Palais Royal

Top choice palace in Foumban

The must-see attraction is the sultan's palace, home to the 19th sultan of the Bamoun dynasty. It has a fascinating, well-organised museum providing great historical insight into the region. At the time of writing, the treasures were being transferred to a startling new building symbolically shaped as a serpent and a spider; the palace itself will remain open to visitors.

Constructed in the early 20th century and modelled on German colonial architecture, the palace was built by the remarkable Sultan Njoya, who invented a corn-grinding machine, a script for the Bamun language, and a religion which fused Christianity and Islam. He had 681 wives, which made him well qualified to write his own version of the Kama Sutra (look out for it in the museum shop).

Museum artefacts include a ancient feathered cloak worn only for the initiation of each sultan, beaded buffalo masks sported by members of secret societies, documents written using Sultan Njoya's script and a drinking horn made from the skull of one of his enemies.

The palace sits opposite the market and main mosque, the minaret of which can be climbed as part of the palace tour. Palace entrance includes a visit to a nearby ceremonial drum housed in a bamboo hut: it’s a huge creation topped with animal hides and carved with a double-headed serpent.


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