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Benin is a small, ancient West African state, on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. On the territory of modern Benin there was famous warlike state – Dahomey in the army of which the Amazons served. Benin is the most striking example of African kingdoms that emerged and developed away from Arab and European influence. Currently, the country’s economy is underdeveloped, with most of its population living mostly off agriculture. Tourism in the country is not developed, but there are prerequisites for it.
Benin is the oldest state of West Africa.
The capital of Benin is the large port city of Porto-Novo (Porto-Novo Benin), located in the southeast of the country, along the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. Although Porto Novo has the status of the capital, the government and most of the banking institutions are located in the city of Cotonou. Porto Novo is a beautiful city, preserving a lot of monuments of antiquity, which attract tourists from around the world. The capital boasts white sand, clean and clear sea water, which is a rarity in this region of Africa.
The flag of Benin (The flag of Benin) – a tri-color, rectangular cloth with an aspect ratio of 2:3. divided into three parts. The national flag of Benin consists of three bands: a vertical green band on the left side of the flag and yellow and red horizontal, identical bands on the right side of the flag. Green is a symbol of hope for a bright future, yellow represents the prosperity and wealth of the country, and red represents the strength and courage of the people of Benin.
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The Coat of Arms of Benin is a four-part white shield held by a pair of leopards, the country’s national animal. The upper right side of the shield depicts a castle, a symbol of the history of the state; the upper left side shows the highest award of the country – the Star of Benin. The lower right side of the shield shows a palm tree, the symbol of the country’s food; the lower left side shows a black ship, symbolizing the arrival of Europeans in Benin. Above the shield is the national symbol of prosperity – a crest consisting of two twisted horns filled with grain and sand. At the bottom of the coat of arms is the national motto “FRATERNITÉ JUSTICE TRAVAIL” – “FRATERNITY, JUSTICE, TRAVIL” .
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Jadis à son appel, nos aïeux, sans faiblesse Ont su avec courage, ardeur, pleins d’allégresse Livrer au prix du sang des combats éclatants Accourez vous aussi, bâtisseurs du présent, Plus forts dans l’unité, per quatre jour à la tâche, Pour la prospérité, construisez sans relâche.
Enfants du Bénin debout! Liberté d’un cri sonore Chante aux premiers feux de l’aurore Enfants du Bénin, debout!
Quand partout souffle un vent de colère et de haine Béninois, so fier, et d’une âme sereine, Confiant dans l’avenir, regarde ton drapeau Dans le vert tu liras l’espoir du renouveau; De tes aïeux le rouge évoque le courage; Des plus riches trésors le jaune est le présage.
Enfants du Bénin debout! Liberté d’un cri sonore Chante aux premiers feux de l’aurore Enfants du Bénin, debout!
The monts ensoleillés, the palmiers, the verdure, Cher Bénin, partout font ta vive parure. Ton sol offre à chacun la richesse des fruits. Bénin, désormais que tes fils tous unis, D’un fraternel élan partagent l’espérance. De te voir à jamais heureux dans l’abondance.
Before in their vocation, our ancestors Knew how to engage in battles mighty With strength, courage, passion, and hollow joy, but at the cost of their own blood. Created the present, you too join forces Each day to fulfill this task of the strong in unity. Build ceaselessly for posterity.
The children of Benin reveal! A deafening cry of freedom Heard in the first light of dawn, The children of Benin are manifesting!
When the winds of anger and hatred blow around: Citizens of Benin take pride in their peace of mind Believing in the future, here is your flag! In the green we read the hope of spring; Red signifies the courage of our forefathers; Yellow heralds the greatest treasures.
Beloved Benin, your sunny mountains, palm trees, and green pastures Are seen everywhere with their bright colors; Your soils give rich fruit to all. Benin, henceforth your sons united With one brotherly spirit and one hope Enjoy abundance and happiness forever.
The official currency of Benin is the African franc (CFA franc, alphabetical code XOF). Currently in circulation are banknotes in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 and 10,000 CFA francs (2003 model banknotes, and a 500 franc banknote was put into circulation in November 2012).
