People for Cannons
Bushed, from changing taxis several times in several villages, in the stifling heat, we stop alongside the road. Apollo negotiates his beaded bracelet with an elderly, topless, woman, so Mare can use her outhouse. Mostly, throughout Western Africa, people relieve themselves just about anywhere, especially the men. Flushing toilets seem to be reserved for hotels.
After a one-half hour scooter ride, where the wind dries our our sweat soaked clothes and cools us, we reach the city of Abomey, and check-in to a clay hut at Motel D’Abomey. Apollo talks to an artist, Abell, who invites us to his family’s Voodoo ceremony this evening. Of course, we accept the invitation. But first, we walk about one mile, in the sun, to visit the Royal Palace Museum.
The twelve kings of Dahomey lived here, and each added more space to the huge compound. They ruled the kingdom until the French conquered them. There really are not many artifacts left in this compound, other than some reproductions of thrones, as either the genuine remnants sit in French museums, or were destroyed by the Africans. The most interesting, true artifact left here, is a throne that sits atop human skulls.
“Why can’t we take photos?” Mare asks.
“Because if people take pictures, nobody would come to visit,” the guide replies.
Mare looks at me and says, “No Kidding.” I am reminded of how the NFL will black-out a local game if the game does not sell out.
This tour is sad, seeing the loss of traditional relics. Bowls of corn and an old garden ho sit in clear plastic displays. Really, there is not much to see, as the traditional remnants appear barren. Rich in history, the guide explains how the African leaders traded 15 strong men, or 21 perfectly proportioned women to the Portuguese, for each cannon that they needed to fight their enemies. The kings gained their riches by trading their own people. It is interesting to hear our guides blame the African leaders for initiating trading of people for goods, primarily weapons. After this tour, we walk through the market and see a more realistic fetish market, where local people purchase items.
This market looks pretty much like a garbage dump, and the fetish stands reek of rotting flesh. Scrawny chickens roam around the filth, being gathered twenty at a time for sale.
“Here in Benin, we eat local chickens,” Apollo says. “Not like the imported fowl you get in the hotels around Accra.”
Ironically, about one-half hour later, the three of us sit and eat a fried, scrawny chicken at restaurant “Chez Monique’. The couscous tasted terrific, and luckily, the chicken does not have much meat, and we have “Cipro” back in the room.
Scooter rides back to the hotel, and then we’re off to the Voodoo ceremony.