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A map of BeninA map of Benin Benin is a long, thin country in West Africa that stretches inland and northwards from the Gulf of Guinea. The River Niger runs along part of its northern border. Much of the northern part of Benin is covered by savanna grassland. In the middle of the country the land rises to rocky uplands. The southern lowlands are a mixture of open savanna and lush, tropical rainforest. Benin's coastal areas feature sandy marshlands and mangrove swamps. The southern part of the country lies close to the Equator and has a tropical climate with hot, wet weather all year round. The north is hotter and drier, with distinct rainy and dry seasons. 

Beninese childrenBeninese children


More than 40 different ethnic groups have settled in Benin throughout its history. The Bariba and Fula in the northeast arrived from Mali in the 16th century. The Yoruba people of the southeast spread westwards from Nigeria during the 12th century, while the Fon and Aja people in the southwest originally came from Togo. Benin was ruled by France between 1904 and 1960 and French is still the official language. Many people speak one or more local languages as well as learning French at school.

The fishing village of Ganvie on Lake Nokoue is also known as the “Venice of Africa” because its houses are built on stilts above the water.

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