Welcome to Benin (1) : “Kekenoooo ”

One month ago my brother was travelling to Benin. He asked me to give him some tips : the survival kit in Cotonou. I gave him one word ! “Kekenooo”. One week after he told me that it was the magical word; the open Sesame of Alibaba cavern. “Kekeno” means “biker” in Fon language.

My trip to Benin Is for the moment one of my best African trip so far. I E N J O Y E D.

While preparing my trip I had :

  • These colleagues teasing me about “Zemidjans” , “sorry princess but there is no car taxis inside the town as you are used to in Dakar “
  • This friend telling how geckos scared her when she was there, “ I swear, they are so huge”
  • This cousin, with her dark side, talking about Voodoo 😅😅😅 : “ you know I saw scary hippopotamuses head at Dantokpa Market, in the Voodoo side…”

Enough to make me really starting wonder about What i would find there.!!!! But I went and it was Amazing.

Zemidjan or Zem are motorcycle taxi that you find in Benin. They carry persons on short distances and are very cheap. I never had experience in motorcycle. But I had in memory a holidays in Mali, when my sister came back from a ride with an uncle , she was crying and her toe bleeding…. I don’t know how she managed to put her feet inside the wheel while the scooter was riding and she almost lost a toe…

So for me NO WAY. Never I will take a ZEM.

When I arrived in Cotonou I had this nice French friend who was agree to take me from the hotel to the conference, my first week. But this meant that we were living at the same time, and it was never the case….So one day, after a party where Petit Miguelito made an incredible show, I was tired, I wanted to go back home, he wanted to have more fun and enjoy his party, my other colleagues had no car soooooo Zem was the only option.

I heard a colleague saying the magical “Kekeno”. And then 3 “Zem” came from I don’t know where and stopped just in front of us. We told them the destination, they said the price and we were ready to go

…. Well Not really ready to go.

Two problems:

First. That day I was wearing a long long dress. How to jump on a bike with a long dress 😂😂🤣. Then I thought about old black and white movies and how ladies use to sit in the bikes : two feet at the same side. But as a first time on a motorbike I was really afraid to fall down in this position. The guy was looking at me half serious half hilarious 😂 . After few minutes I managed to sit.

Second problem: Where do I put my hands??It was obvious that I will not hold the guy, so where to hold?. Then my colleagues told me to hold just behind me.

Before leaving the place I told to the guy… Sir…this is my first time…So please no speed….Take your time even If You want I can pay more 😂😂😂😂 He was very cool. He took his time and we arrived at destination. Safe 😅.

The day after a friend came to take me for a tour in the city. Same thing when we went out “Kekeno” and Zem came. This day I really enjoyed the ride. And since then “Kekeno” became my best friend.

Zemidjans are crazy! They go everywhere, they reach all the corner of the town. Under the rain, in the flood… even in the fire 🔥😅….they ride from one point to your destination.

Another day, back from a visit at Ganvié village, at the entrance of Cotonou, there was a Huge traffic jam due to constructions and a rain. We spent at least three hours in the traffic, cars were not moving and we had this formal dinner we couldn’t miss.

So at one moment, we just decided to abandon the driver and took Zem….under the rain… Actually when Thinking about it , we were very crazy. OMG this day I had the proof that if it is not your day of death you will survive whatever happen. In the traffic no car was moving , only Zems zigzagging between cars. And when they had no space to move, they was taking secondary dark path, inside the flood, and sometimes when it was too complicated, they tell us to get down of the bike and walk a little, while they manage to take the Zem in a an area where they can ride.

We arrived after 30 min of real motorcycle stunt riding… Guess what? The driver we abandoned arrived 5 hours after us totally upset 😠 😢 . Oh no 😂😂😂. How could we regret all the risk we took??

Some of the Zem are real daredevil. Forget about the highway code, traffic light, speed excess…. They take off, they fly, they land…you dare or you don’t 😅… no helmet please, except if you have your own one. And who will walk with a helmet everywhere? …It was both terrifying and exciting.

Those Zem trip definitely made me loose all the fears I had deep inside me. And Zem was very nice comparing to another experience to come…


A. Adventurer

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