Not everyone can afford the luxury of sitting through a 6 course meal. A lot of us are restricted to just the main course due to lack of time. I started the 12hour series for folks who have limited time to navigate a new city, coincidentally on its 3rd installation – Ouidah version – I fell into that category.
Ouidah is the ancestral and spiritual home of the Voodoo Religion, this little coastal town in Benin Republic means python, named after the voodoo divinity Houéda Dagbé. Despite bloody invasions by The Portuguese, English, Dutch and French slave traders accompanied by their foreign religion, Ouidah has managed to preserve her traditional religious roots.
It is the knowledge of this distinct heritage that sent me crossing crazy overland borders to learn more, and explore other things to do in Ouidah within a 12hour time frame
The road to Ouidah
Benin Republic is next door to Nigeria and both countries share the Seme Border.
All you need to successfully cross the border is a valid international or ECOWAS passport, an original yellow fever certificate and a truck load of confidence to stand your grounds. As a Nigerian citizen I didn’t pay a dime, I refuse to promote bribery.
From Mile 2 bus stop in Lagos you’ve got options: super saver gets to ride Lagos’ signature yellow bus danfo for only N500, a shared taxi with other travelers costing N1500 is available for economy, and the ever luxurious premium can charter a taxi for N6000. All headed for Seme Border. Past the Seme border you’re welcomed in to Benin Republic by palm trees positioned like soldiers, branches waving a hearty welcome in the wind.
I designed a road map from the border to Ouidah, with it no one will play a fast one as they did to me.
Total transportation = CFA9600 (N6,300)
Sleep right next to the Atlantic Ocean
What if I told you a beachfront hotel cost about N7,000 would you believe me? Don’t close the page yet, I’m not pulling your legs.
Sleep right next to the ocean on an isolated sweeping expanse of golden sand littered only by sea shells. Let the waves rock you to sleep.
Hotel Diaspora was a good stay, except for the fact that most of their staff didn’t speak English. Do polish up on your French in advance.
Hotel = CFA10000 (N6,500)
Food = CFA7500 (N5,000)
*book online at booking.com for the best rates
Spend the morning beach bumming
Wake a little early to watch the sunrise, I hear it’s gorgeous. For me the opportunity to see the sun light up the sky was thwarted by thick overcast clouds.
The universe did compensate me with an entire beach all to myself. And I shelled to my heart’s desire.
If a morning of not doing anything isn’t your cup of tea, a short stroll on the beach would lead you to The Door of No Return. The menacing memorial arch was clearly visible from my hotel, a wound I had no interest in revisiting.
Heading for the Sacred Forest
Once upon a time lived a king called Kpasse. His demise was no ordinary death; king Kpasse disappeared and transformed into the Iroko tree that stands in the middle of the Sacred Forest.
Have you ever sat in a sacred forest as a storm brews? The ambience at Kpasse Sacred Forest was eerie yet majestic. Trees danced wildly to the drums of the roaring thunder. The dark ominous clouds spread like a blanket over the forest.
The forest is a perfect place to learn about the different voodoo divinities and gods. Maybe buy some good luck charms too.
Abandon truth all ye who visit
The Ouidah Museum of History is housed in the old Portuguese Fort of St. John the Baptist. Once a major slave port, the 296 year old fort now holds history that has been greatly altered to water down the sins of the Portuguese slave masters.
After enduring 30 excruciating minutes of historical chicanery it was necessary to shut down the party & exit the premises. It was a despicable rewrite of history, and that’s me putting it mildly.
I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts if you do visit Ouidah Museum.
Get up close and personal with Pythons
Vodoo isn’t “black magic dealing with like curses and stuff made to hurt people”
It is a religion that gave solace to thousands of faithful as they were kidnapped aboard slave ships and transported across the Atlantic to cruel fates. On the 10th of January every year there is a pilgrimage of voodoo adepts from all over the world – Haiti, Brazil, Cuba, New Orléans – all assembled at the Temple des Pythons.
Temple des Pythons is a voodoo sanctuary that houses the divinity Houéda Dagbé (python). You can take a picture with a python around your neck, or touch the sacred tree that grants wishes.
Navigating Ouidah with the language barrier would have been difficult but for our expert guide Emmanue l. His services included transportation on motorbikes within Ouidah, translator and docent for a total of CFA17,000 (N11,000), which also covers admission fees into the notable landmarks & places of interest. Emmanuel can be reached on +22966304041
If you’re looking for magic and wonder, then you should give this a shot