At the breakfast restaurant there is a small Nespresso machine, prominently displayed, the one that makes one cup at a time and that you can get at drugstores in the US. It can be activated by buying the small capsules for 3.50 dollars apiece – it is an alternative to the Nescafe powder which is available as part of the breakfast buffet. I have chosen to be a tea drinker this week as that is the only thing that is brewed.

The main dining hall is actually an enormous terrace. It overlooks the lake, part of the city, the bridge and, across from the sandbar, the Bay of Benin. Hovering in the distance are towering oil tankers, menacing silhouettes, against a dark sky. It’s hard to imagine that the skinny Somalis frighten these behemoths on the other side of the continent.

Tonight the terrace was off limits for us guests. It was reserved for Iftar, Ramadan’s breaking of the fast, for the Lebanese who make Cotonou their home. It made for good entertainment as I ate my lonely dinner, watching from an adjacent section where guests were allowed.

A stream of men made its way to the terrace, kissing and hugging and handshaking a welcoming committee. The Lebanese appear to fare well here, judging from the protruding bellies and double chins. They are the business men of West Africa, much like the Indians play that role on the other coast.

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