Forget New York, the true and real yellow fleet calls Cotonou its home. Streets are buzzing with young men on motorbikes, wearing bright yellow vests, registration number printed on the back. Even before I arrived I Benin I was determined to explore places by zemidjan, or simply zem, as they are called. Since Cotonou, nor any other town in Benin, provide urban public transport that is your choice. Half a Euro is a trip to most places around town. Despite the zigg-zagging through traffic, using sidewalks as escape routes during traffic jam, I was never really afraid. The only downside, zem drivers don’t provide helmets for their passengers like they do in Rwanda.
Most amazing, cruising through Cotonou for days on the back of a motorbike I did not see any Europeans, none, zero. Then I remembered, Europeans rarely walk around in African cities and certainly don’t ride on the backseat of zems like I did. The Europeans on the plane and in my hotel were almost exclusively French, many married to Beninoises. Cotonou is packed with huge in SUVs, traffic can be murderous, especially during the evening rush hours. Sidewalks serve as parking lots, if these are not occupied by food stalls or mini-gas stations or zems trying to escape a congestion.
My favorite mode of moving around - strolling and marveling - stands no chance here. Obviously is so unusual for a European woman to wander around by herself that most people stare at you. So my promenades were usually short ones. I had this experience once before in a small village in Rwanda, where I got stranded half a day, waiting for a bus to take me further on.