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Abomey is the capital of the Zou Department of
Benin Benin ( , ; french: Bénin ), officially the Republic of Benin (french: République du Bénin) (formerly known as Republic of Dahomey, Dahomey), is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east, Burkina Fa ...
. The commune of Abomey covers an area of 142 square kilometres and, as of 2012, had a population of 90,195 people. Abomey houses the Royal Palaces of Abomey, a collection of small traditional houses that were inhabited by the Kings of
Dahomey The Kingdom of Dahomey () was a pre-colonial African kingdom located within present-day Benin Benin ( , ; french: Bénin ), officially the Republic of Benin (french: République du Bénin) (formerly known as Republic of Dahomey, Dahomey ...
from 1600 to 1900, and which were designated a
World Heritage Site A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for ha ...
by
UNESCO The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO french: Organisation des Nations unies pour l'éducation, la science et la culture) is a specialised agency of the United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an ...

UNESCO
in 1985.Butler, Stuart (2019) ''Bradt Travel Guide - Benin'', pgs. 135-45


History

Abomey was founded in the 17th century as the capital of the Kingdom of Dahomey (1600–1904), on the site of the former village of Kana. Traditional legends state that the town was founded by Do-Aklin, a son of the king of
Allada Allada is a town, arrondissement, and commune, located in the Atlantique Department of Benin. The current town of Allada corresponds to Great Ardra (also called Grand Ardra, or Arda), which was the capital of a Fon people, Fon kingdom also calle ...

Allada
who ventured north to found his own kingdom; the name is thought to come from Danhomé, also spelled Danxomé, meaning 'belly of Dan', Dan been the original chief of the village. Dahomey expanded rapidly in the 1700s, absorbing many of the surrounding kingdoms, and growing rich from the slave trade. After several attempts the French conquered the kingdom on 16 November 1892, prompting King
Béhanzin Béhanzin ( – 10 December 1906) is considered the eleventh (if Adandozan is not counted) King of Dahomey, modern-day Republic of Benin. Upon taking the throne, he changed his name from Kondo. Biography He succeeded his father, Glele, and ru ...
to torch the city and flee northward. Thereafter the town declined in importance, a process hastened when the French built the new administrative centre of Bohicon immediately to the east. Today, the city is of less importance, but is still popular with tourists and as a centre for
crafts A craft or trade is a pastime or an occupation that requires particular skills and knowledge of skilled work. In a historical sense, particularly the Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted fr ...
.


The Royal Palaces of Abomey

The Royal Palaces of Abomey are a group of earthen structures built by the
Fon people The Fon people, also called Fon nu, Agadja or Dahomey, are a Gbe ethnic group.Fon people
Encyclopædia Britanni ...
between the mid-17th and late 19th Centuries. One of the most famous and historically significant traditional sites in West Africa, the palaces form a UNESCO
World Heritage Sites A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for ha ...
. The town was surrounded by a mud wall with a circumference estimated at , pierced by six
gate A gate or gateway is a point of entry to or from a space enclosed by walls. The word derived from old Norse "gat" meaning road A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on land between two Location (geography), places that has been Pavement (m ...
s, and protected by a ditch five feet deep, filled with a dense growth of prickly
acacia ''Acacia'', commonly known as the wattles or acacias, is a large genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie ...
, the usual defence of West African strongholds. Within the walls were villages separated by fields, several royal palaces, a market-place and a large square containing the barracks. Only 10 of the original 12 palace survived the 1892 burning by Béhanzin, Dahomey's last king. The French colonial administration rebuilt the town and connected it with the coast by a railroad. When UNESCO designated the royal palaces of Abomey as a World Heritage Site in 1985 it stated: :''From 1625 to 1900 twelve kings succeeded one another at the head of the powerful Kingdom of Abomey. With the exception of King Akaba, who used a separate enclosure, they each had their palaces built within the same cob-wall area, in keeping with previous palaces as regards the use of space and materials. The royal palaces of Abomey are a unique reminder of this vanished kingdom.'' From 1993, 50 of the 56 bas-reliefs that formerly decorated the walls of King Glèlè (now termed the 'Salle des Bijoux') have been located and replaced on the rebuilt structure. The bas-reliefs carry an iconographic program expressing the history and power of the Fon people.


Threats

As reported by UNESCO, the Royal Palaces of Abomey suffered from a fire on 21 January 2009 "which destroyed several buildings." The fire was the most recent disaster which has plagued the site, coming after a powerful tornado damaged the site in 1984.


Demographics


Gallery

File:Celebration at Abomey.- Important witchdoctors.jpg, "Important witchdoctors" (1908) File:The célébration at Abomey(1908). - Dance of the Fon chiefs.jpg, Dance of the Fon chiefs 1908 File:The celebration at Abomey. - Young girl with wooden statue of mystic chair.jpg, Young girl with wooden statue of mystic chair (1908) File:Abomey-Palais du Gouverneur (1).jpg, Town Hall, located in the former Governor's Palace File:Royal Palaces of Abomey-133471.jpg, One of the royal palaces.


See also

* The city is town twinning, twinned with Albi, France.


References


External links


UNESCO assessment of threats to the site, after tornado damage in 1984.


{{Authority control Communes of Benin Arrondissements of Benin Populated places in the Zou Department Dahomey World Heritage Sites in Benin French West Africa Capitals of former nations