Backtrack to Ouidah and dancing haystacks
Trip Start Jun 02, 2003
41Trip End Dec 31, 2006
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Ouidah (WEEDUH)is a small city on the Beninese coast. It is famous because it is the sight of departure for many African slaves. From Ouidah, ships literally overflowing with slaves would depart for the Americas. They went mostly to the Caribbean and Brazil, I think. The Portuguese had a strong influence in Ouidah. Most of Ouidah's tourist sites are dedicated to recounting this history. The day that we toured these sites was certainly a somber one.
We began at the museum, which is located within a reconstructed Portuguese fort
From there, we moved on toward the slave route. On the way, we saw the Tree of Forgetfulness. The original tree is no longer standing, but another one has begun growing in exactly the same spot, supposedly of its own accord (no one planted it). One of the African kings wanted the slaves to walk around the tree (seven times for men, nine times for women) so that they would forget where they came from, so that they would not miss their homeland too much. The men and women began the long walk down the road to a tiny, enclosed location where they were held for sometimes months as they waited for the ships to arrive. Many died here and were buried in a mass grave that is now a memorial. Just before the last bit of the walk down to the beach, they came upon the Tree of Return, which is still there, and towers overhead with thick, leafy branches and beautiful flowers that dangle down like giant bells. The bark juts out in little bulbs in places around the tree, forming perfect places to put an offering. The slaves walked around the tree of return several times as well to ensure that their spirits would return to their homeland after their deaths. Where the road meets the beach, there is now a huge arch, the Gate of No Return, to serve as a reminder and to memorialize all those who were forced to climb into the ships that transported them to the Americas.
This particular tour of Ouidah was quite depressing and appalling, but important to see. We actually missed some portions of the tour due to time constraints, but what we saw was moving.
On a separate visit to Ouidah, I saw some other tourist sites and even went off the beaten path and met the cheif of all Voudou of Benin (equivalent of Pope, only for Voudou religion)
We visited the Temple of the Pythons next
Our last visit was the Sacred Forest. But I really must go, so you'll have to wait till next time!
Hope you are all well! By the way, some of you have been concerned about where to write me. The info has not changed. I will always be able to receive mail at the address you can find in my entry on contacting me. Also, if you send a package, I have noticed that those that have "Objets Religeuses" on the outside tend to make it here faster, so ....
Till next time...