Togo’s culture reflects the influences of its 37 tribal ethnic groups, the largest and most influential of which are the Ewe, Mina, and Kabye. French is the official language of Togo, but many native African languages are spoken there as well. Despite the influence of Western religion, more than half of the people of Togo follow native animistic practices and beliefs.
Ewe statuary is characterized by its famous statuettes which illustrate the worship of the twins, the ibéji. Sculptures and hunting trophies were used rather than the more ubiquitous African masks. The wood-carvers of Kloto are famous for their “chains of marriage”: two characters are connected by rings drawn from only one piece of wood.
The dyed fabric batiks of the artisanal center of Kloto represent stylized and colored scenes of ancient everyday life. The loincloths used in the ceremonies of the tisserands of Assahoun are famous. Works of the painter Sokey Edorh are inspired by the immense arid extents, swept by the harmattan, and where the laterite keeps the prints of the men and the animals. The plastics technician Paul Ahyi is internationally recognized today. He practises the “zota”, a kind of pyroengraving, and his monumental achievements decorate Lomé.
The climate is generally tropical with average temperatures ranging from 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit) on the coast to about 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) in the northernmost regions. Togo has a dry climate and characteristics of a tropical savanna. To the south there are two seasons of rain. The first one takes place between April and July and the second between October and November.
Togo is a long, narrow and relatively flat country. In the south, Togo is just 55km from west to east. A chain of mountains extends from the Kpalimé area in the south-west to the north-eastern part of the country. The summit of the highest peak, Mt. Agou, is 986 metres above sea level. In the south there are white, sandy beaches.
The religion of Togo has remained faithful to the country’s pagan history. This is the reason why 51% of the country’s population has indigenous belief or ancestor worship called voodoo, while the Christian and Muslim populations consist of 20% and 19%, respectively. Voodoo is traceable to African word which means spirit and consists of many sects including yeve, which believes in Hibisou as its god and spirit of storms, and Dan, a serpent spirit. A part of the belief of the voodoo people is that evils or demons exist even if they are invisible. Voodoo rituals are conducted to make contact with a spirit to gain favor or obtain help usually in the form of abundant food or improved health and high standard of living. The ritual is often conducted by a voodoo priest (hungan for male and mambo for female) inside a voodoo temple called humfor.
Christianity started in Togo in 1830 upon the establishment of a German Catholic Mission station as a result of the religion’s anti-slavery movement. It was in 1970 when Christian churches and missions enjoyed more freedom to operate in the country. The Roman Catholic, which is the biggest denomination, has now an archdiocese of Liome and six dioceses under it such as the diocese of Aneho, Atakpame, Dapaong, Kara, Kpalime and Sokode.
Islam came to the country about the same time that it entered most of West Africa. Introduced by the Hausa and Fulani nomads in their travel throughout West Africa with their Muslim beliefs brought to many different places, Islam adherents now represent a sizeable percentage of the country’s population.
Togo is a multilingual country. According to one count, 39 languages are spoken. Of these, the official language is French. Two spoken indigenous languages were designated politically as national languages in 1975: Ewé and Kabiyé. Among the other languages in Togo, Mina ,the dialect of Ewé spoken in Lomé serves as the working language in the south of the country, Mobaa, Tem (also called Kotokoli) and Fula. Most of the indigenous languages of the country can be divided into two groups: the Gur languages in the north, and the Kwa languages in the south.
Two national languages tend to be used regionally: Ewé in the south from Lomé to Blitta, and Kotokoli from Blitta to Dapaong in the north.
The main means of transportation in Togo is minibus. There is no functioning railroad system, and it is rare to get around by plane. Other options are taxi, car or bicycle.
Visas are required to enter Togo by citizens of US, Canada, the UK and most other European countries, Australia, and New Zealand. Although it is possible to gain a visa on entry if a citizen of one of these countries, such visas are only valid for seven days and are meant for emergency purposes. It is highly recommended that you seek a visa from the closest Togolese embassy to your home country prior to travel. In order to obtain a visa, you must apply in advance of travel, allowing at least one week processing time. You must have at least six months’ validity on your passport, proof of confirmed reservation of your accommodation for the entirety of your stay in Togo, and a valid yellow fever certificate. Those who meet the requirements will be awarded a 90-day, multiple-entry visa for tourist purposes.
Health and Safety:
A valid yellow fever certificate is required to enter Togo. If you do not have an up-to-date vaccine, you need to seek it six to eight weeks before you travel. Yellow fever is a viral disease carried by mosquitoes, as is malaria. Malaria is also highly prevalent in Togo, as in many places of sub-Saharan Africa. Visitors may wish to commence taking anti-malarial medicine before they travel to Togo, which is available to purchase in tablet form from your nearest travel clinic. Dengue fever is yet another viral disease spread by mosquitoes; however, this disease is unpreventable, and so every care should be taken to defend against insect bites by covering up exposed skin and applying insect repellent.
The public health of Togo is not up to western standards and so every precaution should be taken to prevent disease and illness once there. Even in the best hospital in the capital city of Togo, the healthcare may not be adequate enough to treat many medical problems. You need to ensure all your vaccinations are up to date before you travel since the following are still public health concerns: cholera, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, MMR, polio, rabies, tetanus, tuberculosis, and typhoid. If these immunizations are not up to date, you should seek the vaccine at least six weeks before travel.
Currency: West-African Franc
Population: 8 million
Official languages: French