Royal Palaces of Abomey
Royal Palaces of Abomey © Joachim Huber
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Royal Palaces of Abomey - built by the Fon people in the 17th Century - are a group of earthen structures, that stand as relics of the West African Kingdom of Abomey (formerly known as Dahomey). A mighty military and commercial empire, under 12 kings who succeeded one another from 1695 to 1900, Abomey grew into one of the most powerful kingdoms on the west coast of Africa. The palace complex is impressive (measuring six miles in diameter), and is immediately redolent of days gone by: beyond the mud-walled perimeter, is a five-foot ditch, filled with acacia plants (prickly pears), a traditional form of defence. For a society without written documents, the mud structures' carved bas-reliefs are vital records of the most significant milestones in the evolution of Fon culture; depicting their military victories, as well as documenting their myths, customs and rituals. Located just 110 miles (about 175km) northwest of the capital Porto Novo, easily accessed by the national road RN4, the Royal Palaces of Abomey are sites of 'living history' - and an absolute must-see for travellers to Benin.