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Porto Novo

Country
Benin
State
Departement de la Donga
City
Porto-Novo
Type of Location
Multiple
About Location

Porto-Novo is the official capital of the West African nation of Benin, and was the capital of French Dahomey.The commune covers an area of 110 square kilometres and as of 2002 had a population of 223,552 people.Porto-Novo is a port on an inlet of the Gulf of Guinea, in the southeastern portion of the country.It is Benin's second largest city, and although the official capital, the city of Cotonou is more important, culturally and politically.The region around Porto-Novo produces palm oil, cotton and kapok. Petroleum was discovered off the coast of the city in the 1990s, and has become an important export.

Porto-Novo was once a tributary of the Yoruba kingdom of Oyo and there continues to be a sizable Yoruba community in Porto Novo today.The city's name is of Portuguese origin, meaning "New Port." It was originally developed as a port for the slave trade.In 1863, the British, who were active in nearby Nigeria, bombarded the city, which convinced the Kingdom of Porto-Novo to accept French protection.The neighboring Kingdom of Abomey objected to French involvement in the region, and war broke out between the two states.In 1883, Porto-Novo was incorporated into the French "colony of Dahomey and its dependencies".In 1900 it became Dahomey's capital city.

The kings of Porto-Novo continued to rule in the city, both officially and unofficially, until the death of the last king, Alohinto Gbeffa, in 1976.From 1908, the king held the title of Chef superieur.Many Afro-Brazilians settled in Porto-Novo following their return to Africa after emancipation in Brazil. Brazilian architecture and foods are important to the city's cultural life.

Adjogan music is endemic to Porto-Novo.The style of music is played on an alounloun, a stick with metallic rings attached which jingle in time with the beating of the stick.The alounloun is said to descend from the staff of office of King Te-Agdanlin.The music is played to honor the King and his ministers.The music is also played in the city's Roman Catholic churches, but the royal bird crest has been replaced with a cross.



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How to Reach

By Air

Although the capital of Benin, one must fly in to Cotonou International Airport and take a taxi (600cfa) to Porto Novo.

By Bus

Minibuses and taxis go to Cotonou regularly and are cheap (600cfa for the 45 minute trip). You will most likely end up at the big market Dantopka in Cotonou unless you choose to descend somewhere before that. It can be quite intimidating getting out there especially in peak times. You will be immediately surrounded with people wanting to give you rides. They will grab your bags and start to usher you to their moto or car, so make sure you have a good handle on things before stepping out of the car. Also, from the Porto Novo auto gare, there are taxis to Abomey and Lagos, Nigeria. For traveling north, head to Marche Ouanho and say you are looking for a car for your destination. Every hour or so, when filled, cars leave for Pobé and Ketou.

By Ferries

There are pirogues leaving from Porto arriving less-visited lake villages nearby. Ask around down by the lagoon, about 50m east of the bridge for prices.No fixed prices, but usually expect to pay around 2,000 cfa round trip.

Key places to visit
Musee Ethnographique de Porto Novo, Royal Palace Museum, Musee da Silva, Pendjari National Park


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Places to Visit

Musee Ethnographique de Porto Novo

This is an interesting museum that takes an intensive look into the past of Porto Novo’s kings. Displaying a good selection of fetishes, old Yourba king masks, costumes, and some musical instruments, this is definitely worth the CFA1,000 Entrance fee.

Royal Palace Museum

This former residence of King Toffa is now officially called Musee Honme.CFA 1,000 is the entrance fee.This well maintained, rather simple, palace is a nice look into how African royalty really lived. 1883 was the year King Toffa signed the treaty with French, agreeing to hand over land.The kingdom of Porto Novo was one of the longest lasting in Africa, lasting up until 1976.also known as King Toffa's Palace and more recently Musee Honme, is a museum in Porto-Novo, Benin.It contains an example of an Alounloun and most displays are related to the King Toffa period.

Musee da Silva

Celebrating Afro-Brazilian influence on the city, this fairly new museum offers a lot of variety.The museum grounds consist of a traditional house, a small library, an open-air cinema showing French films, and a hotel.The unique and perhaps most colorful building in West Africa is the 19th century Brazilian style church now converted into a mosque a must-see.

Pendjari National Park

Is an area of 2755 square kilometres in the far north-west of Benin.The park is part of the WAP complex (W-Arli-Pendjari) which is a vast protected area in Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger.The hills and cliffs of the Atakora range make the north-west one the most scenic areas of Benin.They provide a wonderful backdrop to the Pendjari National Park, which, in its isolation, remains one of the most interesting in West Africa.

Right Time to Visit

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