Most people were traditional, colorful clothes. In the larger cities, younger women wear western style clothes, but they are in the minority. The skirts and dresses are almost all ankle length. Because they always wear long skirts, women tend do bend down at the waist when they pick up something. I somehow always had an odd feeling about that, it just didn't seem right. I finally realized why when I saw a teenager in a mini skirt in Saint Louis in Senegal. I am a cross-dresser, and a while ago I started wearing mini skirts myself. I very quickly learned the lesson how to pick something up from the floor while wearing a mini skirt. You do not bend down from the waist, as I saw the women in West Africa do, when you wear a mini skirt, unless you want do flash the people behind you. I had learned that embarrassing lesson so well, that it made me uncomfortable even to see other women bend down like that. However, women in West Africa almost exclusively wear ankle length dresses, so they can afford to bend down from the waist. All babies are carried on the backs of their mothers, strollers don't exist in West Africa.

About 40% of the people are Christian, 25% are Muslim. However, most people regardless of religion practice Voodoo. Benin is the birthplace of the Voodoo religion. I visited a Voodoo dance in a local village. These Voodoo dances are not staged for tourists. While driving by a small local village on a boat, we saw a Voodoo spirit ready for their local voodoo dance. This village was far away from any tourists. The Voodoo spirits are pyramid shaped wooden structures covered completely with colored straw/strings. The spirits supposedly move by themselves, without any person in them. At one point they actually tipped one of them over to show that there was nobody in there. But there was so much straw on the structure, it was easy for somebody to hide in the straw. They gave that person plenty enough time to hide in the straw after the spirit stopped moving before they tipped it over. But I think that many of the people there actually believe it. The spirits moved around a lot, sometimes they seemed to chase the people that were part of the dance, sometimes the people seemed to be herding the spirits with their sticks.

Traffic was not too heavy, but still often congested because of the bad road conditions. The paved roads were sometimes worse than the unpaved roads because of the many very deep potholes.

Traffic in Ganvie is exclusively on canoes. Only the hotel and other larger outfits have motorboats, most of the canoes are rowed, poled or sailed. Each household has usually four canoes, one for the man, one for the wife, one for the boys and one for the girls.

The market in Ganvie is all done on boats. The women who sell food stuff load it on their boats and then go to the market area. Shoppers come in their boats to look at what is available on the market boats.

Around Ganvie, fishing is the main occupation for everybody. Lots of fishing is done from their canoes with casting nets. They also do large scale fish farming. For that they get palm fronds and stick them in the water in a dense, large rectangular array, about 50 m (160 ft) to 100 m (330 ft) on a side. The palm fronds don't grow, but provide shelter. Fish tend to spawn in these dense areas of palm fronds, and stay there, sheltered from sun and wind, with lower water temperatures due to the shade. After a year or so, the fishermen surround the whole patch of palm fronds with a net. The longer they wait, the larger the fish are and the more they can earn from the catch. Now all fish in the area are trapped. They remove the palm fronds, and then slowly close the net and harvest all the fish in the whole area.

What was unexpected was the fact that nobody smiles in Benin, everybody is grumpy. Even the kids rarely smile, which is very unusual in Africa. I have no idea what causes this, but it was very noticeable.

All pictures are © Dr. Günther Eichhorn, unless otherwise noted.

