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Cotonou – a mess I came to love

 

zems in Cotonou

Traffic in Cotonou

Most tourists leave Cotonou, Benin largest city, straight away, it lacks attractions to speak off. Worth mentioning, a cozy Catholic Cathedral, where people come to prey, sleep, and rest. 

Visits to the Dantokpa Market, Benin biggest market with 40 hectares, and the giant second hand market left me irritated and exhausted. Too many people push through the narrow alleys, as the only white person I was stared at and constantly spoken to in unfamiliar languages.

Street Vendors

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Meeting the King of Dassa

king of Dass

King of Dassa

To be frank there are not many sights in Dassa, the Royal Palais is a run-down building and was closed at the time of my visit. If it was not for the fading letters on the wall saying Royal Palais, it would pass for another descript building in a dusty town.
The present king chooses to live in a simply house right next to it. He receives visitors, when they bring a bottle of gin and CFA 5000 in cash as a present.

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Heading North to Dassa

Dass main strett

Center of Dassa

It took quite a while for the bus to Dassa to fill since it was Saturday, besides nine people certainly are not enough for nine seats. Only when about 16 passengers filled the vehicle, lots of cargo was stowed away on the roof, including a moped, did we leave Cotonou. Since I got the privileged seat next to the driver, it was a sweet trip.

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Ganvie – the Venice of Benin

 

Ganive-village

Ganvie Village

Ganvie is home to a fishing community of about 30.000 people, who all live in wooden huts on stilts in the lagoon waters of Lake Nokoue. The village, far away from the mainland, was founded by the Tofino people back in 17th century, when Dahomean worriers raided their countryside for captives to sell to the European slave traders. The Tofino word for gan means we are save and the word vie means community.

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Benin Visa most wanted

Visa Benin

Visa Benin

Never has there been a visa more desired. The day before the X-mas holidays started and three days before my departure, it still had not arrived, although I had applied two weeks earlier. Hectic phone calls, email exchanges, mapping out a plan B (which quickly imploded) and the very sad thought of losing a plane ticket, turned the 23rd of December into a nightmarish day. At 4pm I could not take it any longer and called the responsible person in Benin on my mobile. Guess what,  he told me to tell the consulate to issue the visa. He will give his okay the next day. And they did.

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