Just after the most amazing part of my trip in Benin, meaning visiting Pendjari National Park and going for safari I still had few days to spare before flying to Mallorca to catch up with my friends. I have decided to visit Abomey. I have read that is a quaint and idyllic town. I would rather say characterless and drowsy.
Abomey was once the political and cultural centre of the ancient Dahomey Kingdom, a bustling trade centre in the 19th century, in times when the slave trade was at its peak and business with European merchants was flourishing. That is why I have decided it would be a shame to leave without seeing it this historical city.
Famous for its prestigious past and the remains of the old kings’ palaces. These days it is the biggest lacklustre of Benin.
Is Abomey lacking character?!
The Royal Palace stands graciously in the centre of the city. Traditionally Fon kings didn’t use their ancestors’ palaces. Instead they built new ones after inheriting the throne. And the old ones were left uninhabited forever.
Therefore you can imagine why the complex of all those palaces became UNESCO World Heritage Site, there is not many of such sites around the globe.
The fact is that there is not much to do or see here except sightseeing palaces. The market is almost non-existent and the state buildings are very unattractive. I felt like the city was missing a soul.
Except meeting one super interesting lady who couldn’t stop admiring my pale skin and was all the time checking if i’m real by pinching me. She told me many interesting stories when we had a Coca Cola in the cafe… about her life, about her sons and travels she made around Africa!
Abomey Historical Museum
The Abomey Historical Museum is located in the palaces of King Glele and King Guezo. History says that the kingdom of Abomey was ruled by 12 kings from the period of 1625 to 1900.
The royal palaces that are still present in Abomey reflecting the exclusive token of a misplaced realm and giving testimony to one of the most powerful kingdoms in Africa.
It is interesting to learn about the traditions and culture of the Fon people and their kings. To admire the sculptures, murals and the whole collection of thrones made from human skulls. Each throne was a unique design. Including the symbols typical of a specific king and the ornamentation. Although they all had some similar features.
I was most impressed with the exhibitions of objects of everyday use. Such as sun umbrellas and jewellery. It was explained to me that kings had specially chosen people who were responsible for holding umbrellas above them as they walked. Insubordination was equal to a death sentence.
In general Fon people, who are believed to be descendants of the union between a spirit in the body of a panther and a princess from Togo. Had very unique traditions and requisites. Such as when the king died, some of his wives had to die with him!
Or stories about one of the buildings that had been made from a terrifying mixture of mud, bones and blood of prisoners of war. A very violent culture indeed!
The Fon people were and are strong vodun believers. ‘Dahomey’ in their language means ‘in the heart of the serpent’. Which means that the kingdom is the heart of the vodun religion. Symbolised by the serpent, which is a sacred python.
The best way to move around is to hire a zemidjan. And I have to admit I simply adore them. This is the most common form of public transport in Benin. They are motor taxis, perfect for the weather and road conditions of this great country!
In the Fon language ‘zemidjan’ means ‘get me there fast’. And indeed they do. They are quick. Very efficient. Easy to spot and very cheap. The only minus of these motorcycle-taxies is the wind in your hair.
After a 10-minute ride you look like Diana Ross and start becoming jealous of all the women’s head ties!