Introducing Chad

Sunset in N'Djamena © Ben Allen

The Republic of Chad, in central Africa, is one of the continent's most troubled nations. Political conflict and violence are rife and N'Djamena, the capital city, is where most of the fighting occurs. Chad is one of the poorest countries in the world and most of the population survive by means of subsistence farming.

As far back as 700 BC, people moved into the Chadian basin in great numbers. Today it is home to over 200 different ethnic groups, with Arabic and French as the official languages, and Islam the most widely practiced religion. Its landlocked location and desert climate have earned Chad the title 'Dead Heart of Africa', although there is a Sudanese savannah region in the south which provides some respite from the desert, and the country is named for the second largest wetland in Africa, Lake Chad, on its western border.

The near-constant conflict that has plagued Chad for decades discourages most people from holidaying in the country, with the British Foreign Office and many other travel authorities advising against non-essential travel to the country. Most visitors in Chad are merely passing through and simply spend a day in N'Djamena, browsing the local markets and visiting the Chad National Museum. The nearby village of Gaoui makes a pleasant excursion, offering traditional architecture and pottery, as well as a small museum.

While safaris in Chad are not a popular activity, Zakouma National Park is among the best game reserves in central Africa; visitors can spot herds of elephants and giraffes, as well as lions, wildebeest, and many other animals. Another popular attraction in Chad is the stunning desert landscape of Ennedi. The potential for tourism is great but the safety issues and lack of infrastructure discourage visitors. As a travel destination, Chad is only tackled by intrepid tourists looking for an adventure. Unfortunately, however, it is not a cheap destination and is difficult to explore on a backpacker's budget.

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