People of Benin

Curious Kids Looking Stranger
Curious kids looking at the stranger. (649k)
Young Child Walking Around
Young child walking around on the landing quay on the mainland. (565k)
Children Waving
Children waving at as. (733k)
Young Child Playing Discarded
Young child playing with a discarded plastic bag. These plastic bags are discarded everywhere and pollute everything around the villages. (799k)
Child Boat
Child in a boat. (685k)
Young Kid Alone Boat
A young kid alone on a boat. (591k)
Local Kids
Local kids. (841k)
Local Kids Playing Foosball
Local kids playing Foosball, a common game. (966k)
School Children Uniform Way
School children in uniform on their way home after school. (746k)
Local School Children Least
Local school children. At least a couple of them were smiling a little. (962k)
Girl Shopping Food
Girl out shopping for food. (916k)
Teenagers Transporting Barrels Idea
Teenagers transporting barrels, I have no idea what they contain. (652k)
Bunch Kids None Smiling
A bunch of kids, none of them smiling. (735k)
Finally Smiling Kids Very
Finally some smiling kids. This was very rare. (784k)
Family Way Market
A family on the way to market. (682k)
Washing Bathing Beach
Washing and bathing on the beach. (793k)
Local People Fishing Village
Local people in the fishing village. (763k)
Women Way Market Carrying
Women on their way to the market, carrying their goods on their heads. (764k)
Women Arriving Shore Ganvie
Women arriving on shore from Ganvie. They gather there before going to the local market on shore. They take their paddles with them. Women mostly use paddles, while men more use poles. (784k)
Women Way Market
Women on their way to market. (752k)
Woman Way Market
Woman on her way to market. (659k)
Woman Baby Back
Woman with baby on her back. (908k)
Woman Rowing Towards Mainland
A woman rowing towards the mainland. (829k)
Woman Coming Off Boat
Woman coming off her boat, carrying her load on her head and her baby on her back. (643k)
Everywhere Africa Women Tend
As everywhere in Africa, women tend to bend down from the waist when they pick up something. (634k)
Women Wearing Huge Hats
Some women where wearing these huge hats, but not too many. Most only wore some kind of head cloth. (655k)
Getting Ready Market
Getting ready for the market. (807k)
Young Woman Women Use
Young woman. Women use a bundle of cloth as cushion when they carry loads on their head. (556k)
Fisherman Ganvie
Fisherman in Ganvie. (788k)
Didn't Seem Any Hurry
He didn't seem to be in any hurry to get anywhere. (658k)
Landed Mainland Taking Pole
He just landed on the mainland and is taking his pole with him. The poles are quite long, they have to reach the floor under the water everywhere he goes in his boat. (592k)
Man Boat
Man on a boat. (517k)
Common Clothes Worn Local
These are the common clothes worn by the local men. (806k)
Women Western Clothes Younger
Women in western clothes. Younger women, women in larger cities, and women in the south were wearing more western style clothes. (825k)
Woman Mix Western Traditional
Woman in a mix of western and traditional clothes. (838k)
Muslim Man More Common
Muslim man. They were more common in the north, but even there traditional African clothes were much more common. (681k)
Woman Traditional Clothes Baby
Woman in traditional clothes with her baby on her back. (711k)

