13 April 2013

Benin is a thin sliver of a country wedged between skinny Togo and big Nigeria. Its 10 million people are part of Francophone Africa, although English is gaining ground.

Like most of Africa, Benin tried every bad idea of the twentieth century but ― after rounds of Marxism, military rule, and so forth ― Benin has entered a period of greater political and economic freedom. Moreover, President Yani seems to be genuinely attacking corruption (yes, really or at least that is the conventional wisdom).

In Benin, we toured the cities of Contonou and Porto Novo, plus the justifiably obligatory tourist destinations: Ganvie village and Ouidah.

Ganvie is a fishing village built centuries ago on stilts in Lake Nokoue in
order to reduce vulnerability to raiding parties of rivals rounding up slaves.

Spirit dancers waiting to take their turn on center stage in Ganvie.
Ganvie has become such a tourist destination that many adults seem weary
of being photographable curiosities.  Kids were more happy to see visitors.
(First two photos above from Ganvie; second two on the road from Ganvie to Ouidah.)
Ouidah was a major slave disembarkation port and
is now the site of a simple but famous memorial to
the evils of slavery at "the point of no return."
A beautiful scene at a nice nearby beach hotel that seemed to me
an odd holiday location so near the infamous Ouidah transport point.
One of numerous village "market days" we saw driving around West Africa; no tourists here.
Part of a street filled with drum stories in Porto Novo.

Benin political cartoon mocking obsequious
advisers of a former president (Kérékou, I think).
Click to see larger version.