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Interesting facts about Benin

Benin, officially Republic of Benin is a country in the West Africa bordered by Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east, and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south.

The country’s official language is French However, indigenous languages such as Fon and Yoruba are commonly spoken.

Its capital Porto-Novo. The country stands at position 100 in terms of land area with 114,763 square kilometers (44,310 square miles).

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Benin was formerly Dahomey

Benin was formerly called Dahomey a very powerful kingdom in West Africa that reigned during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Dahomey means ‘on the belly of Dan.’ Dan was a rival King whose grave Dahomey’s grave was built on.

During the late 19th century French colonizers coming in from the coastal region into the interior liked the name of the defeated Dahomey kingdom and gave it to the entire kingdom which is now now Benin; the current name derives from the Bight of Benin according to Britannica.

The country acquired it’s official name Benin in 1975.

Independence

Benin was a French colony for 58 years between 1900 and 1958. In 1946 Dahomey became an overseas territory of France.

In 1958, it became a self governing but within the French Community until in the 1960 when it gained complete independence.

The country then changes it’s name to the republic of Benin in the 1975.

National Parks

Benin has two National parks: the Pendjari National Park and W National Park.

Pendjari National Park is in north western Benin and adjoins the Arli National Park in Burkina Faso and was named after the Pendjari river.

Pendjari is popular for its wildlife and being home to big game like elephants, West African lions, hippopotamuses, buffalo and various antelopes in West Africa. It also has multiple types of birds.

The W National Park is located around a meander in the River Niger shaped like a “W” and covers areas of three countries Niger, Benin and Burkina Faso. The countries govern the National park.

The W National Park is famous for its large mammals, including aardvarks, baboons, buffalo, caracal, cheetahs, elephants, hippopotami, African leopards, West African lions, serval and warthogs.

Royal palaces of Abomey

These are twelve palaces spread over a 40 hectares in Abomey town. Abomey was the capital of the West African Kingdom of Dahomey.

In 1985, UNESCO inscribed the palaces as world heritage. It was built by the Fon people between 1625 and 1900

The site stands as a testimony to one of the most powerful kingdoms in Africa, Dahomey.

They generally give a sense of the scale and nature of West African Kingdoms that existed before colonial rule.

The Temple of snakes

Well, unlike in other countries where snakes are feared, in Benin they are revered. In Ouidah, people house these snakes, feed the and even worship them.

At night the snakes are let free from the temple where they are allowed to go feed in various houses and are actually welcomed like honoured guests but the locals.

The temple of snakes, is just a small room of 12 square meters that holds 50 adult royal pythons.

Voodoo

With all these, speculations are rife that Voodoo, whose originality remains unknown, started or has roots in West Africa.

It is even much believed Benin is the mother of Voodoo owing tho the facts that even the name ‘Voodoo’ itself means ‘spirit’ in the local Fon language.

The religion is a state religion since 1996 and has continued growing with about 17% of the population practicing it.

Many outside of the religion have professed a cultural link to some of its rituals.

Well, the largest religious group in Benin is Roman Catholicism, followed by Islam, Voodoo and Protestantism.

Route d’Esclaves, or the Slave Route

This is the last piece of African soil slaves from Benin touched before they were shipped to the Caribbean and Americas.

The slave route stretches for four kilometers and the road contains numerous statues and monuments, including the Door of No Return, a memorial arch.

It also should be noted that the last ship of slaves departed from Dahomey for Brazil in 1885.

Democracy

Benin was the first country in the 1990s to make the transition from a dictatorship to a multiparty democracy.

Benin has also remained in the top list as Africa’s most stable democracies.

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The country has also manged to become Africa’s largest cotton producers and with it has managed to to increase economic growth. It has however been ranked among the world’s poorest countries.

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