Porto Novo, capital of Benin and the coronation of a voodoo king


I tend to be skeptical about religious issues but I give enough credit to the moods that energy causes, especially when it comes to travel. It has not been the first or the last time that the positive energy of an extraordinary group has been able to see 32 lions!, Among other wildlife and wildlife scenes, in the same safari where others have seen 1. And who says that , says as many examples as attending something as unique as a ritual of the secret society of the Zanbets in Ganvié or being absolutely dumbfounded before the authentic voodoo ritual in the Temple of Skulls ... human! from yesterday (which I am still trying to assimilate), and after that, one "poses" in front of a king of the voodoo world that is being crowned among tribal dances, plus Zangbetos and the spirit of Egungún near Porto Novo, capital of Benin, which we visited hours before.

What (or who) has been the one who "moved the threads" to modify our entire planned itinerary and bring us this April 5 exactly to this place and at this time?

Porto Novo, the capital of Benin

I have a theory, about which one day I will write a book (imaginary), about the concept "turning point of a trip" and I don't usually fail to predict the day that will happen. This depends on many factors, none physical, such as the duration and the day the head believes it will be the "peak moment" of the adventure. That is why I always prepare trips with a philosophy of "embedding" except when, as in this case, everything happens improvised. And why do I count this? Because this morning was that day, the psychological fatigue in which my mind said that what I experienced yesterday was impossible to overcome and everything that was going to show me today would not be able to lift it. Of course I believed that at 8:00 in the morning at the breakfastHotel Du Lac from Cotonou. What was going to happen that afternoon was part of that state of improvisation in which we live.

But we go by order better, right? We continue along that coast of the Gulf of Guinea, already abandoned Togo, of areas strongly influenced by the Voodoo religion, in which there is no chance and everything has an explanation for sorcerers and sorcerers, to the point of being able to predict when you are going to die. The goal of the day is Porto Novo, political capital of Benin and whose origins are associated with the Portuguese word "Puerto Nuevo" as a point of commercialization and slave trade under the rule of the Portuguese Empire.

AND what to see in Porto Novo with time? Some of the interesting points could be:

1 Musée Hommè,a museum that focuses on the reign of King Toffa, the first to establish relations with the French before colonization.
Ethnographic Museum, the first museum to give voice to the ethnic groups that were in the country. The famous Yoruba masks are on display.
3 Jardin Place Jean Bayol,a huge garden where the statue of more than three meters high of the first king of Porto Novo, King Toffa.
4 The Great Mosque of Porto Novo, a church where the Brazilian or Afro-Brazilian style is very present.
5 Temple of the Nine-headed Monster or Temple of the Three Hunters, as the most prominent of the city's many voodoo temples

Of all of them, Gyslan (Euloge does not accompany us today for personal matters to solve in Cotonou) has decided to start with the Ethnographic Museum.

I really would have preferred to visit this place on my own than with the guide who has necessarily had to accompany us and it was quite unpleasant. I would also have liked to take a picture of the masks inside the building, some Gueledé very successful without being the best in a culture that should have its own collection. Outside there is a series of illustrations of very representative secret societies of what voodoo is in Benin. Without going any further, beyond the legend, the considered founder of Porto Novo is the creator of the secret Zangbetos society that appears here.

Walking the streets of Porto Novo gives us the idea of ​​what this place was at the time. Mixture of neighborhoods like Akron, later Hogbonou, leave us with an image of the Yoruba origins of the city, while more extensive adjacent areas with oil palm trees and an Afro-Brazilian style, came after the abolition of ejaculation with Brazilian merchants. And as it would later be colonized by the French, the cultural mix becomes evident.


This stop along the way is for art and architecture lovers. We are going to try to understand a little more what it is or what are the features and characteristics of this style mix of the Africans coming from their slavery in Brazil. Currently the trend is towards a much more modern architectural style and, therefore, more limited and reduced in ornamentation, which pulls towards visual simplicity. However, the native style was quite the opposite:

  • Multi-storey buildings
  • Multicolored walls and facades
  • Very ornate
  • Presence of decorative elements: trims, capitals in the columns, auctions, parapets ...

After missing a couple of times between the labyrinthine streets on the outskirts of Porto Novo, we arrive at our next destination,Adjarra, where is it located an important market that, in addition to the typical products that are usually sold here, there are also dyed fabrics, traditional ceramics, musical instruments and voodoo objects. Are the famous iroko wood tam tam from the neighborhoods of Datin and Aholukomé the ones we are going to see, with more than a century of tradition.

Do you want me to tell you the truth? They did not arouse any interest in me, the result of this state of psychological exhaustion. What he did was to see the calls that our driver made over and over again when he saw movement around us. What happen? What happens in this town? Something is being prepared but we are not yet aware ...

