The Republic of Chad on my radar
I went to Chad for the first time in March. It was actually my first time going north of the equator on the African continent for photography. I have been to Tunisia, but that was in my youth on a summer vacation so that I don’t count.
You might wonder why I choose Chad and that is easy to explain. I have been looking for new and exciting places in Africa to visit. Places off the beaten track with few tourists. In Chad I found Zakouma National Park, a haven for animals in south-eastern Chad. I have already published a photo album from Zakouma National Park together with information about this special place.
Where is Chad?
Chad is a country landlocked in north-central Africa. It is sometimes referred to as the “Dead heart of Africa” due to the distance to the sea and its desert climate. In the center of the country you have an arid belt called the Sahel. The Sahel act as a transition zone between the Sahara desert in the north and the fertile Sudanian Savanna in the south. In western Chad you will find Africa’s second largest wetland in Lake Chad.
It is actually the fifth largest African country and borders to Libya, Sudan, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Central African Republic. The two official languages are Arabic and French and you have over 200 different ethnic and linguistic groups in Chad. The most widespread religion is Islam closely followed by Christianity.
The capital is N’Djamena, a port on the Chari river near the confluence with the Logone River. It directly faces the Cameroonian town of Kousséri and the cities are connected by a bridge over the Logone River.
From independence to recent time
In 1920 France colonized Chad and incorporated it as part of French Equatorial Africa. France ranked Chad near the bottom of its colonies and used it mainly as a source for untrained labor as well as a raw cotton. Cotton is still one of the country’s main source of export, now mainly together with crude oil.
In 1940 Chad started a time of decolonization and gained full independence in 1960. This was also the start of decades of turmoil with everything from Civil War to military dictatorship. Today the country is fairly stable under President Idriss Déby whom have been in charge since 1990.
Chad is surrounded by many unstable countries and have actively sent military troops or tried to mediating regional crisis. They are for instance participating in the Multinational Joint Task Force with the purpose of bringing an end to the Boko Haram insurgency that started in Nigeria in 2009.
Is it safe to go Chad?
Chad is a country where you might have to wave goodbye to your comfort zone and say “hello” to adventure. It is probably dodgy to go there on your own, but if you use a company with a proven track record, then it is okay if you ask me. That was why I didn’t feel bothered when I choose to visit Zakouma National Park as I travelled in a group with a fixed schedule that I felt comfortable with.
The journey starts at Hilton
I had one night at Hilton in N’Djamena to start with. It was not pre-planned, but happened due to cirumstances we couldn’t control. Instead, it gave me time to test the cameras I brought to see that everything worked.
The compound was walled so it wasn’t possible to get out. Still I could find things to work with on the compound which was great. The garden was big and it was a pleasure to walk around there both in the morning and evening.
The comfort of the hotel was of course good. It had a couple of different restaurants and the pace was of course slower than a Westerner is used to. Everything takes time even if you only order a simple beer. Food and drinks are expensive even with our measures. N’Djamena is considered one of the more expensive cities in Africa due to lack of supplies for instance.
Still I think of it as a good start to my Chadian adventure.