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“It looks like an ice cream cone with a big scoop on top. This is a description of the shape of Benin, which stretches seven hundred kilometers into the continent from the sea, but has a coastline on the Gulf of Guinea just a hundred kilometers wide.

During the second half of the twentieth century, the country's leaders sympathized with the socialist camp, so in the mid-seventies, the newly chosen name for former Dahomey even included the ominous-sounding phrase ‘people's republic’ for three difficult years. Today, however, it is considered one of the most politically stable states in Africa, which it owes to its former authoritarian president, who could have changed the constitution at will but did not take advantage of the opportunity. Since President Kérékou's commitment to the rule of law was stronger than his desire for power, today Benin is one of the most well-regarded democracies in sub-Saharan Africa.
In 1885, the last Portuguese ship bringing slaves to the Americas set sail from the coast of Benin, then still known as the Slave Coast. The Gate of No Return on the grassy beach evokes sad memories...

Its nominal capital is Porto Novo, but the most important administrative buildings are located in the country's largest city, Cotonou. Perhaps no one will be surprised if I say that the big cities are not the most interesting thing in Benin! Of course, they also have attractions – churches, monuments, parliament buildings, and the like – but the real interest is in the largest settlement in the Nokoué lagoon, Ouidah, where almost a hundred thousand people live in a seemingly endless array of stilt houses. There, the main means of transport is by boat; it’s what they use to, travel, shop, visit friends, and transport goods.

The people of this water world are still followers of the mysterious voodoo religion...” (Elter, 2023)

West Africa - Benin - head-dress - Elter photo

West Africa - Benin - village scene - Elter photo

Benin - basilica of Ouidah - Elter photo




West Africa - Benin - road scene 2. - Elter photo

West Africa -Benin - mass transit - Elter photo

West Africa - Benin - handy fueling - Elter photo

Benin - train travel - k.c. photo

Benin - Cotonou - traffic

Benin - Cotonou - traffic in Boulevard Saint Michel - k.a. photo



Benin - Cotonou - Dantokpa market - fruits - k.a. photo



Benin - Porto Novo - market - k-t.g. photo

Benin - Ketou - market day

Benin - Cotonou - Dantokpa market - k.a. photo

Benin - Abomey - batik souvenirs - k.a. photo



Benin - Voodoo Festivity - m.c. photo

Benin - Ouidah - Sacred forest - innovative scaring - k.a. photo

Benin - Christmas is coming - k.t.g. photo

Public safety


Benin - Ouidah - Sacred forest - excibionist satyr - k.a. photo



Benin - traditional healing therapist - treatments of all natural and supernatural diseases (referring to the Naturopathic Office of the Ministry of Health) - k.c. photo

Benin - emergency care place - s.m. photo

Benin - magical voudou dance with mystic trances - y.m. photo

Benin - Ouidah - Sacred forest - Nordic walking in the South - k.a. photo



Benin - Cotonou - Elter photo

Benin - share taxi - ktg photo


West Africa - Benin - Cotonou - National Assembly building and Congress Center - Elter photo

Destination in brief

Benin in brief
Benin is in West Africa with a small southern coastline on the Bay of Benin. Neighbors: Togo (west), Burkina Faso and Niger (north), Nigeria (east).
Benin was a French colony until 1960. The country was called Dahomey until 1975.

Size: 114,763 km² (44,310.2 mi²) - a narrow, key-shaped, north-south strip of land

Capital city: Porto Novo, but the commercial capital is Cotonou

Population: 12 million (2020) – Benin is home to about 42 ethnic groups - Benin’s fertility rate is among the highest in the world, with approximately 5 children per woman.

Language: French - A total of 50 indigenous languages are spoken in Benin, the most widely spoken one being the Fon language. Educated people speak French well, others just know the basic vocabulary needed to be able to do small-scale business or shop.

