Commune and city

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
Country  Benin
Department Zou Department
  Total 142 km2 (55 sq mi)
Elevation 221 m (725 ft)
Population (2012)
  Total 90,195
  Density 640/km2 (1,600/sq mi)
Time zone WAT (UTC+1)

Abomey is a city in the Zou Department of Benin. Abomey is also the former capital of the ancient Kingdom of Dahomey (c. 1600–1904), which would later become a French colony, then the Republic of Dahomey (1960–1975), and is the modern-day Republic of Benin.

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.

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

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, 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, Béhanzin, the last independent reigning king of Dahomey, being defeated by French colonial forces, set fire to Abomey and fled northward.[3] The French colonial administration rebuilt the town and connected it with the coast by a railroad.

UNESCO World Heritage Site
Royal Palaces of Abomey
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Type Cultural
Criteria iii, iv
Reference 323
UNESCO region Africa
Inscription history
Inscription 1985 (9th Session)
Endangered 1985–2007

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.

Today, the city is of less importance, but is still popular with tourists and as a centre for crafts.


As reported by UNESCO, the Royal Palaces of Abomey suffered from a fire on 21 January 2009 "which destroyed several buildings."[4] The fire was the most recent disaster which has plagued the site, coming after a powerful tornado damaged the site in 1984.[5]


Year Population[6]
1860s 24 000
1979 38 412
1992 65 725
2002 77 997
2008 (estimate) 87 344


See also


  1. "Abomey". Atlas Monographique des Communes du Benin. Retrieved January 5, 2010.
  2. "Communes of Benin". Statoids. Archived from the original on 2 January 2010. Retrieved January 5, 2010.
  3.  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Abomey". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 67.
  4. UNESCO World Heritage news, 13 February 2009
  5. "State of Conservation: Royal Palaces of Abomey (Benin)". UNESCO. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  6. "Abomey". World Gazetteer. Retrieved 2008-12-19.

External links

Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Abomey.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Abomey.
Wikisource has the text of the 1921 Collier's Encyclopedia article Abomey.
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