Thursday was a national holiday in Benin: Voodun Day. It is the day to celebrate voodoo. Benin is where voodoo is from and the Fon people amongst whom I live in Houegbo have their ancestral roots in voodoo. I had thought about going to Grand Popo because Beninese say that the voodoo is strong there, but I decided to make a day trip to Abomey instead since it is closer and easier to get to although it was a world away from my little town.Abomey was the heart of the Dahomey Kingdom. In fact, Benin used to be called Dahomey in the past. For centuries kings ruled the Dahomey kingdom and conquered neighboring kingdoms. These Kings sold their prisioners of war to the Portuguese as slaves and built palaces. I visited the Historical Museum and Royal Palace in Abomey. Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures but I will try to tell you about it. It’s a large complex with a very old mud wall around it. Inside the building were different artifacts from the past. I got to see the kings’ thrones… the scariest being the one in which the king put the skulls of his enemies on the bottom of the chair so that he was basically sitting on their heads! The kings of Dahomey were very violent. I walked into a temple whose walls are said to be made of the blood of slaves! They looked like mud to me but I guess you never know. I’m just glad I wasn’t there when they needed building materials!
Other highlights of the museum include the information about the Amazones. The Fon kings had armies of women warriors that helped them conquer other kingdoms. They trained the girls when they were between 12-14 years old to become soldiers and according to tradition they could be just as if not more deadly that male warriors.
The museum also houses local artisans who sell their wares. Supposedly they are the decendents of the artisans who worked for the kings… who knows but it was cool to see people weaving fabric and I really want one of the hammocks.