Benin: Abomey

Benin: Abomey

IMG_5078_Guezo maybe

My Benin-Togo-Ghana journey was so extremely interesting and complex; the only method to record it without losing my mind is to lay it out chronologically instead of thematically. So, we start with Day 1 (the afternoon after leaving Cotonou): Abomey. IMG_4949

In fact, I began a couple of kilometers up the roadway, in Bohican, where I went to a series of underground bunkers that were built in the 16 th century to conceal Dahomean soldiers from their opponents. We climbed up down to the bottom of one.


It was fascinating, however not as fascinating as this baobab linked with a ficus on the course back to the vehicle. It is thought about a spiritual tree( s) by the residents.


To the right of the tree you’ll see a stone piece, which belongs to an altar to the Vodoun divinity of success, Dan. We saw the remains of sacrifices near the altar, and because baobabs can be centuries old, I questioned for how long this location had actually been a website of praise. (And to be sincere, I believe I asked, however I can no longer keep in mind the response.)

The next day, after remaining in a cute guesthouse on the borders of town, we drove into Abomey appropriate and met a full-day tourist guide that the guesthouse reserved for me. He revealed me around the palaces of the kings of Dahomey, beginning with the 2 (of King Ghézo and King Glélé) that house the museum.

IMG_5013_Glele maybe

Disclaimer: I took in many hours of reality and dream throughout this trip– all of it in French. I undoubtedly misinterpreted a few of what I heard, and I have actually certainly forgotten a great deal of it. So, I advise you to check out Dahomey by means of other sources and do not depend upon my account to be strictly precise. In any case, history and folklore mix effortlessly in the story of Dahomey, so the fact is currently blurred.

The fundamentals are: in the past, a hunter called Agasu starved after Princess Aligbonu in contemporary Togo. He understood the king would never ever let him wed her, so he turned himself into a panther and raped her in a field rather. She brought to life a child who was brave and strong due to his panther blood. He and his kids were rejected the throne, so they eliminated the king and got away to contemporary Allada with a lot of taken royal stuff. They produced a brand-new kingdom in Allada, and continued to contest who need to be the next king. At this moment there were 3 brother or sister princes, and 2 were displaced of Allada. One went to the east and established a kingdom in what is now Porto Novo. The other, Dogbagli, chose his boys to someplace near Abomey, where they ended up being the creators of the kingdom of Dahomey in the early 1600 s.

The very first king to have a palace in Abomey itself was Houegbadja, who rose the throne in1645 IMG_5017

Above, a few of the thrones and scepters of the kings. In this space, the tourist guide informed the story of each king (and of the one queen who was not acknowledged as such due to the fact that she was a lady). A few of the stories were cut and dry: such and such king was the kid of such and such king prior to him. However a few of the stories included remarkable folklore. For instance, one king was a twin. In the Fon culture, twins are valued and thought about 2 parts of a whole. If one passes away, the other brings a sculpted wood figurine of their lost brother or sister around in their waistband for the rest of their life. Well, the twin king chose that he had actually had enough, so he went to his mom and provided her a figurine of himself. Then he strolled into a forest, took a seat, and vanished into thin air.


Above, the burial tomb of among the kings. (I think this is the one whose 300 other halves were buried alive in an adjacent burial place after he passed away, to keep him business. The burial places are linked by an underground tunnel.) I ducked into the area for a more detailed look and after that was informed I needed to leave in reverse or run the risk of sustaining the king’s rage. (I did not risk it.)


Individuals leave the kings sacrifices in the hopes that they will give their desires. For this reason, the animal bones, horns, and teeth lining the external walls of the burial places.


The Dahomean kingdom was not the least violent on the planet. They actively took part in the servant trade (which is how they wound up with European cannons, above), they began wars with other West African empires in addition to the protective wars they combated with Europeans, and they had a particular gruesome je ne sais quoi that I discovered noteworthy.


