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Friday, March 07, 2008

Ouidah, the historical slave port of Benin

Ouidah, the historical slave port of Benin
(Wednesday 5 Mar 08)
We walked around Ouidah, a historical slave port, where the Portuguese, French, British and Dutch all owned forts here that served as trading stations for slaves sold by the African kingdoms. Slaves were then shipped to the Americas to work on the plantations. Ouidah was ruled by a half-Portuguese, half-African Brazilian mulatto named Francisco da Souza, who was made viceroy by his overlord, the King of Dahomey. Da Souza was a legendary figure known for his trading and business acumen, as well as cruelty and control over the highly profitable slave trade. He was immortalized in Bruce Chatwin's semi-biographical work, The Viceroy of Ouidah. It was a pity the Maison du Brezil, which is now a museum located in his old palace, was closed when we visited.
We visited the famous Portuguese fort here and walked the 4km Route of the Slaves, from the town to the beach, where slaves were shipped to the Americas, leaving their homeland forever. A modern monument, the Gate of No Return, was built here to remember the atrocities and tragedy caused by the slave trade. We also went to the Python Temple which is a major voodoo shrine where pythons wander around freely and are worshipped by the locals as deities. Directly opposite the Temple is a Roman Catholic cathedral built by the Church to counter the influence of animism and voodooism among the local population. Note in the photo how wet my shirt was. The Guinea Coast of Benin, Togo and Ghana was just so humid that we got completely wet and filthy after half an hour walking on the streets. Can't stand it!

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