35 Benin Facts: You Must Know About This Country In West Africa | Kidadl

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35 Benin Facts: You Must Know About This Country In West Africa

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Benin, formally the Republic of Benin, was once known as Dahomey (until 1975) or the People's Republic of Benin (1975-90). 

Benin is made up of a thin wedge of land that stretches northward for roughly 420 mi (676 km), from the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean, where it has a 75 mi (120 km) coast, to the Niger River, which forms part of Benin's northern border with Niger. Burkina Faso borders Benin to the northwest, Nigeria to the east, and Togo to the west. 

 Although Porto-Novo is the legal capital, Cotonou is Benin's largest city, economic capital, and de facto administrative capital. From the late 1800s and up to 1960, Benin was a French colony. Prior to colonization, parts of what is now Benin were ruled by powerful, independent kingdoms, including the Bariba kingdoms in the north and the kingdoms of Porto-Novo and Dahomey.

Porto Novo was developed as a port for the slave trade. Dahomey's royal compound was erected on the grave of a rival king. The name of the fallen Dahomey kingdom was borrowed for the entire country that is now Benin. By the late 19th century, French settlers made inroads from the coastal region into the interior. The current name stems from the Bight of Benin; the water body.

If you like reading about Benin so far, you should read further to learn more. The answer to the question of what Benin is famous for shall be revealed below! There sure is a lot of information available here on Benin, and lots of curious questions have been answered for your entertainment. 

The History Of Benin

Benin has long been known for its 'bronzes,' which are actually brass works, some of which are reported to date back to the 13th century. It's also known for its ivory and wood carvings. Let's explore Benin's history:

  • Benin was founded as a political entity by the French colonial invasion at the end of the 19th century. During the precolonial period, the territory was divided into several distinct states, each with its own language and culture.
  • The south was mostly held by Ewe-speaking peoples, who traced their ancestors back to Tado (in modern Togo). The kingdom of Allada (Ardra) was the most powerful state in this area during the 16th and 17th centuries, but Dahomey overtook the position in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • The Bariba were the largest group in the north, with the kingdom of Nikki being the most prominent state, which was part of a confederacy that included other Bariba states in what is now Nigeria.
  • Benin does not currently have railway linkages with neighboring nations, but construction work on international lines connecting Benin with Niger and Nigeria has begun, with preliminary plans proposed for additional connections to Togo and Burkina Faso.
  • While Benin exports cotton, other agriculture and regional trade are also important to the country's economy.

The People, Origin, And Language Of Benin

Benin's culture is as diverse as the country's landscapes. Benin's culture is probably one of the most unique and interesting in Africa, with strong religious roots being behind most of the traditions. Let's explore some other facts about Benin, including other local traditional religions.

  • In this country, music is really important. Drumming eclectic rhythms can be heard at almost all festivals and religious occasions. Music in Benin is used to express religious fervor as well as to celebrate. Notable musicians, such as globally recognized singer Angelique Kidjo, call the country home.
  • Other African nationals who have recently arrived in Benin include Nigerians, Togolese, and Malians. Many Lebanese and Indians are also interested in trade and commerce in the international community of Benin.
  • The central coast town of Ouidah is the spiritual center of Beninese vodun (voodoo). Even non-believers are attracted to the town. Benin is known for its voodoo and other local traditional practices, which tell of curing and revitalizing talismans.
  • Benin prides itself on its old myths and folklore, and the oral storytelling tradition is still alive and well here, which explains the lack of recorded literature in the country.
  • The country has only two national parks, the Pendjari National Park and W National Park. Still, Benin's national parks have the largest percentage of lions in West Africa. The Pendjari National Park, shared by Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger, is West Africa's largest intact ecosystem.
  • Benin features fallow farmland, mangroves, and the remains of large sacred forests. Unlike in many parts of the world, snakes, particularly royal pythons, are adored in Benin. They even eat and sleep in people's houses. Royal pythons are revered in Benin, particularly in Ouidah.
Benin's national parks have the largest lion population in West Africa.

Customs And Traditions Of Benin

Benin is now regarded as one of Africa's most stable democracies. Benin holds many old customs and traditions close even today. Let us explore some more facts about Benin.

