A Personal Journey to West Africa: Benin (with Cotonou Voodoo Festival), Togo, Ghana
Look beyond the capital cities of West Africa to remote societies––some very secret––for a true sense of the African people. Their dwellings, which vary from tribe to tribe, are creative masterpieces: some end in peaked roofs like circular skirts; others have fluted walls. Village elders teach morality through storytelling. A boy becomes a man through complex initiation rites. And nothing is written down. Even the formulas for dyeing, designs and colors for textile making, or stories that children listen to at night are all retained in someone's memory and passed down orally from generation to generation.
This is Kathleen's 17th year taking travelers to West Africa. Accompanying her will be West African expert Noah and her favorite cook, John, who will prepare delicious and hygienic lunches in Benin, Togo, and on all the days we are in the bush. Through their personal relationships, you'll have private invitations to tribal dances performed for spirits, voodoo trance dances, and observe artisans creating treasures of the hand like adrinke, mud cloth, and indigo dyeing. Join Kathleen and her team for an in-depth ethno-cultural journey that showcases the full spectrum of tribal life, customs, and art on this new West Africa program.
We begin in Benin and Togo, two countries on the Guinea Gulf, both small but fascinating and rich from a cultural point of view, particularly for those who want to have a taste of West Africa. On this part of the trip, we will meet fetish priests, healers, and oracles, attend fire dances, initiation rites, and ancient ceremonies, and witness participants in trances. The pièce de résistance is the voodoo festival in Cotonou. Voodoo has its origins in these countries, and in this part of the world the people's practices are still authentic. The "World of Magic" will be the perspective through which we will find out more about these people, their amazing adobe and thatched architecture, the colorful markets, the drum music, and the village festivals.
Further afield in Ganvie, the largest stilt village in West Africa, we glide through floating markets and past pirogues where fishermen cast humongous nets in the early morning light. A day in the colonial Portuguese town of Porto Novo gives us time to explore the herbal markets, and drop into the 18th century palace of the King Toffa. If His Majesty, the 50th Oba, (King) of a large Yoruba kingdom in south Benin is in residence, we will be invited to his palace and court to learn more about the role of a traditional chief in a modern state.
With extra days in Togo and Benin the group travels further north to Dassa, Benin, the ancient capital of Olofin, the heart of voodoo where we attend a great Egun mask dance to the spirits of the deceased. Crossing over into northern Togo, we meet the Kabye people known for their pottery making and stone age culture. We journey across the Atakora mountains where we encounter the Tamberma tribe, whose origins are close to the Dogon from Mali. Their dwellings of the Tamberma look like medieval castles and are some of the most beautiful examples of ancient African architecture.
Leaving Togo and Benin, we journey overland to Ghana, the first African nation to achieve independence in 1960. A renowned beading expert, Kati Torda, joins for a field trip to a beading village where we learn the role of beads in a woman's life from birth to death. Ms. Torda has arranged for us to witness a re-enactment of the nubility, or initiation rites of a young girl who reaches puberty: energy-sapping dances, symbolic foods, lively music and special beads that the girl will wear for life. Further afield in Kumasi we observe Ashanti communities creating natural dyes for funeral textiles called adrinke cloth, weaving gorgeous kente cloth on vertical looms, engaging in lost wax metalwork, or carving tribal masks and game boards from hardwoods sourced from Ghana. Through our special contacts we may see an Ashanti funeral in Kumasi, a joyous occasion with people dressing in their finest adrinke cloth and body adornment. From Kumasi, the group returns to Accra, Ghana to stay in day rooms until the evening departure back to the USA or Europe.
The itinerary has been created with maximum exposure to village life, which involves walking to remote villages. Villages in West Africa are poor, but the people are generous in spirit. For client comfort, Far Fung Places does not use any tented camps. Our hotels are comfortable four and five star or best available in remote regions of northern Togo and Benin. We permit only 13 travelers on this program to assure ease of operation. A minimum of seven is required to operate the trip.
Before being accepted on this trip, Kathleen Fung will be interviewing travelers for their suitability for this journey. Clients must be able to rotate seats on the coach, walk distances up to one mile on undulating terrain, be open to experiencing the villages, and accept austere hotels in remote regions. Austere hotels would be simple but clean accommodations, overhead fans, all in one shower/bathroom, and limited hot and cold water. West Africa is malarial and subject to yellow fever.
Please inquire about our day-to-day itinerary for more details.
Land price: $9775 per person, double occupancy, based on 10 people taking the entire trip. Includes accommodations on deluxe or best available in remote regions, transfers if arriving and departing with the group, all meals on a set, buffet, or table' d'hôte basis as noted in itinerary beginning with breakfast on January 9 and ending with set dinner on January 25, one local drink at lunch, * one liter of mineral water per person day on the coach, gratuities for group services to guides, drivers, cooks, and hotel staff; all excursions and sightseeing as noted, coach, services of Noah, our expert guide in Togo, Benin, and Ghana and services of Kathleen Fung, owner of Far Fung Places. Price based on minimum of ten people. Single supplement $1750.
Plus international airfare: JFK to Cotonou/Accra/JFK Approximately $1400 plus taxes from USA.
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