Cowry shells, native to the Maldive Islands and used as currency across West Africa, were often used to create decorative patterns on ceramic vessels.The Ouidah Museum of HistoryCowry shells, native to the Maldive Islands and used as currency across West Africa, were often used to create decorative patterns on ceramic vessels.Cowry shells, native to the Maldive Islands and used as currency across West Africa, were often used to create decorative patterns on ceramic vessels.Cowry shells, native to the Maldive Islands and used as currency across West Africa, were often used to create decorative patterns on ceramic vessels.
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A "sacred" python:  the kingdom of Dahomey adopted worship of the python from the Xwéda kingdom, and python veneration is continued in Ouidah to this day.
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Visiting Ouidah

Established under the Xwéda kingdom, Ouidah (once known as Gléhué) came into prominence during the era of the slave trade. Today, this quiet historic town offers visitors a stirring view of the remnants of this trade while showcasing Ouidah's position as a center of Vodun.

Attractions

The Slave Route

Statue of the water goddess Mamiwata
Mamiwata Statue,
found along
the Slave Route
 

The 4 km road between the Ouidah Museum of History and the beach is probably the same road thousands of slaves traveled on their way to board the slaving ships for the New World . Along the road are large painted concrete statues depicting Vodun symbols. Notable stops along the Slave Route include:

The Slave Auction, where various European powers selected and purchased slaves destined for resale in the new world, was held at Place Chacha in front of the home of Francisco de Souza.

Slaves were branded according to the mark of the purchaser at the Tree of Forgetting. The name of the place, however, stems from the ritual of turning slaves around the tree to reinforce forgetfulness of their homes. Men were walked around the tree 9 times, and women 7 times.

King Agadja of Dahomey planted the Tree of Return in the grand Place de Zoungbodji, marking the point of last goodbyes. By turning three times around the tree, slaves could ensure that their spirits would return to their homeland after death.

Memorial of Remembrance in Ouidah, erected on the site of a mass grave of enslaved individuals who died before boarding the European slaving ships.
Memorial of
Remembrance
 

The Zomaï Cabin was an obscure hut where the slaves were held prior to departure. The meaning of zomaï is “where the light does not go”. The close quarters within the cabin habituated the slaves to the conditions they would face on board the slave ships.

Also called the Wall of Lamentations, the Memorial of Remembrance is 6 meters tall, and the imagery displayed on it tells the history of slavery in Benin. The wall was erected on the site of a mass grave slaves who died before leaving Africa .

Zougnbodji was the first customs point where the movement of slaves was controlled, and the last point where the slaves saw the soils of Africa .

From the Ouidah beach , the slaves were loaded onto longboats and taken to large slaving vessels. On the beach today there is a remarkable monument to the slave trade erected by UNESCO known as the Point of No Return .

Temple of the Python in Ouidah.
Temple of the
Python
 

The Temple of the Python

The serpent diety Dangbé has been revered in the Ouidah area for centuries. As such the diety's “ancestors”, the XX python, are protected and honored in the city's Temple of the Python. The temple is maintained by the priests of Dangbé, and dozens of the sacred python are housed within. The fee per visit is 1000 FCFA, but for an additional donation visitors can have a photograph with a sacred python draped around the neck. The temple (located across from the Ouidah Basilica) is open daily.

The Maison de Brasil

Also known as the Casa do Brazil , this museum displays works showcasing Vodun culture and the African diaspora. The house was the former residence of the Brazilian governor, and is located near the civil prison. Entrance fees are 1000 FCFA.

Entrance of the Sacred Forest of Kpassè Zoun.
Entrance to the
Sacred Forest
 

The Sacred Forest of Kpassè Zoun

The forest is dominated by huge ancient trees, accompanied by sculptures and woodcarvings representing Vodun deities. One large Iroko tree is said to be the site where king Kpassè, founder of Ouidah, turned into a tree to escape his enemies.

 

 

Food and Lodging

Casa del Papa (resort)
Located on the beach several kilometers west of the Point of No Return
Tel 22-49-21-01
Private cabins with WC (hot water), Air Conditioning, and telephone.
Pools, Tennis Courts, Private beach .
Restaurant serving international and local cuisine.

Gbéna Hotel
Located along the Cotonou-Lomé interstate road.
Tél 21-34-12-15 and 21-34-12-03
Rooms with WC, Radio, and Telephone; Air Conditioning or Fan.
Restaurant serving international and local cuisine.

Le Jardin Bresilien Auberge de la Diaspora
Located on the beach near the Point of No Return.
Tel 21-34-11-10
Rooms with WC and fans.
Restaurant serving international and local cuisine.

Oasis Hotel
Located 300 m from the Ouidah Museum of History towards the Temple of the Pythons.
Tel 21-34-10-91
Rooms air conditioned with WC, Telephone, Radio, Television.
Restaurant serving international cuisine.

Oriki Maquis Hotel
Located behind the Sous-Préfecture
Tel 21-34-10-04
Rooms with air conditioners or fans, WC.
Restaurant and Bar.

Shield adorning the entrance to the old Portuguese Fort, now the Ouidah Museum of History.
Typical decorative pattern on Xwédan ceramic artifacts.Typical decorative pattern on Xwédan ceramic artifacts.