  • The textiles are vivid and ornately patterned, as is typical of West African apparel. Each ethnic group has distinct and unmistakable clothing, with varied colors and designs used for different occasions in most tribes. It's a visual feast to attend a cultural gathering in Benin, especially during a local festival.
  • In Benin, you will find many individuals dressed in traditional attire. The traditional attire for both men and women is known as a 'bomba.' For men, a long, loose tunic shirt with loose pants is the custom. While women wear a 'pagne', a wrap skirt, and then also a loose top.
  • Beans, couscous, rice, and tomatoes are some of their important staples. Avocados, kiwifruit, Mandarin oranges, pineapples, bananas, and peanuts are all common fruits in this area.
  • Northern Benin's mainstay is yams, which are frequently eaten with tomato or peanut-based sauces.
  • The literacy rate of Benin is low (38.4% for adults; as of 2012), and the local languages are not written. While the country has definitely seen economic growth in recent years and is one of West Africa and Africa's major cotton growers, it's still one of the poorest countries on the planet.
  • The Republic of Benin gained independence from France on Aug 1, 1960, and celebrates its Independence Day every year on August 1. French is still the official language. Indigenous languages such as Fon and Yoruba, on the other hand, are widely spoken. Benin's capital city is Porto-Novo, while the most major city and government seat is Cotonou.
  • The staple diet is yams in the northern Benin region. Beef and pork meat are also used in the northern provinces and are fried in palm or peanut oil or cooked in sauces.
  • Corn is the most popular element in southern Benin cuisine, or southern Beninese cuisine as it's called. It's frequently used to make dough, which is primarily eaten with peanut or tomato-based sauces. The most commonly used meats are fish and chicken.

The Geography Of Benin

Benin has an interesting and diverse geography. Let's discover more facts about Benin.

  • It's divided into five natural zones. The coastline area is low, flat, and sandy, with tidal marshes and lagoons on either side. It's made up of a long sandbar on which clumps of coconut trees grow; the lagoons are narrower in the west, where many have become marshes due to silting, and wider in the east, with some being interconnected.
  • The Grand-Popo Lagoon continues into Togo to the west, while the Porto-Novo Lagoon to the east provides a natural canal to Lagos, Nigeria's port. However, its use is hindered by political boundaries. The lagoons only have openings to the sea at Grand-Popo and Cotonou.
  • The four Benin plateaus can be found in the areas surrounding Abomey, Ketou, Aplahoue (or Parahoue), and Zagnanado. Clays atop a crystalline basis make up the plateaus. The Abomey, Aplahoue, and Zagnanado plateaus range in height from 300-750 ft (91-229 m), while the Ketou plateau reaches 500 ft (152 m).
  • The Atakora Mountains, located in the country's northwest, are a continuation of the Togo Mountains to the south. They have a heavily metamorphosed quartzite interior and run southwest to northeast, reaching an altitude of 2,103 ft (641 m) at their highest point.
  • In the northeast of Benin, the Niger plains slope down to the Niger River basin. Clayey sandstones make up the majority of them.

Other Interesting Facts About Benin

Read on for some more fascinating facts about Benin.

  • Benin imported around $2.8 billion in products in 2017, including meat, rice, poultry, alcohol, fuel plastic materials, mining and excavation machines, telecommunication equipment, passenger vehicles, as well as toiletries and cosmetics.
  • Benin is home to 42 different African ethnic groups, all of which arrived in the country during different eras and have migrated throughout the country. The ethnic groupings include the following.
  • The Yoruba in the southeast - who arrived in the 12th century from what is now Nigeria; Dendi in the north-central region who arrived in the 16th century from what is now Mali; the Bariba and the Fula (or Fulani) in the northeast; the Fula (or Fulani) (Fula: Fule; French: Peul) in the Atacora Range, the Betammaribe and Somba; the Fon in the south-central region around Abomey; and on the shore, there are the Mina, Xweda, and Aja, who arrived from what is now Togo in the 12th century.
  • Benin's climate is hot and humid. In the coastal area, annual rainfall averages roughly 51 in (129 cm). Between mid-March and mid-July, the rainy season is at its peak.
  • Benin's economy was on the verge of collapse at the end of the '80s.
  • Dahomey acquired full independence from France in 1960, after which it experienced a turbulent period marked by many different democratic governments, military coups, and military governments. Benin is still one of the more stable democracies in Africa.
  • Eastern Guinean woods, Nigerian lowland forests, Guinean forest-savanna mosaic, and west Sudanian savanna are all found within Benin's borders. The Atakora Barrier, located in the west and northwest, reduces rainfall. The Atakora is a mountain range that runs along the northwest boundary and into Togo.
  • Cotonou, the country's only seaport and international airport, is also the country's largest city.
  • The Pendjari National Park in Benin is one of the most important reserves in West Africa for the West African lion and other big animal species.
  • Historically, Benin has been used as a refuge for the endangered painted hunting dog, Lycaon pictus.
  • Benin is home to the famed Temple of Pythons. It's home to 50 royal pythons.

<p>With a Bachelor's degree in commerce from the University of Calicut, Avinash is an accomplished artist, writer, and social worker. He has exhibited his paintings in galleries worldwide and his writing has been recognized for its creativity and clarity in various publications. Avinash's dedication to social justice and equality has led him to devote his time and resources to various causes that aim to improve the lives of those in need. Having gained valuable experience working with major corporations, Avinash has become a successful entrepreneur. When he is not busy pursuing his passion for art and social work, he spends his free time reading, farming, and indulging his love for automobiles and motorcycles.</p>

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