Benin

Overview

Introduction

The small nation of Benin, once known as Dahomey, is best known for slaves and voodoo. Benin was once the heart of the slave trade in West Africa, and it was also the birthplace of the animistic religion that was shipped abroad along with its enslaved practitioners.

These days, there's little left of the great Dahomey empire, of which Benin was the center. The royal palace in Abomey, although interesting to visit, is only a remnant of what was once one of the grandest structures in all of West Africa. But the practice of vodou, as it's known in Benin, is as strong as ever. And these days, it's one of the country's top cultural attractions. You can visit a museum to learn about vodou's past—or visit a market and buy a fetish from a current practitioner.

Benin has other attractions as well that can work a spell on visitors: the fishing villages on stilts along Lake Nokoue, the beaches of Grand Popo, the elephants and lions of the northern national parks, and the fine restaurants in Cotonou.

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