Business, Markets, and Agriculture

Banana Plants Firewood
Banana plants and firewood. (829k)
Cocos nucifera
Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera, german: Kokospalme, french: Cocotier). (1090k)
Millet Field Millet Sorghum
Millet field. Millet and Sorghum are major grain crops in West Africa. (1067k)
Collecting Millet Straw Used
Collecting millet straw. It is used for roofing. (932k)
Cotton Field
Cotton field. (1115k)
Manihot esculenta
Cassava field (Manihot esculenta, german: Maniok, french: Manioc). The cassava grow in the mounds. They get pretty big, around 0.5 m (1.6 ft) long. (1096k)
Anacardium occidentale
Cashew Tree (Anacardium occidentale, german: Cashew, french: Anacardier). (1271k)
Anacardium occidentale
Cashew Tree (Anacardium occidentale, german: Cashew, french: Anacardier) fruit. The nut itself is at the bottom of the fruit. (820k)
Local Dog Did See
Local dog. I did not see many dogs in Benin, by far less than in other countries. (573k)
Zebu Type Cow Scars
Zebu type cow. The scars are marks that tell who owns it. (784k)
Herd Cows Common Central
Herd of cows. They were common in the central parts of Benin. In the northern parts I saw more goats and sheep. (735k)
Signs Hair Dressers Everywhere
Signs for hair dressers were everywhere. (770k)
First Thought Gravel Repair
First I thought this was gravel to repair the road. It actually is manioc that people dry on the side of the road and then sell in bags. (981k)
Bags Dried Manioc Sale
Bags with dried manioc for sale. Somebody seems to have vandalized them. (883k)
Dried Ground Manioc Sale
Dried ground manioc for sale. The roadside vendors of one type of merchandise tended to aggregate in the same area. (746k)
Bags Charcoal Sale Along
Bags with charcoal for sale along the road. (848k)
Firewood Sale
Firewood for sale. (1132k)
Gasoline Sale Stands Sell
Gasoline for sale. These stands sell gasoline by the bottle for motorcycles. They were everywhere in Benin. (917k)
Roadside Food Stand
Roadside food stand. (744k)
Roadside Stand Local Manufactured
Roadside stand with local manufactured items. (770k)
Roadside Vendors Whenever Car
Roadside vendors. Whenever a car stops, the women crowd around it to try to sell them their wares. We frequently bought food items from such vendors, like peanuts, bananas, pineapples, fried plantain, etc. (752k)
Street-side Vendor
Street-side vendor. (854k)
Wooden Mortars Sale Used
Wooden mortars for sale. They are used everywhere to pound manioc into fufu. (876k)
Reed Straw Major Building
Reed straw is a major building material for roofs. (677k)
Transporting Reed Straw Building
Transporting reed straw building material. (906k)
Children Bringing Home Stuff
Children bringing home stuff collected in the fields. (932k)
Busy Market Scene
Busy market scene. (687k)
Market Scene Mostly Women
Market scene. Mostly women visit the markets. They almost always carry their loads on their heads. (858k)
Grains Sale Local Market
Grains for sale in the local market. (905k)
Market Stall Various Food
Market stall with various food stuff for sale. (832k)
Local Market
Local market. (926k)
Butchering Cow Beach
Butchering a cow on the beach. (686k)
Making Salt Salty Soil
Making salt. The salty soil is washed, the brine is filtered and then boiled. (762k)
Transporting New Dugout Canoes
Transporting new dugout canoes. (599k)
Ganvie Woman Large Load
Ganvie woman with a large load on the way to market. (529k)
Women Boat Market Hawking
Women in the boat market, hawking their produce. (786k)
Market Boats Waiting Customers
Market boats waiting for customers. (865k)
Market Boats Waiting Customers
Market boats waiting for customers. (611k)
Fishing Nets
Fishing nets. (874k)
Fish Traps Fishing Implements
Fish traps and other fishing implements in the water near Ganvie. (681k)
Fisherman Casting Net
Fisherman casting a net. (709k)
Fisherman Casting Net
Fisherman casting a net. (701k)
Fisherman Throwing Net
Fisherman throwing a net. (610k)
Net Forms Neat Circle
The net forms a neat circle in the water. (608k)
Fisherman Pulling Net
Fisherman pulling in a net. (663k)
Fisherman Pulling Net
Fisherman pulling in a net. (727k)
Fisherman Pulling Net
Fisherman pulling in a net. (616k)
Fishermen Fishing Heavy Surf
Some of the fishermen were fishing in the heavy surf of the ocean in their small dugout canoes. (597k)
Fish Nursery Palm Fronds
Fish nursery with palm fronds. (649k)
Fish Nursery Being Harvested
Fish nursery being harvested. The palm fronds are being removed after the area has been surrounded by a net. (588k)
Shack Water Used While
These shack out on the water are used while harvesting a fish farming plot. (581k)
Fishermen Resting After Pulling
Fishermen resting after pulling in their net. These nets are huge and require 20 - 30 people to pull in. Everybody who helps to pull in the net gets a some part of the catch. (686k)
Quiet Moment Beach Fishing
Quiet moment on the beach with fishing boat and gear. (695k)
Fishermen Carrying Home Huge
Fishermen carrying home their huge net. (840k)

