Situated in Western Africa, the Republic of Benin is famed for its welcoming people, arts and crafts — especially masks, and its delicious foods. It is also the homeland of R&B singer Angelique Kidjo and the Voodoo religion.
A closer look 說古論今
The now democratic Benin was originally made-up of several kingdoms and states — the most well-known of these being the Kingdom of Dahomey which was dominant until the nineteenth century. Each Dahomey king built his own palace in the capital, Abomey, and after he died his palace was turned into his funeral temple. Unfortunately, many of the palaces were burnt down by the Dahomey in 1892 during a war with the French. The palaces that remain within the walled complex are being lovingly restored and are listed as world heritage sites by UNESCO.
Benin's most famous export is the Voodoun religion — the foundation of modern day Voodoo. Voodoun is a complex system of multiple deities which forms the basis of society. Even though other religions have been introduced to the country, most people still practice Voodoun alongside the newly introduced religions. A public holiday on Jan. 10 celebrates Voodoun and people from all over the world to attend. Some of the activities include dancing, offerings to ancestors and the inviting of spirits into the home. Many people also have their fortune told by the Voodoun chiefs.
Benin used to be the main supplier in the slave trade and was known as the Slave Coast. The local rulers sold off their prisoners of war as slaves to American and European countries in exchange for cannons and other military equipment. Ouidah city houses a huge monument to these people along the beach, which for them was their last glimpse of their homeland.
Size: 112,620km2, about three times the size of Taiwan
Language: French (official), Fon, Yoruba, plus several major tribal languages
Border countries: Nigeria, Togo, Niger, Burkina Faso
Location: Western Africa
Capital: Porto-Novo. Cotonou is the seat of the government
Population: about eight million
Currency: 16 Communaute Financiere Africaine francs (XOF) are worth about NT$1