The place to Explore Benin and its Culture

Fulani, the unique tribe of Benin

Fulani Woman Benin Peuhl

Fulani Woman

Benin is a country with a rich diversity mainly due to the presence of multiple ethnicities that are living in the country. This diversity can better be witnessed by anyone traveling throughout the different areas within the territory. From the fon living in the south to the Bariba living in the North, it’s a treat to see that a small country of less than 13 millions habitants has such a beautiful cultural makeup.

One particular and very interesting small tribe that is fascinating to discover are Peulh and are particularly called the Fulanis. They can’t be missed as they have very beautiful and striking features and their lifestyles are one to be admired by many. Thye are nomad. Leave with very little yet remain happy and content with their of life. Both men and women take a lot of pride in their looks by wearing make up and clothing attires that are striking and leave much to desire. When one meet a Fulani, they get this nonchalant sense of pride. They don’t live to impress. They live to survive and be happy with the most minimal resources they have.

History of the Fulani

The Fulani come from ancient Egypt. Several archeologist have their theory on how they’ve migrated in different areas of Africa. According to André Arcin, a french historian, Fulanis have migrated from the northern edge of the Sahara to southern Morocco. Histaurian Tauxier advocates that they’ve traveled through the roads of southern Algeria and  emigrated from their country of origin ( Middle Egypt ) to the sixth century BCE . Berenger – Feraud , Verneau and other historian also confirmed the their of traveling through the northern route during their migration. The Sahara is excluded because it was considered as a harsh desert and uninhabitable country especially for a population whose main economy is livestock. This first migration from east to west is how it’s believed they’ve reach the Senegal River valley around eighth century AD. In addition, Fulani settlement was also made ​​by successive waves of migration in different regions and at different times . All historians , however, emphasized the historical importance of this population in West Africa where some have now settled and created small theocratic states: Macina in Mali,  Futa Toro and Futa Jalon in Middle Guinea.

Foulani Man Fulani Benin Unseen Benin

Foulani Man


The Fulani Society

Foulani men at an event , fulani men , peulh, marriage, benin

Foulani men at an event

Fulani has multiple societies; Fulanis’ lifestyle and characteristics are known to be simple and adapting to any environment. Even if they change their locations as they are mostly nomads, they are always successful at retaining their original characteristics.

The Fulani are endogamous and semi agnatic . The woman is not obligated to be veiled , and there is no levirate.Most fulanis are muslims and can marry and divorce without necessarily following the islamic traditions. The first marriage usually takes place at the age of 21. It is usually an arranged marriage made the the bride’s family. Widows are allowed to remarry as well. Divorce can happen and can be simply  be because both parties have agreed to of their separate ways.

Fulani man

Fulani man

Fulanis can divorce several times, and they often contract several marriages in their lifetime 2 or 3; polygamy is a minority and is usually found more in urban and Islamized Fulani. As traditional as they are, their frame of mind when it comes to marriage is pretty modern. Both men and  women can choose her counterpart and aren’t forced to be with someone they do not desire. The main rule is their mate should be from the same tribe.

One interesting annual mating tradition they have is for a clan to host a gathering event where single women and men participate in order to hopefully meet a potential mate. Unlike western standards, the men wear makeups more than women and spend more time aesthetically enhancing their image in order to attract women. During the event, if interest is shown and 2 Fulanis like each other, the procedure of marriage starts immediately. Cohabitation and “dating” is prohibited.

Fulani people fulani man makeup foulani peuhl benin

Fulani man applying makeup before a special event

Fulani take a lot of pride in their looks. They have very little but one would think they are doing well financially based on their looks and attire. Women and men are scarified and tattooed. Women tattoo their lips with a black ink as it is seen as sign of beauty. They use a natural wood that has a natural whitening effect to have and maintain pearly white teeth. Men sometimes wear turbans or braid their hair and ornate them with beautiful jewelry. Women usually have braided hair with jewelry ornaments from head to toe. They are a very friendly clan and are quite approachable. You will alway recognize fulanis by their smile: it’s warm, inviting and very charming.

fulani woman peulh foulani benin

Fulani woman

Fulanis in Benin

A nomadic community, the Fulani, also called Peulh in Benin, have settled in various parts of the country. There is not a main place where they are. But nevertheless, they are found in the villages where  where there is free land and grass as they live on raising and selling livestock mainly cows.

The largest communities are found in northern Benin in the region of Atakora and Borgou and in the south in the regions of Bohicon, Abomey and others. There is a slight lifestyle distinction between those living in the Southern region than Northern. In the South, because there aren’t a lot of free open land and more homes are built, they have urbanized themselves from their clothing attires to the types of activities they engage in. They don’t rase livestocks. They sell livestocks and tend to become business owners and makers of artisanal goods such as jewelry, handbags, clothes, basket weavings etc.

Wagassi - Beninese Cheese made by Fulani , peulh, foulani , wagashi, benin cheese, fromage du benin

Wagassi – Beninese Cheese made by Fulani

Fulani women are dedicated, essentially in selling cow milk and processing it to make a delicious Beninese cheese named Wagassi. It has a soft texture like Tofu but with a earthy and nutty tone. It’s usually added in many dishes made all over Benin and can be eaten fresh or pan fried.

Foulani in Urban setting, fulani in Benin , peulh in benin

Foulani in urban setting


3 comments on “Fulani, the unique tribe of Benin

  1. Pingback: Fulani, the unique tribe of Benin – 21st Century Blog

  2. Deborah F Titus
    July 21, 2017

    Thank you for e-posting this West African cultural tribe as interesting! My four adult children’s estranged father is from Cotonou, Benin, West Africa

    • Leila Abdoulaye
      December 19, 2017

      Deborah, Thank you for visiting. Your children’s father may be estranged but they have a sister from Benin who will always care and sending them love. Feel free to stay in touch. My goal is to connect our folks together. Happy holidays!

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