My afternoon in Cotonou, Benin did not go as planned. But an unexpected tour of an L-1011 plus a cultural reckoning at the voodoo market were not the only things I saw in Cotonou. This photo essay recounts my extended layover in Cotonou.
Photo Essay From Cotonou, Benin
After the L-1011 experience, we walked around the beach for a bit…but it was blisteringly hot and I was wearing leather shoes with socks so that only lasted for a few minutes.
Next, we headed over to Dantokpa Market, also known as Tokpa. This is the largest open-air market in West Africa and the center of commerce for Cotnou and all of Benin. Stretching over 20 hectares, this is where you come for whatever you need…including voodoo medicine.
On the way we passed the Ministry of Economic Development and Palais des Congrès (used for conferences).
While the object was to visit the voodoo market, I ventured though many stalls. Touts were not aggressive and I was largely ignored, a welcome change from the aggressive touts in many nations aimed at tourists in open air markets.
We also passed Ancien Pont, a bridge crossing the Lagune de Cotonou which separates the two sides of the city. It was built in 1928 and renovated 40 years ago. Hundreds of people were fishing.
Our final stop was Etoile Rouge (“red star”), a monument that I had seen while flying into COO. This was built by the Soviet Union in 1975 after General Mathieu Kerekou launched a coup and took over power in 1972, adopting Marxism-Leninism as the official government ideology (he held onto power until 2006). In the middle, a statue arises with a man holding a gun, bundle of wood, and hoe. The gun represented Benin’s obligatory military service, the wood the source of energy for the vast majority of the population, and the hoe representing agriculture as the foundation for the economy.
There were some churches and mosques that I skipped seeing, but Cotonou is not exactly a tourist hub. Still, there’s charm in the bustling commerce of this city on the sea and I will never forget the valuable lesson of treating the religious beliefs of others with respect.
Cotonou is worth a visit, even if brief like mine. I appreciated the oppounity to be introduced to this bustling city in West Africa.
This story is part of my An African Adventure As The World Shut Down trip report.