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Introduction

Benin offers a rich variety of options for tourists. The country has a large selection of nightclubs, restaurants, museums and a wealth of culture and history to explore. Benin is one of the poorest nations in Africa, but it is also among the most stable and democratic.

The Dahomey frequently clashed with the Yoruba and European slave traders quickly took advantage of the instability. They traded guns for prisoners of war who were sold into slavery. The country gained independence from France in 1960. Mathieu Kerekou came to power in 1972 after a series of military governments. His Marxist/Leninist rule continued until the late 1980s. Nicephore Soglo defeated him in elections in 1991, but Kerekou made a comeback in polls in 1996 and 2001. He stepped down in 2006 at the end of his term and was succeeded in elections won by Thomas Yayi Boni.

Benin is home to 8.1 million people. French is the official language although local languages such as Fon, Ge, Bariba, Yoruba and Dendi are also spoken. The Beninese, for the most part, practice Christianity or Islam, while traditional religions still have a following. Benin is famous for its bronze figurines, wooden statues, masks and other forms of art. Another important aspect of Beninese culture is the expressive dance emphasized during the ?La Gani' festival that celebrates identity.

The wealth of culture and history, including voodoo, makes Benin an intriguing destination. The coastal city of Ouidah is the country's voodoo center. The center of Benin features the historical capital, Abomey, and the ruins of royal palaces of the former Dahomey kingdom. Just north of Cotonou you can take a canoe ride through the village of Ganvie, known as the ?Venice of Africa? because its homes are built on stilts over a lake. Legend says that during the slave trade people hid amongst homes on the lake.

There are direct flights to the main city, Cotonou, from France and Belgium as well as through other neighboring African countries. There are many ways of getting around town, including car hire, taxis, minibuses and mopeds. Trains are an option for long-distance travel.  

In Cotonou there are plenty of resorts to retreat to after a day of visiting museums and spending a night out on the town. The Novotel Cotonou Orisha Hotel includes an outdoor swimming pool, a golf course, tennis courts and amenities such as massage, a restaurant and bar, a fitness club and more. Another resort is the Benin Sheraton Hotel Cotonou, complete with a nightclub and an ocean view.


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