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Do you live by the water? Or off the shore of the ocean or lake? Have you ever wanted too? Believe it or not there is an entire city of people, who built their homes and community on a lake; it’s called Ganvie! Ganvie is over 500 years old and located in Benin, Africa lying in Lake Nokoué, near Cotonou. They have a population of around 20,000 people. The name Ganvie comes from the Fon language meaning “We have survived”. The lake city came about during the Portuguese invasion, when they went to Benin in search of slaves. The people of Ganvie created homes on the water, because the Fon were forbidden by their religion to advance upon a water bound settlement. Any groups of people who lived on water were, by the law of the Fon, safe and therefore could not be captured and sold into slavery. This unique lake city attracts about 10,000 tourists each year and is often described as the Venice of Africa!
The unique bamboo homes are all constructed on stilts over the water and functions like any other community. There are health centers, churches and schools. They also have bars, restaurants, cafes and water villas for tourists. They depend on fishing as both as source of income and food. They sell many other goods at their water markets. At the water market you’ll find beautiful clothing, fish, bread, milk, condiments and fruits. On Lake Nokoué you can take a tour of the lake city, either on a canoe or motorized boat.
Water does rule everything at Ganvie, but watersports are limited in this area, because the tides and currents can make it extremely dangerous for the people in the village. But there are some nice beaches at Ouidah as well as Grand Popo.
Some of the other local attractions in Benin is the Festival it is the Voodoo Festival. It is expected that you donate $30-$50 USD per person to your hosts This payment also allows you to film and photograph. This festival begins on January 11 every year. It’s about an hour drive from Cotonou in Quidah. You can expect to see ancestor worship, singing, dancing, drumming, and a spirit possession. These ancient beliefs were brought by slaves in the seventeenth century who were captured from the Dahomey Kingdom. The word 'voodoo' derived from the word 'vodu' in the Dahomey language of Fon and means "spirit."
Benin weather is humid and hot with average temperatures of 72-95 degrees Fahrenheit. Benin’s southern area experiences very hot weather in some months of the year. There is a long dry season that starts in December until March. the southern part of Benin experiences a dry wind throughout these months. The rainy season starts in March and continues until July. Then the dry season is in the months of July, August and September. Within the northern area of Benin there’s only one rainy season and temperatures can rise to a maximum of 104 degrees throughout the summer months. The maximum volume of rainfall happens in the central area of Benin.