The growing country of Benin sits on the bottom end of Africa’s handle. Just east of Nigeria, this tropical sub-Saharan nation is surrounded by land, aside from a thin strip of southern coast. A tropical sub-Saharan climate gives Benin not one, but two rainy seasons, the first spanning April through July and the second from September to the end of October.
Benin’s population of ten million is 99 percent African, primarily consisting of people belonging to the Fon, Adja and Yoruba ethnic groups. French is the official language spoken throughout the entire country, but northern Beninese speak the regional languages of Nagot, Bariba and Dendi, while those in the south speak Fon and Youruba.
- In Benin, there are over 40 different ethnic groups and 55 languages spoken.
- Benin is voodoo’s country of origin. Vodun, the practice of voodoo, is Benin’s third largest religion.
- Benin was once called the Kingdom of Dahomey. After acquiring independence from the French, they chose to rename the country after the Bight of Benin, a nearby body of water.
- Ganvie, a lake village in Benin, is one of the largest lake villages in Africa. It is called a lake village because every building in the village is on stilts.
- Cotton contributes more income to Benin’s economy than any other single economic activity.
- A flag used in the Benin Empire in the 19th century depicted one man decapitating the other.
- Benin’s largest export is cotton. It accounts for 80 percent of outgoing product, and a full 40 percent of the nation’s GDP.
- Benin’s Pendjari National Park contains some of the last remaining populations of elephants, hippopotami and West African lions.