Appearance of Benin banknotes
Benin on the world map
Benin is a state located in West Africa on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. Benin has an area of 112,620 km2 . The country borders Nigeria in the east, Togo in the west, Burkina Faso and Niger in the north, and the Atlantic Ocean (the Gulf of Benin) in the south.
Geographically, Benin is divided into five areas: the coastal area, the plateau (“La terre de barre”), the elevated plateau with wooded savannah in the north, the hilly area in the northwest (“Atacora”) and the fertile plains in the northeast. The unique geography of Benin is characterized by its colorful beauty.
What to see in Benin
The sights of Benin are famous historical and religious sites; museums, which are of special value for the local population; colorful nature with a variety of flora and fauna; original culture of the state, intertwined with myths and legends.
Here is small list of places of interest, which you should pay attention to when planning excursions to Benin:
- Basilica of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary in Ouid
- The Village of Ganvier
- Royal Palaces of Abomey
- Porto Novo Royal Palaces
- Penjari National Park
- Lake Nukuyo
- Red Star Square
- Agongointo Tsongoudo Underground Village
- Sacred Forest of Ouid
- Our Lady of Mercy Cathedral in Cotonou
Benin’s Largest Cities
- Porto Novo is the capital of Benin
Benin has a tropical climate, quite hot, humid in the south and semi-desert in the north. Weather in the northern and southern parts of the country is very different. In the south is the equatorial climate belt, which is accompanied by high humidity and frequent heavy rains. And in the north of the country is the subequatorial climate zone, which brings severe drought.
Winters in Benin are quite hot (temperatures reach 35 ° C in the north, 30-32 ° C in the south), lasting from November to January.
The population of Benin is 11,349,080 (as of February 2017), ethnically 99% of whom are indigenous Africans. There are about 40 ethnic groups in the country, the largest of which are: 49% Fon and Aja, 20% Bariba, Gurma and Somba, 20% Jerma, Busa, Songhai, Fulbe and Hausa, and 11% Yoruba. Benin is also home to a small number of Europeans (mostly French).
Benin’s official language is French and the languages of the Fon, Yoruba, Somba and various tribal dialects in the north are used.
There is no official religion in Benin. Half of all believers are followers of African traditional religions, 30% follow Christianity (mainly Catholicism), and 20% practise Islam.
Benin’s national holidays
- 1 January – New Year
- 10 January – National Voodoo Day
- March to April – Easter Monday
- 1 May – Labour Day
- May 31 – Memorial Day
- moving date in May – June – Easter holiday
- Ascension Day in May – June
- 1 August – Independence Day
- 15th August – Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- 26 October – Armed Forces Day
- November 1 – All Saints’ Day
- November 30 – National Day
- December 25 – Christmas
- December mobile date – Eid al-Fitr (end of the month of Ramadan)
- December mobile date – birth date of Prophet Mohammed
Here’s a little list of the most common souvenirs that tourists usually bring from Benin:
- Tapestries, hand-woven by local craftsmen
- voodoo doll
- smoking pipes
- small copper statuettes of animals and people
- souvenir weapons
- souvenir tamtams decorated with strange inscriptions and drawings.
- essential oils and oils from exotic plants
- figurines and articles of valuable tree species
“No nail, no rod” or customs regulations
Benin’s customs regulations allow unlimited amounts of foreign currency in and out of the country, but it is recommended to declare large amounts of cash currency for subsequent unrestricted exportation from the country.
It is allowed to import duty-free :
- Cigarettes – up to 200 pieces, cigars – up to 25 pieces, tobacco – 250 g, wine – 0.5 l, spirits – 0.5 l, toilet water – 0.5 l, perfume – 250 g. Photo, audio and video equipment – one item of each item, as well as items and things – within personal needs.
It is forbidden to bring :
- weapons, explosives, drugs, expired products.
Allowed for export :
- gifts, souvenirs, fruit in reasonable quantities.
Electricity in Benin
Benin’s electrical system: 220 V, 50 Hz. Type of socket : Type E .