Roads and Transportation

Roads Even Small Cities
Some of the roads, even in small cities were not paved. Some of them were in pretty rough conditions. (701k)
Trucks Weaving Along Road
Trucks were weaving along the road to avoid the worst of the potholes. (616k)
Road Repair Lot Roads
Road repair. A lot of the roads had really bad potholes, they were badly in need of repair. (800k)
Speed Brakes Road Everywhere
Speed brakes on the road. These were everywhere. Almost every village had these speed brakes to slow down traffic through the village. (690k)
Lot Transportation Still Done
A lot of transportation is still done by hand. (663k)
Main Waterway Ganvie During
Main waterway in Ganvie during quiet time. No potholes here  :-) (705k)
Dugout Canoe
Dugout canoe. (904k)
Transporting Reed Straw Building
Transporting reed straw building material. (906k)
Fisher Woman Bringing Catch
Fisher woman bringing the catch to market. Around Ganvie almost all traffic is on boats. (643k)
Boats-man Big Pole Pushing
Boats-man with a big pole for pushing his boat. (536k)
Women Sailing
These women were sailing. (604k)
Small Sailboat
Small sailboat. (610k)
Market Traffic Ganvie
Market traffic in Ganvie. (690k)
Fleet Women Canoes Way
A fleet of women in canoes on their way to market. (681k)
Boat Way Ganvie Fish
My boat on the way to Ganvie, with fish nurseries on both sides. (606k)
Family "road" Ganvie Certainly
Family on the "road" in Ganvie. They certainly have more room than most families on land that travel with bicycles or motorcycles, which are the equivalent of the small boats. (1079k)
School Children Arriving School
School children arriving for school in the morning, everybody of course by boat. (595k)
All Boats Dugout Canoe
Not all boats were the dugout canoe type. (603k)
Motorcycle Traffic Benin
Motorcycle traffic in Benin. (649k)
Loaded Motorcycle Man Wife
Loaded motorcycle with man, wife, and the baby on the back of the mother. (657k)
Fully Loaded Car Dirt
Fully loaded car on a dirt road. (785k)
Cars Frequently Loaded Capacity
Cars are frequently loaded to capacity. This one was bringing live pigs to the market on its roof. (587k)
We Saw Lots Broken
We saw lots of broken down trucks on the roads like this. They usually mark the trucks with tree branches in addition to a warning sign (if they even have one). (549k)
Apparently Something Fell Off
Apparently something fell off one of the overloaded trucks and hit the one behind. (558k)
Long Line Trucks Benintogo
Long line of trucks at the Benin/Togo border. As always there are women selling food. (566k)
Tanker Trucks Coast Burkina
Tanker trucks. They go from the coast to Burkina Faso, since Burkina Faso doesn't have a port or a pipeline. (764k)
Truck Cotton Harvest
Truck with cotton harvest. (803k)
Overland Bus Making Rest
Overland bus making a rest stop. (645k)
Diesel Trucks Extremely Polluting
Many of the diesel trucks were extremely polluting. (795k)

Towns and Villages

Following are pictures of various towns and villages. Especially interesting were the palaces of Abomey. The Royal Palaces of Abomey are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Local Home North Benin
Local home in the north of Benin. The buildings are the same type of construction as in the north of Togo. Details are shown in the Togo description. (964k)
Old 19th Century Building
Old 19th century building in a fishing village. (807k)
Community House Village
Community house of the village. (567k)
School Foreign Aid Workers
School with foreign aid workers camping in the yard. (857k)
Village Water Supply
Village water supply. (837k)
Saw High Tv Antenna
I saw these high TV antenna poles frequently. They try to pick up the TV signal from the next town. (597k)
Statue Local King
Statue of a local king. (641k)
Sign Sos Children's Village
Sign for SOS Children's Village. This is a charity that I remember from more than 50 years ago from Germany, where we used to donate for the "SOS Kinderdörfer". (537k)
Local Church
Local church. (719k)
Local Mosque
Local mosque. (702k)
Houses Ganvie
Houses in Ganvie. (685k)
House Ganvie
House in Ganvie. (715k)
Hotel Ganvie
Hotel in Ganvie. (627k)
Front Door Ganvie
Front door in Ganvie. (656k)
Still Life Ganvie Style
Still life Ganvie style. (823k)
Main Waterway Ganvie During
Main waterway in Ganvie during quiet time. (705k)
Big Statue Ganvie Somewhat
A big statue in Ganvie. It was in somewhat neglected shape. (623k)
Mosque Ganvie
Mosque in Ganvie. (637k)
Christian Church Ganvie
Christian Church in Ganvie. (630k)
Fishing Still Life
Fishing still life. (813k)
Moat Around Center Abomey
Moat around the center of Abomey. The moats there are not filled with water (too little available), but with thick thorn brush and snakes. This is even more impenetrable than a water moat. (1411k)
Wall Abomey Crests All
Wall in Abomey with the crests of all 12 Abomey kings. (584k)
Each King Built Own
Each king built his own palace. In front of the palace they planted one of these trees. (905k)
Entrance Gateway Palace Abomey
Entrance gateway to the palace of one of the Abomey princes. (866k)
Entrance Gateway Palace Kings
Entrance gateway to the palace of one of the kings of Abomey. (656k)
Recent Fire Destroyed Palace
A recent fire destroyed much of this palace of one of the Abomey kings. (659k)
Main Seat Principal Voodoo
Main seat of the principal Voodoo priest in Abomey. (735k)
Monument German Helped People
Monument for a German who helped the people of Abomey against the French. (872k)
Béhanzin Statue Signed Treaty
Béhanzin Statue. He signed a treaty with the French at this place. (930k)
Large Christian Church Abomei
Large Christian church in Abomei. (933k)
Relaxing Evening Front Hotel
Relaxing in the evening in front of the hotel in Ganvie. As it turned out, I got a lot of mosquito bites during that hour, despite mosquito repellent. But it was nice to sit there and watch the sun set with a few beers. (763k)

