After an intimate celebration last night at our villa by the beach, we began our new year with a relaxed city tour of Ouidah.
Driving first for breakfast where we finally had our first coffee of the trip (it’s not a thing in Nigeria) . . .
. . . we first stopped at the Basilique de l’Immaculée Conception, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and under the circumscription of the Archdiocese of Cotonou:
Reaching Atlas Oscura fame, we also drove to visit the Temple of the Sacred Pythons, where the snakes here are a holy totem for followers of the religion of Vodun.
We were guided by the owner’s son, with his cheeks ritually scarred since birth that indicated his Vodun status and his ability to care for the pythons.
According to the religions and handlers here, none of the pythons are capable of biting or strangling anyone.
Then joined by Confidence and his staff, we drove next to the Sacred Forest of Kpassè, a semi-wild woodland area dedicated to King Kpassè, the 16th century ruler of the African kingdom of Whydah (now spelled Ouidah), as well as a major pilgrimage site for Vodun adherents
The forest has relics showing varying legends and gods of protection and fertility:
Legend has it that the king fled for his life after hundreds of warriors from nearby competing villages arrived to capture and kill him. It was here in this forest where the king turned himself into an Iroko tree (Milicia excelsa). Worshippers say that if you make an offering, touch the tree with your left hand and make a wish, it’ll come true.
Ouidah is also sadly famous for having its own past enshrined in the history of the slave trade where enslaved persons would leave their home continent for the very last time here.
This was the former major slave site post where deals were made and enslaved people either died or waited up to 2 years for ships to take them away:
At 6 meters tall ad constructed on the site of a mass grave of enslaved people who died before leaving Africa, the Memorial of Remembrance recalls imagery of the controversial history of slavery in Benin.
Enslaved men would turn around him 9 times and the women 7 times around The Tree of Forgetfulness (which is no longer standing but a memorial has been erected in its place) to reinforce forgetting their ancestral homes.
…before they finally crossed through where the Door and “Gate of No Return” now stands (currently under renovations until next month):
It was also today where as Priyanka and I kicked back with a lazy lunch, Sandy, Lauren and Letti got their hair braided at a local salon. When they finished a few hours later, we returned for dinner at the same spot where we had our breakfast earlier this morning.
As we waited for the bill, an impromptu dance party ensued:
Now we give some farewell drinks to Confidence and Alex (who couriered all my missing backup passports/headphones/business card holder/wallets back from Lagos!) at our villa before turning in early for our onward journey to Lomé, Togo tomorrow!
- At time of posting in Ouidah, it was 28 °C - Humidity: 84% | Wind Speed: 11km/hr | Cloud Cover: n/a