For instance, the palaces of Abomey have lots of resemblances– amongst them the existence of bas-relief designs on the external walls. (By the method, the walls are initial however the roofings are not– they utilized to be made from straw.)IMG_5031

If you look a bit more carefully you will see that a number of the reliefs show imaginative methods to abuse and deteriorate individuals.IMG_5034



If you are questioning the one above, I can’t assist you. I could not distinguish the French whether it is a cannonball he is holding up his opponent’s butt or what.


The above is a fly swatter made from an opponent’s skull and the opponent’s horse’s hair. It was utilized in ritualistic dances.

We likewise saw a mannequin using an executioner’s clothing from the time. The guide informed us that the executioner needed to cut off the condemned’s head in one slice. If he didn’t? It would be his own head that would come off in the 2nd slice. IMG_5058

Well. I do not discover cruelty amusing and I do not wish to play down it. It’s simply that a few of the stories had a practically cartoonish violence to them, and I wasn’t sure where the fact ended and folklore started.

We drove around Abomey taking a look at the remains of the numerous palaces and after that we associated a Spanish trip group and went to a Vodoun master called Ninguinnon Salanon in a town simply beyond town. He revealed us how he does numerous routines and necromancies– for health, for rain, for safe journeys, for turnaround of bad fortune. Listed below, he reveals us the routine to bring rain.


And listed below, he reveals us a horn out of which you consume an unique brew if you wish to guarantee you will live for a minimum of another year. He assured us it works– however it costs a great deal of loan.


Then he asked if anybody wished to ask him anything. Among the Spanish females stated that her nephew was ill with an undiagnosable health problem and she would like to know whether it remained in his head or genuine, and whether it was treatable. IMG_5119

The Vodoun master stated some words, shook a couple of cowry shells like dice, and tossed them onto the mat. He stated the shells revealed that yes, he had something real, which yes, it was treatable. She choked up, and I was touched by the sight of a (most likely) Catholic female putting blind hope in a skilled of a completely foreign religious beliefs due to the fact that he informed her what she frantically wished to hear. Faith is odd and frequently frightening, however likewise in some cases lovely.


From the Vodoun master’s home we went back to Abomey and strolled through the forest where the ancient king vanished, in the nick of time to enjoy the sun begin its own descent. We were visiting the specific area where he disappeared, however it is now a shrine and was closed for 7 days following an adepts-only Vodoun event. IMG_5198

We advanced to among the Vodoun temples, which is likewise for adepts just. I was just enabled to walk the exterior.


The huge temple sits beside the spiritual forest, in front of which are 3 other little shrines, each committed to a particular divinity. I might peek however I was not allowed any of them, and I was likewise informed that if a non-adept strolls into the spiritual forest, she or he will never ever come out. Once again, I wasn’t taking any dangers, and I remained far from the treeline.


These little mounds in front of the shrines are utilized in events. I didn’t see any events in Abomey, however the next day I saw many in Allada and Ouidah. So, onward to day 2 …

However initially, 2 PS’s:

If you go to Abomey– which you need to– remain at Chez Sabine, where I did. It is a charming location and Sabine is a fantastic host.


Likewise, satisfy the Queen of Dahomey. I did.


To get an audience with Queen Zognidi, you require to make a consultation and bring a contribution. I organized this all through the tourist guide, who was amazing and who I would likewise advise if you speak French and if you go to Abomey– WHICH YOU SHOULD.

The Queen provided me a customized praise, which I selected to think in due to the fact that like the Spanish female, I frantically wished to.

Queen Zognidi is the genuine offer– came down from the kings and queens of Dahomey on both sides. She is thought about to be not just the present Queen of Dahomey however likewise the other half of King Ghézo, the spirit of King Ghézo incarnate, and the mom of King Glélé. She has this remarkable regal self-respect about her and is deeply associated with neighborhood jobs that benefit females, kids, and specifically orphans. She asked me to state that she is searching for volunteers to assist with these jobs for any length of time.

I took the Queen’s telephone number and e-mail– no big deal– and informed her I would hook her up with anybody who revealed interest. So, contact us– now is your possibility to deal with a queen!

To close this long chapter:

Discover somebody who takes a look at you the method I take a look at the Queen of Dahomey.