Benin: Abomey – Royal Palaces of Abomey

The town of Abomey in central Benin was the capital of the Kingdom of Dahomey, founded in 1625 and lasting well into the late 19th century. The Dahomey kings were responsible for the bulk of the slave trade in the West Africa, enslaving many nations beyond the present day Benin and selling the slaves to the Portuguese traders in exchange for weapons, gunpowder, tobacco, and alcohol (slaves that were not traded to Europeans, were actually used in human sacrifices). Between 1625 and 1900, there were twelve Dahomey kings, and each of them built a new palace for himself in Abomey – hence there are now 12 royal palaces in Abomey, a combined UNESCO World Heritage site. The palaces are mostly one story buildings, decorated with bas-reliefs images, and surrounded with a lot of red sand (no photography is allowed inside the palaces, and you are actually supposed to take your shoes off and walk barefoot inside the palace enclosures, so prepare for your feet being red with dust and sand). All palaces bear traditional mud-brick architecture and are surrounded by high mudbrick walls. France fought the Kingdom of Dahomey, eventually conquering it. When Benin became an independent nation in 1960, it was first called Dahomey.