Phone number and domain name of Benin
Phone code of the country : +229 . Geographic domain name of the first level: .bj
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Benin is a country in the west of Africa. It has access to the gulf. Characterized by a dense network of rivers. It has borders with four African states. The presidential republic includes more than ten departments. The official language is French.
Most of the population are Christians, a little less are Muslims. More than 50 nationalities live on the territory. Strengths of the economy are national agriculture, export of palm oil, nuts, cotton and seafood. Last years the tourist branch noticeably develops. The authorities of the country try to attract foreign investors.
Benin has a small selection of hotels, only in large cities can find a place to stay overnight. Local hotels are not known for good service and a large set of related services. All very modest: a fan, mosquito nets on the windows, and facilities directly in the room (literally, without walls). Tourism is not the country’s strong point, so the service is appropriate.
Benin Marina is the only four-star hotel in Benin located in Cotonou. If you like exoticism, you can stay in a house on the water in Ganvier.
Despite its colonial past, there are not many attractions that would attract tourists. In the second half of the last century, the country had four military coups, which followed one after another. Unfortunately, this did not contribute to the preservation of architectural treasures.
Before 1975, Benin was called Dahomey. It was also called before the Benin Empire. The origins of this name are unknown.
The lake village of Ganvier is near Cotonou. It is home to 20 thousand people. It was founded in the seventeenth century because the local religion forbade the slave trade on the water near the cities. Thus, the inhabitants of Ganvier wanted to protect themselves and their families from such a fate. Houses stand on stilts and all life takes place on the water. Despite the fact that the village is popular with tourists, it is very, very dirty.
The Punjari National Park is known for its wildlife and the site of the largest population of elephants, hippos, buffalo and lions.
In the city of Ouidah, you can visit the Historical Museum in the building of the former Portuguese fort. Its 11 rooms contain ancient artifacts found during archaeological excavations in Benin.
In the city of Vida, the Museum of Contemporary African Art opened in 2014. It has been compared to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in terms of its scale and degree of importance to West Africa.
Climate: Tropical. Hot, humid in the south. Semi-arid in the north.
East of downtown Cotonou is the city’s best beach. The beaches of Gran Polo are notable for their cleanliness and small number of vacationers. These are the only places where you can swim. The situation with the beaches in the country is sad: they are used as a place for garbage dumping.
Beninis who follow traditional African beliefs are forbidden to enter the water.
Benin does not have any organized leisure activities for tourists. There are no beaches or resort hotels. You can only visit the country as part of a trip to Africa, but there is no point in visiting it on purpose.
Terrain: Mostly flat, with some hills and low mountains.
The roads in the country are not very good. There is an asphalt surface only in large cities, and not everywhere, so you have to move on dirt roads. Because of the rains and chaotic traffic, it is not always possible: the road quickly washes away.
The main means of transport for the locals are mopeds and motorcycles, for which there are separate lanes on the roads. They are indispensable in the cities. There are a lot of traffic jams. People who are wealthier drive pickup trucks. Tourists can take motorcycle cabs.
Standard of Living
Benin is a poor, agrarian country. Residents are engaged in agriculture, growing cotton, cashew nuts and corn. Most locals do not have access to medical care, resorting to the help of a witch doctor (traditional beliefs still prevail here). Following established traditions, magical rituals and omens determine the daily life of the locals.
Very often in the cafes of Benin mango and bananas are free. And of hot drinks there is only coffee. Except that they don’t drink it, but dip bread into it, because coffee is usually mixed with condensed milk and poured into bowls. Of course, it is instant coffee.
As in any African country, the security situation here is precarious. It’s best not to walk around alone in the city, behave calmly and confidently. Plus there are natural dangers: there are a lot of snakes, especially pythons.
Resources: Small offshore oil fields, limestone, marble, wood.
The city of Porto Novo is the official capital of the country. Although the country’s government is not permanently located here. In the 17th century, the city was the center of the slave trade and slave shipping points to America. Now it is an industrial center and the second largest city in the country.
Cotonou is the largest city and financial capital of Benin. It is the seat of government and diplomatic services. It is an ordinary African megalopolis with no particular sights.