N'Djamena © Ismouz
N'Djamena is the capital and largest city in Chad, and the entry point for most travellers. It is a port city on the Chari River, directly facing the Cameroon city of Kousseri on the opposite bank, to which it is connected by a bridge. Between 1979 and 1982 the city suffered serious damage during the Chadian Civil War and most of the population fled the city. N'Djamena has been hit by many conflicts, invasions and uprisings in the last few decades and it is not considered a safe or stable travel destination. It is not without appeal for visitors, however, and makes up in cultural interest for what it lacks in glamour. N'Djamena was named the Capital of Islamic Culture in 2009 and it is an interesting mix of the modern and the traditional: the odd colonial buildings, mud houses and bazaars are interspersed with modern architecture, while farmers still cultivate along the banks of the river, giving the urban sprawl an unexpected rural charm. It is a vibrant, confusing city which is growing fast and is relatively undiscovered by tourists.
Attractions include a cathedral, several mosques, and the Chad National Museum which once housed a fascinating collection of prehistoric artefacts but has sadly lost many of its prized pieces as a result of the region's instability. There are some decent hotels and some very lively bars to enjoy and visitors should be sure to explore the Central Market (Grand Marche) which is an exciting bazaar selling crafts, food, clothes, books and almost anything else imaginable (just beware of pickpockets!). The main commercial avenue of the city is the Avenue Charles de Gaulle, where the embassies and some of the older colonial houses can be found.