Today was another very educational and emotionally charged day. A one hour drive from our hotel in Cotonou lies Ouidah (wee dah) the voodoo capital of the world. Benin is the only country in the world that recognizes it as an official religion. Ouidah is known for its central role in the Slave trade during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries during which time nearly 1 million individuals boarded onto ships from the beach and were transported across the Atlantic.
Our first stop was the Temple of the Pythons, where a few of us held one. Yes, I know, kind of creepy. We later learned about the Dahomey Amazons. The Dahomey Kingdom was located in Southern Benin which is where Ouidah is now. The Dahomey Amazons — the only documented all-female official front line arms military unit in modern history. They fought off the French and kicked ass at every turn. One of their mottos was “If soldiers go to war they should conquer or die”.
We traveled the 4 kilometers by bus down the “Slave Road”. The very same road thousands of men and women walked shackled and chained in the night leaving behind their villages, their families and their freedom. There is now a statue instead of the Tree of Oblivion where rituals took place to disorient, erase their memory and remove their spirit. The entire ordeal actually took place in 5 stages, finally ending at the beach where the monument now stands, “ La Porte de Non Retour” – The Door of No Return. The concrete and bronze arch is a memorial to the enslaved Africans who were taken from the Slave Port of Ouidah to the Americas.
Again, it was a very full day, a couple hours rest and we were on our way to our farewell dinner and another opportunity to chat and chop it up with our fellow travelers Tomorrow evening we will be on our way to the airport. It’s been an awesome travel experience and I hope you enjoyed the ride. Next month will be our annual Stroll Through Black Paris Tour. I may not blog about it because you all should be tired of hearing about that one but Vietnam is in April and a definite one to blog about.