The city of Cotonou
(sorry, experimental translation)
While the total population of Bénin is about 6 million peoples, well one
million persons are living in Cotonou.
Cotonou lies on the map at N 06° 20.699', E 02° 16.050', south of London, and almost on the equator. It is narrow, restricted by a lagoon in the north, and the ocean in the south, and can thus only expand to the east and west. The centre is divided by the lagoon’s outlet to the sea, and joined by two bridges. (The Nouveau Pont in the north near the permanent market "Marché Dantokpa", and the Ancien Pont in the south near the outlet.) A third bridge is being built parallel to the Ancien Pont to carry motorway traffic from the east and from Nigeria directly into the city! The bridge itself was completed by the builders Diwidag in December 2003, the connecting roads are not yet completed.
A huge amount of construction work is being done in Cotonou, periodically cement cannot be found anywhere in the city. For fear of inflation - the last devaluation of 50% was on 13th Jan 1994 - nobody keeps more ready money than necessary. Instead, one starts a building project, and adds another part whenever money becomes available.
The most salient buildings are the 2 multistoried buildings close to the "Marché Dantokpa", one belongs to a marketing lady, the other the Ecobank. Another is that of the catholic church "Notre Dame des Apôtres" close to the Ancien Pont. The church even, is by the way one of the most terrible of more modern buildings in the city. Still about 80% of the buildings are one-story, therefore also the huge surface size of the city. The remaining houses are two or three stores high (Parterre & first possibly second stick), except those there are only very few higher houses. These rise up in all accommodation saliently over the horizon.
Similarly as in Switzerland (Zurich - Berne) Porto Novo (approx. 30km east) is the capital of Bénin, while Cotonou is considered as the industrial capital. The parliament, most of the Ministries and all diplomatic representations reside in Cotonou.
Circulation in a big city of west Africa (Sept. 01)
Compared with other cities of west Africa Cotonou is small, Lagos, Accra and Abidjan are importantly larger. Which makes Cotonou the secret capital of Bénin, are the airport, the port and the pulsating life.
Not to be overseen in Cotonou are the many motorbike taxis, called in the language Fon "Zemidjan" (speak Semidjan, in english "take me with you") or "Kêkênon". Speak Kekeno, man with a bike, a "Montonon" is a man with a car, thus a chauffeur. Twenty thousand of small motorbikes with 50 cm3 up to small motorcycles of 125 cm3 circulate everywhere in the city. The drivers have a yellow shirt and a large number (grant) on there rear side (Thank you Hazel).
A sign with the hand is sufficient and one is driven to any place. It's preferably to discuss the price in advance to driving, otherwise it can become very expensive. In the city you pay between 100 FCFA (short distance) up to approximately 300 FCFA, depending upon distance. Also abstruse luggage, like a goat or 12 m long iron staffs (construction steel), may be taken. Everything that is possible will be transported. From thriftiness ride along sometimes two adults, a woman and a man in the back and a child in front on the Zemidjan. If it to be must has the Mrs. still another small on the back
As car driver one must count everywhere on this Zemidjan, her comes from left, from right, from stopping races, from the rear and occasionally also from the front, i.e. on the left roadside. They smoke all so marvellous from the exhaust. After the slogan "more is better", for the two-stroke engine not, as in Europe usual, about 2% oil helps to separate to the gasoline is added, 6 - 9 % it looks accordingly behind these vehicles. At the many road gas stations where one can favourably buy Nigerian gasoline, consists the additive usually also still of used engine oil (of oil changes with the cars!).
Recently Moronikê with a Zemidjan by the city and the Chauffeur drove turned again and again and looked at its exhaust. When she asked it, what it was loose he meant "too less oil, my engine smokes nearly not!".
At the traffic lights of the road crossings the Zemidjans drives always forward, before the waiting auto column and blocks in such a way, with the change to green, the way to following traffic. If up to thirty motorcycles let there their unburned oil clouds out at the same time, the normal person finds hardly still to air. In 40 years the inhabitants of the city will be probably by lung cancer contaminated and nobody white why. First the policemen, who must regulate traffic in this poisoned air, afterwards the Zemidjans and later a large part of the remaining population. Many the Zemidjans drive around therefore with a mouth protection, how building workers carry it with dust work, ok if it helps?
At night particularly is it stretching, because except in the centre, the street lanterns are rather meagerly set up. Determines a fifth of the Zemidjan,
Beside the Zemidjan it gives however still enormous amount from cars, in inconceivable technical condition. Truck, delivery car and above all taxi. As the Zemidjans wants to stand also it always at the very front at the crossings. Therefore they, as slowly also always, drive neither on the left of nor right, but in the middle in the road, in order from other vehicles to be overhauled. Also these vehicles smoke according to maintenance of their engines. Taxi-drivers refill usually only used oil, since the vehicles have a so large consumption that new oil is not worthwhile itself, as they say.
For the local car drivers it must be already very dark night, to it, if at all available, its light to switch on. With the one function
Thereby it gives here how in many countries of west Africa a "Visite Technique" which must be existed for each car once annually and after reduction of the examination in the "Livret de board" (logbook of the car) is registered. Without Visite Technique one goes past at no police control. But the experts are not as conscientious unfortunately as with us on the MFK. Against the little thing 500 or also times 1000 FCFA in cash, one gets the desired confirmation also without functioning brakes. I would understand quite not to examine the car as exact on rust spots as in Switzerland. If one ignores however critical controls like brakes, steering and lights, then it comes close to criminal negligence.
The traffic controls are usually appropriate for a small supplementary earning. If a driver did not register insurance or has no valuable Visite Technique, then he must spend something into the cash, which is still more favourably for many drivers as an insurance to lock.
At a critical situation on the street one may never count on it, that the coming vehicle has its brakes in function, as one drauf just as little counting can that the other road user is insured and can for possible damage be responsible. This may be probably also a reason for the fact that the automobilists drives here so defensively
The two bridges, only connection of the western with the eastern part of Cotonou over the supply of lagoon of the sea, are practically all day long clogged. The columns are accordingly long on the streets. Since however nobody waits gladly, there, above all east the old bridge, are again and again specialists, who the column left (on the Gegenfahrbahn) overhaul and then as far as possible in front again try inside to press. If one does not leave it, also the oncoming traffic is blocked, leaves one it, must those in the back to still longer wait.
Anyway, driving in Cotonou is not however long so difficult, as one would introduce oneself it after the description above. With something peace one always comes to the goal. The Bénin cardrivers drives by far not in such a way bit and aggressively like the teachering Swiss or Germans. Everyone as much it presses can, but is one times in front, has one the precedence, no matter at the crossings whether from left, on the right of or coming from a stopping race. It takes place all many more like a game.
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