakes. Benin is the only country to recognize this as one of the official religions practiced in the country.

voodoo in benin
Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2012/jun/15/benin-voodoo-festival-in-pictures

4. Thanks to the influence of voodoo and animism a number of Beninese people actually believe that getting a photograph clicked can take away a piece of a person’s soul. So, shutterbugs make sure to get permission first!

5. Benin’s capital was the Slave Coast during the colonial era. While they stopped selling their own citizens in the 16th century, it didn’t place a ban on the nearby tribes and nations. Today there a number of museums in the country talking about this dark part of their history.

6. But mind you, Benin was the first country in the region to make the transition from a dictatorship to a multi-party democracy! Back in the 1990s.

7. The rainy season takes over in Benin not once but twice in the year, first from April to July and then again from September to November. So, one needs to keep those raincoats handy at all times!

8. Hospitality stems from their traditions itself, so, food and drinks are almost always offered to guests. But refusing these can be considered rude or offensive, so, get that belly ready.

9. While it is poverty struck, it has surprisingly seen higher political stability than the majority of West African nations.

10. Benin craftsmen are quite the stars in their trade, especially known for the quality of their woodwork, best seen on the wooden masks which most people pick as a souvenir to bring back.

Author’s Recommendations:

1. Cotonou has some of the best beaches of Benin. Get your beach on!

Cotonou Benin
Source: https://www.booking.com/hotel/bj/dodoo-lodge.de.html?aid=356980;label=gog235jc-1DCAsoGkILZG9kb28tbG9kZ2VIM1gDaGyIAQGYAQe4ARfIAQzYAQPoAQGIAgGoAgO4Auvk5vQFwAIB;sid=d21aac7f231929a4d74d6c5bd6ccf49f;dist=0&keep_landing=1&sb_price_type=total&type=total&

2. The Pendjari National Park is a must visit for all wildlife lovers. It is home to the largest surviving population of West African lions. Other big game such as elephants, buffalo, antelopes, hippopotamuses, etc. can also be spotted.

3. If you have an appetite for exploring cultures, then go to Natitingou where you can explore the Somba culture.

4. Open markets can be found in every town of Benin where shoppers can purchase crafts work, local goods and even see local artists perform. Dantokpa is the largest market and it is set in Cotonou itself!

5. Abomey Historical Museum will take you through Benin’s past.

6. Visit the Portuguese Fort to observe the slave history.

7. Lake Nokoue makes for a lazy visit and a boat ride to understand the myths of the tribes from around here. The stilt village of Ganvie here is called the “Venice of Africa”.

Lake Nokoue
Source: http://beininbenin.blogspot.com/2015/05/ganvie-on-lake-nokoue.html

8. And if your idea of a vacation involves jumping in waterfalls, then make way to Kota Falls!

Kota Falls
Source: http://ttnotes.com/kota-falls.html#gal_post_69_kota-falls-natitingou-3.jpg

How to reach:

One can fly to Cadjehoun Airport in Cotonou. There are no direct flights, so, you will have to make this journey with a layover in Addis Ababa or Istanbul.

Visa:

For the visa requirements kindly refer to the below link:

Benin Visa Requirements for Indians

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