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A street in Abomey in 2017
A street in Abomey in 2017
Abomey is located in Benin
Location in Benin
Coordinates: 7°11′8″N 1°59′17″E / 7.18556°N 1.98806°E / 7.18556; 1.98806Coordinates: 7°11′8″N 1°59′17″E / 7.18556°N 1.98806°E / 7.18556; 1.98806
DepartmentZou Department
 • Total142 km2 (55 sq mi)
221 m (725 ft)
 • Total90,195
 • Density640/km2 (1,600/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+1 (WAT)

Abomey is the capital of the Zou Department of Benin. The commune of Abomey covers an area of 142 square kilometres and, as of 2012, had a population of 90,195 people.[1][2]

Abomey houses the Royal Palaces of Abomey, a collection of small traditional houses that were inhabited by the Kings of Dahomey from 1600 to 1900, and which were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985.[3]


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.[3] Traditional legends state that the town was founded by Do-Aklin, a son of the king of 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 being the original chief of the village.[3]

Dahomey expanded rapidly in the 1700s, absorbing many of the surrounding kingdoms, and growing rich from the slave trade.[3] After several attempts, the French conquered the kingdom on 16 November 1892, prompting King Béhanzin to torch the city and flee northward.[3][4] Thereafter the town declined in importance, a process hastened when the French built the new administrative centre of Bohicon immediately to the east.[3] Today, the city is of less importance, but is still popular with tourists and as a centre for crafts.

The Royal Palaces of Abomey[edit]

Royal Palaces of Abomey
Exhibition, 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 a UNESCO World Heritage Sites.[3]

The town was surrounded by a mud wall with a circumference estimated at 10 kilometres (6 mi), 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. Only 10 of the original 12 palace survived the 1892 burning by Béhanzin, Dahomey's last king.[3] 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.


As reported by UNESCO, on 21 January 2009 the Royal Palaces of Abomey suffered from a fire "which destroyed several buildings."[5] The fire was the most recent disaster to have plagued the site, coming after a powerful tornado damaged the site in 1984.[6]


Year Population[7]
1860s 24 000
1979 38 412
1992 65 725
2002 77 997
2008 (estimate) 87 344
2012 90 195


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Abomey". Atlas Monographique des Communes du Benin. Archived from the original on May 9, 2021. Retrieved January 5, 2010.
  2. ^ "Communes of Benin". Statoids. Archived from the original on 2 January 2010. Retrieved January 5, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Butler, Stuart (2019) Bradt Travel Guide - Benin, pgs. 135-45
  4. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Abomey". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 67.
  5. ^ UNESCO World Heritage news, 13 February 2009
  6. ^ "State of Conservation: Royal Palaces of Abomey (Benin)". UNESCO. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  7. ^ "Abomey". World Gazetteer. Archived from the original on December 9, 2012. Retrieved 2008-12-19.

External links[edit]