UNSEEN BENIN

The place to Explore Benin and its Culture

Porto Novo – Capital of Benin

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Side of the Big Mosque of Porto-Novo, A replica of a Catholic Church in Salvador de Bahia in Brazil

Located about an hour away from Cotonou, Porto Novo is the second largest city in Benin as well as it capital. The name came from the Portuguese colons that lived in the town in the 15th century. Porto Novo has a lot interesting sights and culture and up to this day, the Portuguese influence is still present.

Statue of King Toffa in Porto-NovoThe best way to get to Porto Novo is with a minibus or taxis leaving Cotonou. The fare should be less than $2  (600 fca) and the trip last about 45 mn.  However, upon arrival, the best way to move around Porto-Novo is with the local and popular Motor taxi named Zemidjan or Zems. You can rent one for a whole day and it will cost you around $10 -$12.

Carved Door in Porto-Novo

Carved Door – Ethnographic Museum in Porto-Novo

There are quite a few places to visit and things to do while in Porto-Novo. It’s a town that has well preserved historical monuments and artifacts dated from the time of slavery.

The da Silva Museum

da Silva Museum

da Silva Museum

Named  after an Afro-Brazilian with lineage back to Benin named Urbain K. Elisio da Silva, the da Silva Museum is an old colonial home which has a large collection of artifacts from slavery, to traditional religions as well as unique items used by the colons during the 19th century. In one sentence, the museum is where you want to go to learn about Benin’s history.  It is also a great way to see the Afro-Brazilian culture and influence on Benin.The museum also has  a restaurant that serves local and international dishes, a great cyber-cafe with high speed concert and from time to time, special concerts featuring local artists. In January, the da Silva Museum sponsors a big festival where it Afro-Brazilian legacy is celebrated. For more information on the museum, visit http://museedasilvabenin.com musee dasilva

The Ethnographique Museum of Porto-Novo

Drawing on the wall of the Ethnographic Museum in Porto Novo

Drawing on the wall of the Ethnographic Museum in Porto Novo

Established in the 1960s, this is the first museum of Porto Novo that holds a great collection of historical artifacts. A visit in the museum will give one an idea about the cultural diversity as well as the ethnicities of Benin.

Map showing the Ethnic Groups of Benin - Ethnographic Museum of Porto-Novo

Map showing the Ethnic Groups of Benin – Ethnographic Museum of Porto-Novo

The museum is famous for his masks and art collections reflective of each ethnic group living in Benin. 

The Honmé Museum – Royal Palace of King Toffa

toffa

Walking into the Royal Palace (based on African not European standards)  is like going back into Beninese history. This very well-curated museum gives you an insight of how African royalty lived.  It is also a great way to explore artifacts from the Yoruba ethnic group featured through masks, costumes and instruments.  In addition, the museum has original photographs of the dynasties from Porto-Novo royal families as well as their royal carriage.

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The Songhaï Center

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Created in 1985 by a Catholic priest from the Dominican’s Congregation, brother Godfrey Nzamujo, this is a non for profit research and training center educating young Africans about the field of agriculture. The goal of this center is to promote agricultural entrepreneurship and voter the emergence of a new African society based on socio-economic dynamics. The Songhaï Center isn’t just open for people of Benin but also for all African interested in research and/or learning about agriculture in Africa.

A Shop at the Songhai Center selling local goods from the center.

A Shop at the Songhai Center selling local goods from the center.

In addition, the Songhaï Centre is also used as a hotel to cater to those visiting the town of Porto-Novo. This is a great way to get insight on how some African countries are empowering themselves through agriculture. They have also a shopping area where visitors can try and buy local produced goods. The efforts made by the center has been recognized and promoted by the United Nations as a Centre of Excellence  that’s making an impact for the development and growth of Africa.

The Big Mosque of Porto-Novo - A replica of a Catolic Church in Salvador de Bahia in Brazil

The Big Mosque of Porto-Novo – A replica of a Catholic Church in Salvador de Bahia in Brazil

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7 comments on “Porto Novo – Capital of Benin

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