Slave Trade

History Museum Ouidah Which
History museum in Ouidah, which was part of a fort during the slave trade time. (691k)
Monument "dark Place" After
Monument at the "Dark Place". After arriving at the coast, the slaves were kept in a dark, windowless dungeon in cramped conditions for several days to see whether they could survive the long sea voyage. (992k)
Statue Female Slave
Statue of a female slave. (596k)
Statue Male Slave
Statue of a male slave. (683k)
Port Return Monument Slaves
The Port of No Return, monument for the slaves that were shipped out from here. (576k)

Voodoo

Sacred Forest Ouidah Place
Sacred Forest in Ouidah, a place of worship for the Voodoo religion. The tree is said to be more than 100 years old. (1326k)
Statue Legba Large Phallus
Statue of a Legba with a large phallus. The Legba is an intermediary between humanity and the spirit world. (1082k)
Protector King Leg Carries
Protector of the king (with one leg). He carries symbols for the moon and the sun. (1089k)
Thundergod Protector Kill Bad
Thundergod, a protector. He will kill bad people during thunderstorms. (1158k)
Fetish Wizard Manifestation Voodoo
Fetish wizard. This is a manifestation of the voodoo dolls where you stick needles in a doll, symbolizing a person, to punish that person. (1088k)
Born Deformities Three Heads
Born with deformities (three heads), symbolizing punishment for past misdeeds. (1244k)
Statue Front Voodoo Temple
Statue in front of a Voodoo temple. (869k)
Voodoo Worship Shrine Fishing
Voodoo worship shrine in a fishing village. (947k)
Voodoo Market Lots Animal
Voodoo market with lots of animal carcasses and skins (some of them rare animals) for sale. Voodoo religion uses animal carcasses a lot in their ceremonies. (930k)
Houses Had Animal Carcasses
Some of the houses had animal carcasses on the door to protect from bad spirits. (987k)
Dankoli Voodoo Shrine Holiest
Dankoli Voodoo Shrine. This is one of the holiest, most important Voodoo shrines. (1192k)
Voodoo Dance Music Group
Voodoo dance music group. (850k)
Musicians During Voodoo Dance
Musicians during the Voodoo dance. (778k)
Musician Voodoo Dance
Musician at the Voodoo dance. (842k)
Women Children Dancing Enthusiastically
Women and children were dancing enthusiastically during the Voodoo dance celebration. (774k)
Group Women Dancing
A group of women dancing. (1007k)
Even Kids Into Dancing
Even the kids got into dancing during the Voodoo dance. (731k)
Women Dancing Babies Back
Some of the women were dancing with the babies on their back. (821k)
Close-up Woman During Voodoo
Close-up of a woman during the Voodoo dance. (625k)
Close-up Woman During Voodoo
Close-up of a woman during the Voodoo dance. They got very involved in the dance. (566k)
Elders Village Watching Voodoo
The elders of the village, watching the Voodoo dance. (728k)
Voodoo Fetish Elders Village
Voodoo fetish with the elders of the village. (765k)
Voodoo Priest Voodoo Shrine
Voodoo priest in the Voodoo shrine. (697k)
Voodoo Priest Blessing Voodoo
Voodoo priest blessing the Voodoo spirit. (828k)
Voodoo Spirits Local Fishing
Voodoo spirits in a local fishing village, far away from any tourists. This showed that this is not something staged for tourists. (625k)
Voodoo Spirits Abomey Way
Voodoo spirits in Abomey on their way through town to a Voodoo dance. (870k)
Looked Little Bit Like
This looked a little bit like a matador waiting for a bull to charge. (667k)
Times Spirit Would Approach
At times the spirit would approach the spectators and create some excitement. (939k)
Men Spirits Chasing Each
Men and spirits chasing each other. (739k)
Showing Person Spirit But
Showing us that there is no person in the spirit, but the spirit leaves a gift. (819k)
Three Spirits Carousing Around
There were up to three spirits carousing around the dance area, herded by the men. (645k)

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Benin
Main page for Benin

Page last updated on Tue Sep 24 18:19:02 2019 (Mountain Standard Time)


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