Abomey is a city in the Zou Department of Benin, formerly the capital of the ancient kingdom of Dahomey, including the Republic of Dahomey (1960-1975) which became modern-day Benin. The kingdom was established about 1625. The commune covers an area of 142 square kilometres and as of 2002 had a population of 78,341 people.
The Royal Palaces of Abomey
The royal palaces of Abomey are a group of earthen structures built by the Fon people between the mid-17th and late 19th Centuries. One of the most famous and historically significant traditional sites in West Africa, the palaces form one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The town was surrounded by a mud wall with a circumference estimated at six miles (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911), pierced by six gates, and protected by a ditch five feet deep, filled with a dense growth of prickly acacia, 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. In November 1892, Behanzin, the last independent reigning king of Dahomey, being defeated by French colonial forces, set fire to Abomey and fled northward. 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.
Today, the city is of less importance, but is still popular with tourists and as a centre for crafts.
As reported by UNESCO World Heritage News, the Royal Palaces of Abomey suffered from a fire on January 21, 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.