Religion: People in Benin follow a diverse mix of Christian, Muslim and West African traditional beliefs. Roman Catholicism is the largest religious group in Benin and is followed closely by Islam and Voodoo (or Vodun).
Voodoo majorly concentrates on spirits and divine elements that rule the earth, deities which govern human society and natural forces as well as spirits of individual trees, streams and rocks and defenders of a certain nation, clan or tribe. About 17% of the population of Benin practices this West African belief. Modern day Benin is regarded as the birth place of this religion, and the name ‘Voodoo’ itself means ‘spirit’ in the local Fon language.

Political system: a presidential, representative democratic republic – Despite being a very poor country, Benin is one of the most stable democracies in West Africa.
The dress, manners, activities, and worldview of the urban elite set them far apart from other segments of society, and people belonging to lower social classes often try to emulate their lifestyle. Speaking French, wearing Western-style clothes, eating European food, living in a house with a tin roof, and listening to modern music all distinguish a person as "civilized."

Currency: West African franc (XOF)

Average net monthly salary: about 300 USD (2020)

Most common surname: Bio

When to visit? October-February

Safety: Benin is a safe, peaceful tourist destination by West Arican standards. However, visitors should be aware of the fact that petty theft, violent crime, fraud and scams are quite common.
The country’s infrastructure is underdeveloped, power cuts are frequent.

Top tourist attractions:
Pendjari National Park and Reserve du W du Niger (expect to see elephants, lions, antelopes, hippos, monkeys)
Ganvie (a village built on a lake), Ouidah (a central location for voodoo ceremonies), Abomey, a the former royal town of Dahomey

Interesting facts:
When in Benin, never, ever touch food with your left hand. It will truly disgust people if you do. In fact, try to avoid even giving money to people with your left hand, which is considered to be your unclean hand.



West Africa - Benin - The Slaves Road monuments in Ouidah - Elter photo

West Africa - Benin - Cathedral of Porto Novo - Elter photo

Benin - Ouidah - Portuguese colonial building

Benin - Cotonou -- k.a. photo

Benin - King of Abomey and his maids of honor (or/and concubines?) - y.m. photo

Benin - Cotonou - j.k. photo


1. On the quite, a sort of slavery still exists among the tribes in the north of the country.


1. The Beninese seldom raise their voice. Locals mostly resolve disputes gently.

West Africa - Benin - village girl - Elter photo

Benin - k-t. g. photo

Benin - young mother and her baby

Benin - Porto Novo - kids - d.l. photo

Benin - siesta - s.m. photo

Benin - guys - ktg photo

Tourist etiquette

1. It is best to avoid discussing people's religious beliefs. Despite their Christian and Muslim religious beliefs, a vast majority of Beninese practice Voodoo, even if few will admit it.



Benin - Cotonou - Boulevard Saint Michel - k.a. photo

Benin - Cotonou - Dantokpa market - k.a. photo

Benin - Cotonou - Dantokpa market - k.a. photo

Benin - Cotonou - Palais des Congres, a government building - K. Elter photo

Benin - Cotonou - Notre Dame Roman Catholic cathedral - k.a. photo

Benin - Cotonou - Central mosque - k.a. photo


Benin - Abomey - ktg photo

Benin - Abomey - ktg photo


Benin - Ouidah - The Door of No Return - a memorial arch - k.a. photo

Benin - Ouidah - The Door of No Return - a memorial arch - k.a. photo

Benin - Ouidah - Temple of Pythons - k.a. photo

Benin - Ouidah - Sacred forest - two-faced - k.a. photo

Benin - Ouidah - Basilica - a Catholic church - k.a. photo

Ganvie, the lake village

Benin - Ganvie, a lake village - the small acrobats - k.a. photo

Benin - Ganvie, a lake village - k.a. photo

Benin - Ganvie, a lake village - k.a. photo

Benin - Ganvie, a lake village - k.a. photo

Benin - Ganvie, a lake village - k.a. photo

Porto Novo

Benin - A market of Porto Novo - ktg photo

Benin - Porto Novo - ktg photo

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