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Feb
27

Oui, Oui, Ouidah!


This weekend, Alainna and I took a shared taxi to the historic beach side township of Ouidah. About an hour west of Cotonou, Ouidah is home to a Musee D’Histoire that was once a Portuguese fort.

As the museum’s exhibits showed, I found it interesting  that while it often assumed to be true, Europeans did not necessarily come in a “steal” Africans, turning them into slaves. They bargained with the tribal leaders and purchased people in trade for goods. By no means am I trying to ignore how awful and inhumane this practice was, only that the dehumanization occurred on both sides. There is a large sign in this museum that reads, “While the kings of Africa did not instigate the slave trade, they did benefit handsomely from it.”

 

We were not allowed to take pictures inside the museum, but there were lots of interesting artifacts, especially ancient newpaper articles published in the 1700s and 1800s with graphic depictions for the wars waged over the slave trade.

After the museum, Alainna and I headed to the beach for lunch and found this amazing hotel/restaurant called Brazilian Diaspora Hotel (bad English translation from French on my part.) The name of this place is interesting because many of the slaves from Benin were shipped to Brazil. Years later, many  came back to their “home country” bringing with them their Brazilian culture, so you do see the mix of cultures here.

We walked down the beach to the Door of No Return, where many slaves saw Africa for the last time. Alainna found some sheep on the beach and wanted to take a picture of them, but they were looking the wrong way.. So I  started to call them in Sheep Talk (aka “bah-bah”)… and they came! I am like a sheep whisperer.. Alainna said I should add my newly discovered talent to my resume. I didn’t get a picture of the sheep, but they were cute! You can see the memorial to the Door of No Return in the background in the picture below.

And upclose, it is really beautiful…

 

 

Our least enjoyable part of this trip was how intensely we were harassed by the locals. Lord, they were aggressive. One of them grabbed Alainna’s arm and would literally not let go, they all wanted our numbers and to be our “new friends.” This concept is not new to us, but the level of aggression about it was obnoxious. I got a good picture or Alainna being annoyed by a local.

Anyway, we also  found another memorial farther down the beach that wasn’t listed in any travel books.  Alainna and I guessed that it was dedicated to the diaspora?

I love how there is a cut out in the middle in the shape of Benin… Yes, that is Benin, no it is not a drumstick..(though I also kind of think it the shape of Benin is similar to a shriveled piece of broccoli, no? I mean, no offense. But it does definitely look like a piece of chicken.) Here is an up close shot…

OK, so our next stop was  by far the most interesting of the whole trip..the Temple of the Pythons… Part of the long standing voodoo religion, people believe that the snakes are sacred and have dedicated a temple to them where about 60 of them currently reside. When we went in, our guide practically threw them at us… NOT what I expected.. Alainna was super comfortable with the whole snake around her neck thing.. me, not so much. I was surprised how freaked out I was considering I grew up with a biologist dad who, when I was a kid,  would bring home every kind of bug/snake/ thing that bites ever.

I may be smiling, but there are literally tears in my eyes..

I love this picture.. It is a great one to play that game of “How many funny lines can you create to fit here…” This was my best try.

1. Nice snake, Alainna, did you get that at Macy’s? Mine was on sale. It is so your color.  So stylish!

2. Um… I smell snake pee, is that you or me?

3. (or the more realistic line..) Ok, seriously, get it off me!! Take mine, I can’t handle this, get it off! OFF!

But, no they did not take it off, instead, they gave me more..

I have officially seen enough pythons to last  me a lifetime.. After the Python Temple, we squished into a taxi back to Cotonou.. and by squished, I mean 7 people in a 5 person car.

A very long and eventful day, and by the time I got home was so very  ready for a shower. You know, because of the snake pee.

4 comments

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  1. Lisa says:

    You think that’s a big scary snake?! Ask Camille to show you the picture of the one daddy put around her neck!

  2. JJ Martin says:

    Love the Ball Python pics. Makes me laugh. I wonder if the one we saw in the bush in Kutunse would have been that friendly? Frankly, I think a picture is about as close as I want to be. Keep traveling.

  3. Bertil says:

    Interesting how the people’s own king would sell their own people. That’s extreme class difference………

  4. Dan says:

    Yikes SNAKES!! How cool is that.

    My French is a little rusty but the monument on the beach is dedicated to the 100 year anniversary of 2 Portuguese priests who brought, “La Bonne Nouvelle” literally the Good News ie of Christianity to Dahomey.

    Dan

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