"OUIDAH, History Magic and Voodoo" Ouidah by janiebaxter
Ouidah Travel Guide: 25 reviews and 54 photos
Ouidah is just 40km from Cotonou, on the coast and close to Lake Aheme, and is one of the main tourist attractions in Benin with its important and well documented history in the slave trade and importance as a centre for Voodoo. The town dates back to the 16th century when it was called Glexwe
Ouidah was the main port in West Africa for shipping slaves to the Americas, and there were 5 European slave forts in the town at the height of the trade. Only the Portugese fort, built in 1721, still remains and it is now an excellent museum. You can trace the route the slaves took from the old slave market at Chacha place, past the tree of forgetfulness and down to the door of no return on the shore where they were put onto ships.
Ouidah is a Voodoo stronghold and the sacred forest is extremely important in the history of the town. Kings Kpasse, who reigned from 1530 to 1580 fled to the forest and turned himself into a tree to avoid being taken prisoner by the raiding Dahomey Kings. You can see this now sacred Iroko tree and the temple of Kpasse, as well as the open air display of Voodoo statues that are used for the annual Voodoo Arts and Culture festival in January.
The python temple houses 40 "Royal Pythons" which are sacred. In Voodoo the snake represents the God Dan who symbolises life and fertility and who is one of the most important and popular gods. These snakes live in luxury in their own town centre temple with a courtyard, and are well fed, warm and happy.
See my main Benin pages for more general information on Benin.
Thanks to Martine de Souza, expert on the history and culture of Ouidah.
Martine's book “Regard sur Ouidah – a bit of History” explains the history of the slave trade, the Dahomey Kings, the importance of twins and has examples of proverbs. It is very simply but well written and makes it much easier to understand what you are seeing You can buy it in most of the museum shops in Ouidah and other towns.
- Pros:Interesting history and culture
- Cons:I didn't spend enough time there!
- In a nutshell:Slavery, Voodoo and Plenty of Magic
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