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This town is the most urban part of Benin and offers first world benefits of hotels, African nightlife and good shopping. From being a fishing village at beginning of the 19th century, Cotonou is now a thriving port where traders and tourists frequest. 'Cotonou' means 'the mouth of the river of death' in the Fon language and it is located on the coastal strip between Lake Nokoué and the Atlantic Ocean.
The city is cut in two by the lagoon of Cotonou which was dug by the French in 1855.Being the largest city and seat of government, Cotonou has a population of 734,600 and they can be seen ambling along the streets or riding scooters. Tourists can be seen holding on to their seats in zemi-johns (scooter taxis) as they buzz down the boulevards towards places like the Grand Marché du Dantokpa. Shop at the 20-hectare Dantokpa Market, which has a commercial turnover of over a billion CFA Francs a day and anything can be purchased in this massive market. It borders the Cotonou Lagoon and is stocked with traditional medicines, artefacts and local goods that would make interesting gifts to friends back home.
Taking home ritual masks, tapestries, elongated statues and pottery would tell much more of a travel story than photographs or postcards. For a religious touch, visit the Notre Dame des Apotres, the Roman Catholic cathedral which is situated near the Ancien Pont Bridge but the distinct burgundy and white striped tiled architecture cannot be overlooked. Sail at the Yacht Club in Cotonou, or hire a dug-out canoe or motorboat on Nakoue Lagoon, then eat the local African specialities, particularly seafood at a restaurant along the marina. Afterwards browse through the stalls and buy handicrafts and souvenirs.