A short hop from the sands of Grand Popo Beach, Ouidah is where voodoo began. When slaves were shipped from here, voodoo went with them to the Americas. Horror films and novels may have since shaped the religion in the popular imagination into a macabre feast of torture dolls and black magic, but it’s infinitely more interesting than that, and a look at how it is truly practised is a must for any visitor to Benin.
A friendly and clean town, come to Ouidah at a weekend and chances are you’ll see frenetic, intriguing voodoo ceremonies being conducted, the town’s square host to prayer and dancing worshippers. Elsewhere, ophidiophobics beware: the nearby Serpent Temple is straight out of Indiana Jones. It may be another important place of voodoo worship, but it’s exactly as its name suggests, home to a writhing mass of royal pythons. 60 or so snakes live inside, but come the night they are released, and each morning townsfolk round them and return them to the temple.