Over a thousand followers assembled in the Atlantic coast town of Ouidah, a once important slave trade port, in Benin to celebrate the country’s 500-year-old traditional religion with voodoo festivities.


The ritual attracted people of African descent from different parts of the world chiefly because of their shared African heritage.

For them, discovering and preserving their ancestral roots is noble as well as interesting, so, they converge to watch the extravagant yearly rites of drumming, dance, and display of honor to gods and spirits.


The convergence did not come without some fizz for the country’s tourism and hospitality industry as natives and visitors enjoy different spectacles, native cuisines, attires, and relaxation spots, all amounting to a boost in revenue circulation.


As part of its development plan, the government has set aside a stretch of beachfront between the main city Cotonou and Ouidah as a special tourism zone for visitors, who it believes will also be keen to visit historical slave locations, pre-colonial palaces, and tour the natural marvels of Benin’s inland.


According to recent annual data from the World Tourism Organization, about 350,000 tourists visited Benin in 2020, although numbers have been growing progressively since 292,000 people visited in 2016.


The voodoo festivities, a traditional African spirit religion that spread to the Americas with the slave trade, were declared a national holiday in 1992.


This year followers of the religion from neighboring countries like Togo, Ghana, and Nigeria, as well as from distant locations like Haiti, Brazil, and the United States all converged to experience the national holiday, where performers, dressed as protectors of the night, dazzled in fascinating costumes delighting worshippers and tourists alike.


Dance groups gyrate to enthralling drumming and chant sessions as onlookers savor the sight while taking videos and pictures with their phones.


According to voodoo spiritual leader Daagbo Hounon Houna II, people come in swelling numbers because voodoo is no longer considered sorcery or barbarism.


Inland, in Savalou, the backyard of Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou, priests and luminaries set a chicken ablaze at the ceremony and then spread its blood and palm oil on a totem made with sand and cowrie shells, as part of the rites.


Voodoo is practiced by around 12% of the West African country’s population of 13 million people, but the authorities also want to use these deep mystical heritages and remarkable customs to attract more tourists and boost the agriculture-dependent economy.


Group dances and mystic costumes of the Ouidah festival were likely to be the highlight for many spectators.


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