Ouidah (/ˈwdə/) or Whydah (/ˈhwɪdə, -ɔː/; Yoruba: Xwéda; Ouidah, Juida, and Juda by the French;[2][3] Ajudá by the Portuguese;[4] and Fida by the Dutch), formerly the Kingdom of Whydah, is a city on the coast of the Republic of Benin. The commune covers an area of 364 km2 (141 sq mi) and as of 2002 had a population of 76,555 people.[5]



Basilica of Ouidah
Location in Benin
Coordinates: 6°22′N 2°05′E
Country Benin
DepartmentAtlantique Department
  Total364 km2 (141 sq mi)
65 m (213 ft)
  Density250/km2 (650/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+1 (WAT)


In local tradition Kpase is supposed to have founded the town.[6] This probably happened towards the end of the sixteenth century.[7] The town was originally known as Glēxwé, literally 'Farmhouse', and was part of the Kingdom of Whydah.

Ouidah saw its role in international trade rise when the British built a fort here in 1650.[8]

Whydah troops pushed their way into the African interior, capturing millions of people through tribal wars, and selling them to the Europeans and Arabs.[9] By 1716, when the massive English slave ship Whydah Gally arrived to purchase 500 slaves from King Haffon to sell in Jamaica, the Kingdom of Whydah had become the second largest slave port in the Triangular trade.

The Kingdom was ruled by King Haffon, who received his coronation crown as a gift from Portugal, until, in 1727, the Kingdom of Whydah was captured by the forces of King Agaja of Dahomey.[10] On 19 March 1727, the Boston News-Letter gave this report:

"WHYDAH IN AFRICA: the beginning of this month, Agaja the king of Dahomey came down unexpectedly with an army, and soon became master of this place, and the country adjacent Allada; the defoliation which ensued was so great, that it is impossible to be represented! The factory at Saber, once the king's town and Seat of Trade, was burnt to the ground, and in it a great quantity of merchandise. Forty Europeans were carried into captivity, to the King of Dahomey's camp at Ardrah, but after having been detained about 14 days, seven of them were released and are now returning hither; they gave a melancholy account of their treatment. This country, which was the pleasantest in all these parts, is now laid waste by fire and sword, and made a wilderness!"

France captured the town in 1894, by which time the town had declined due to the outlawing of the slave trade.[10] In the time frame of 1946-1949 French government estimates put the population of Ouidah at about 14,600. By then it had a railway. It was a centre for production and trade in palm kernels, palm oil, copra, coffee, manioc, beans, tomatoes and onions. It was also a centre of the fish trade and the manufacture of vegetable oil. It had Catholic, Protestant and Muslim places of worship.[11]

Fort of São João Baptista de Ajudá

The Fort of São João Baptista de Ajudá (in English Fort of St John the Baptist of Ouidah) is a small fortress built by the Portuguese in Ouidah on the coast of Dahomey (originally Ajudá, from Hweda, on the Atlantic coast of modern Benin), reached by the Portuguese in 1580, after which it grew around the slave trade, for which the Slave Coast was already renowned. In 1680 the Portuguese governor of São Tomé and Príncipe was authorized to erect a fort. In 1721, after having been abandoned for some years, it was reconstructed and named São João Baptista de Ajudá. The Fort, built on land given to Portugal by King Haffon of Whydah, remained under Portuguese control from 1721 until 1961.


The population evolution of Ouidah is as follows:

Year Population[12]
1979 25 459
1992 64 433
2002 77 832
2008 (estimate) 90 042

Notable landmarks

Attractions in Ouidah include a restored mansion of Brazilian slavers (the Maison du Brésil), a voodoo python temple, an early twentieth century basilica and the Sacred Forest of Kpasse, dotted with bronze statues.[10]

The Route des Esclaves, by which slaves were taken to the beach, has numerous statues and monuments, including the Door of No Return, a memorial arch.[10]

The Market Center of Ouidah, which was established by Scouts more than 20 years ago, trains young people in agricultural skills, thus helping to reverse the exodus towards the cities.

Ouidah is the spiritual capital of the Vodun religion, and hosts an annual international Vodun conference.[13]

Other landmarks include:[10]

World Heritage Status

This site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on 31 October 1996 in the Cultural category.[14]

Notable people

See also


  1. "World Gazetteer". Archived from the original on 11 January 2013.
  2. Tome Vingt-Cinquieme, contenant La Suite de l'Histoire d'Afrique, p. 313, at Google Books
  3. Kein, Sybil, Creole, p227.
  4. http://www.red.unb.br/index.php/ textos/article/viewArticle/5714
  5. "Communes of Benin". Statoids. Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  6. Robin Law, Ouidah: The Social History of a West African Slaving 'Port', 2004, p.21
  7. Robin Law, Ouidah: The Social History of a West African Slaving 'Port', 2004, p.24-25
  8. national online article on Benin
  9. Ouidah Museum, Benin - "Depart pour D'Autres 'Ceux', Convoi De negres: homes, femmes et enfants, conduits enchaines par des metis Arabes"
  10. Butler, Stuart (2019) Bradt Travel Guide - Benin, pgs. 101-112
  11. Columbia-Lippincott Gazeteer, p. 1408
  12. "Benin". World Gazetteer. Retrieved 19 December 2008.
  13. "The Voodoo Day: Benin welcomes magicians from all over the world". 1 November 2004. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
  14. La ville d'Ouidah : quartiers anciens et Route de l'Esclave – UNESCO World Heritage Centre
  15. "Angélique Kidjo - Biographie, discographie et fiche artiste". RFI Musique (in French). Retrieved 3 July 2018.

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