The last visit in the morning was taken by the Great Mosque of Porto Novo, yes, a gift for the eyes can be seen wherever you look despite its degree of deterioration due to lack of funds, although it seems that a restoration project is already underway since 2008.

It dates from 1910 and is not in use and therefore cannot be entered, but the multicolored facades with turquoise blue, ocher yellows, bronze green, mixed with their Architecture inspired by churches in Brazil, make this baroque style sanctuary of Islam a true jewel of Porto Novo That does not go unnoticed.

We are next to Ahouangbo market and surrounded by dozens of colonial buildings that tell stories on all four sides. We have even dared to get into a kind of neighborhood burial but I better leave that for us (it is not going to be that families worry about what we do when they leave us alone ...)

We cross the daily life stands of Porto Novo towards a good restaurant near the lake (4,200 CFA each), which I did not get to aim, to continue our visit to the city by the most important Zanbeto temple

By the way, while they open to us (they are not very much for the work), do you know what a Zekpon is? It seems to be a sacred temple destined to house voodoo water. It has nothing to do with this temple that, once we enter, we see that it is still a small one, mmm, corral? with several farmhouses that could well be chickens.

If it's okay ... I don't have the day! How the perspective of the same place changes even at the same time for two different people and more after having lived momentazos like the authentic voodoo ritual in the Temple of the Skulls ... human! from yesterday

The day I attended the coronation of the 18th king of Adjarra

"Ok! Are we going to Cotonou? How? What we saw in the morning have you heard that is the coronation of the new king of Adjarra after the death of the previous? What are you telling me? Do youWhat is going to be a lot of fuss for "two blanquitos"? Come on man! ¿Sele? Isaac? Here we go… "

It didn't take us 20 minutes to return to the “tam tam” neighborhood in the morning when we see the one that is mounted, it is impossible to move with the car so it will be necessary to get off. We are in the thick again! But is that the ceremony we live in Taneka Country which was already impressive falls short. Everyone voodoo has gathered here to honor the proclamation of the new king ... .

... and when we all say, we talk about tribal groups, the so-called women of the king and, of course, the secret societies of Zangbetos or Egungún. And the one that comes towards us? He is the new king! (Do not ask me what it is called because it is unpronounceable)

We cannot avoid it, it is time to follow it until what is considered the Royal Palace of Adjarra where there are even more celebrations. Obviously I am not going to say that we go unnoticed but neither does our presence seem to matter to anyone, so ... why not? we enter? Let's say that at this moment we live one of the most ridiculous episodes motivated by the adrenaline of what we were living and, barefoot, we enter the king's hall leaving behind what they call "the women of the king", where he was resting with his ministers without knowing how to act. So much so that even Sele wanted to shake his hand and received a grunt, until we saw our companions bow and imitate them. Anyway, better forget ...

Without almost recovering from emotions, we attended another show that we lacked. They are our first Egungún, those who possess the spirits of the ancestors who have returned and cannot be touched except by the initiates.

To express that symbolic message, the Egungún cover the face and bodies with ornate costumes in bright colors, sequins and reflective materials, and perform dances and dances as if they were possessed with even challenging attitudes.

There is no lack of dances of the secret society of the Zangbetos, guardians of the night that we had seen before, that they turn and dance WITHOUT ANYONE INSIDE (There are videos on the internet where it looks like they are opened and there is indeed no one). I have learned to respect voodoo these days so I will not be the one to say otherwise.

Today there were a few, escorted by their kregbetos (assistants) who are in charge of communicating with them although we have not seen how they opened or burned one to demonstrate the inexplicable as they do in other places.


It goes without saying that the whole image that Hollywood has sold us about Voodoo religion has nothing to do with what we are living in the cradle of its roots. Folk elements such as Voodoo dolls or their needles as fetishes to harm someone who desires evil or black magic have nothing to do with reality No origin of this ancestral culture. Nor is it a witchcraft class. Voodoo rituals are generally used to cure diseases, ask for crops and other always good and positive actions and only when you want to invoke the spirits can you speak of red magic. In any case, cinema and reality differ greatly in this case.

After most of the afternoon "in full festive events" it seems that a proclamation ceremony will begin in a few hours and all the sidewalks are ready for it. It is going to start to get dark and we may already be too late so, still with euphoria, we decided to return to Cotonou.

What was going to be a downturn day has ended up being one of the best days of the trip, that in which in addition to knowing the capital of Benin, Porto Novo, we attended the coronation of a king of the voodoo world that we never considered. Not even Euloge believed it as we told him and laughed at us, we imagine that thinking of a "blanquitos, ainss". Of course, the tribute dinner we gave atHotel Du Lac Cotonou was also memorable (15,400 CFA) but one day is one day. Who knows what tomorrow's day will hold for us, right? Although I expect anything ...

Isaac (and Sele), from Cotonou (Benin)

EXPENSES OF THE DAY: 19,600 CFA (approx. 29.70 EUR)