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Cotonou,

Tucked between Nigeria and Togo in Benin is the busy trading port of Cotonou. Named a “market town” for its coastal placement and lucrative palm oil and textile trades, Cotonou is a sprawling amorphous city, swaddled between the Atlantic coast and Lake Nakoué. Because of its especial geographical situation, Cotonou is bursting with life — visitors disembarking here will find a colourful port, alive with economic activity and very much the capital (although not in name, the official capital is Porto-Novo to the east) of the trading industry. Formerly Kutonu, the city has enjoyed some rather dubious titles in the past most notably that it is here that voodoo was born and is still regularly practised. While many market stalls sell fetishes along with their associated paraphernalia, a lot is just for show for tourists and their effectiveness remains questionable at best. Cotonou however does have one specific difference, in that it offers a difference ambience from many other West African ports; because of the French influence, (Benin was under French colonial rule until 1958), visitors can expect a general feeling of affluence, with many 4x4 cars whizzing through the dirt streets alongside the zemi-johns (or taxi motos). This makes for a diverse, lively city year round.

Cotonou,