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Chad

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538

Chad
Long seen by travellers as a place to get through rather than visit, few visitors in Chad do
more than spend a couple of days in N’Djaména, the busy, broken-down capital, on their
way between Niger and Cameroon. And as the government increasingly loses its grip on
the nation, travellers are getting fewer and further between. Even many NGO workers dread
drawing this assignment.
Travelling here certainly poses many problems: few roads are paved, it gets hot as hell
in summer, the costs are among the continent’s highest, and the police and soldiers are
quite nervous these days. But, of course, there are rewards in this struggling but interesting
country for those who take the Chadian challenge and you will soon discover a wealth of
warmth and culture beneath the rough exterior.
Known for its endless Sahelien expanses, Chad has a few surprises up its sleeve, too, like
boat rides on Lake Chad or strolling the shady streets of southern towns where the dusty
landscape, fed by small rivers, is interspersed with incongruously green scenes providing a
quasi-tropical break from the rigours of the road. The best destinations – the otherworldly
desert landscapes of Ennedi and the teeming wildlife of Zakouma National Park – lie way
beyond backpacker budgets but are both world class.

HIGHLIGHTS
Zakouma National Park (p546) Keep an eye
out, this is one of the best places to see
wildlife in Central Africa.
Gaoui (p544) Explore this fascinating village just minutes from N’Djaména.
Sarh (p546) Chill out along the Chari
River.
Bol (p547) Get out on Lake Chad from
this frontier market town.
Ennedi (p547) Marvel at dramatic desert
scenery and rock formations.

CLIMATE & WHEN TO GO
Chad has three distinct climatic zones. In the
tropical south, temperatures usually range
from 20°C to 25°C, but can rise to 40°C before
the rains. The centre, where N’Djaména and
Lake Chad are located, often exceeds 45°C
before the rains, and temperatures can get
even higher in the north.
November to January is the coolest and
thus best time for general travel, unless you
are here for Zakouma National Park, then it’s
March and April (the hottest months). It is
fascinating to see the Sahel turn green in July,
but travel in the rainy season is not pleasant.
You can’t believe how waterlogged the capital
becomes during July and August and road
travel elsewhere slows dramatically.

ITINERARIES
FAST FACTS
Area 1,284,000 sq km
Borders Cameroon, Central African
Republi...
CHAD
CHAD
lonelyplanet.com CHAD •• Highlights
Long seen by travellers as a place to get through rather than visit, few visitors in Chad do
more than spend a couple of days in N’Djaména, the busy, broken-down capital, on their
way between Niger and Cameroon. And as the government increasingly loses its grip on
the nation, travellers are getting fewer and further between. Even many NGO workers dread
drawing this assignment.
Travelling here certainly poses many problems: few roads are paved, it gets hot as hell
in summer, the costs are among the continent’s highest, and the police and soldiers are
quite nervous these days. But, of course, there are rewards in this struggling but interesting
country for those who take the Chadian challenge and you will soon discover a wealth of
warmth and culture beneath the rough exterior.
Known for its endless Sahelien expanses, Chad has a few surprises up its sleeve, too, like
boat rides on Lake Chad or strolling the shady streets of southern towns where the dusty
landscape, fed by small rivers, is interspersed with incongruously green scenes providing a
quasi-tropical break from the rigours of the road. The best destinations – the otherworldly
desert landscapes of Ennedi and the teeming wildlife of Zakouma National Park – lie way
beyond backpacker budgets but are both world class.
Chad
HIGHLIGHTS
Zakouma National Park ( p546 ) Keep an eye
out, this is one of the best places to see
wildlife in Central Africa.
Gaoui ( p544 ) Explore this fascinating vil-
lage just minutes from N’Djaména.
Sarh ( p546 ) Chill out along the Chari
River.
Bol ( p547 ) Get out on Lake Chad from
this frontier market town.
Ennedi ( p547 ) Marvel at dramatic desert
scenery and rock formations.
CLIMATE & WHEN TO GO
Chad has three distinct climatic zones. In the
tropical south, temperatures usually range
from 20°C to 25°C, but can rise to 40°C before
the rains. The centre, where N’Djaména and
Lake Chad are located, often exceeds 45°C
before the rains, and temperatures can get
even higher in the north.
November to January is the coolest and
thus best time for general travel, unless you
are here for Zakouma National Park, then it’s
March and April (the hottest months). It is
fascinating to see the Sahel turn green in July,
but travel in the rainy season is not pleasant.
You can’t believe how waterlogged the capital
becomes during July and August and road
travel elsewhere slows dramatically.
ITINERARIES
Three Days Visit N’Djaména ( p542 ) and
Gaoui ( p544 ).
One Week Visit N’Djaména and Gaoui
while you get your permits in order, then
head north to Mao ( p547 ) and Bol ( p547 ),
taking a boat trip out on Lake Chad if you
can, or south to Moundou ( p546 ) and Sarh
( p546 ).
Two Weeks Add Zakouma National Park
( p546 ) to the one-week itinerary, or visit
towns both north and south of N’Djaména.
Two weeks is the minimum time needed
to properly explore Ennedi ( p547 ).
HISTORY
Dominated historically by slave-trading Arab
Muslims from the northern regions, Chad is
primarily an agricultural nation with over
80% of the population living at subsistence
level. Its recent history was shaped when the
French began taking an interest in central
and western Africa in the 1900s. By 1913 the
country was fully colonised: sadly the new
rulers didn’t really know what to do with their
conquest, and investment all but dried up
after a few years, leaving much of the territory
almost entirely undeveloped.
When independence was granted in 1960, a
southerner became Chad’s first head of state.
Unfortunately, President François Tombal-
baye was not the best choice. By arresting
opposition leaders and banning political
parties, he provoked a series of conspiracies
in the Muslim north, the violent repression
of which quickly escalated into full-blown
guerrilla war. For the next quarter of a cen-
tury, Chadian politics was defined by armed
struggles, shifting alliances, coups and private
armies, overseen and often exacerbated by
France and Libya, who took a keen interest in
the area. In addition, the Sahel drought of the
1970s and early 1980s destroyed centuries-old
patterns of existence and cultivation, causing
large-scale migration to urban centres.
In 1975 Tombalbaye was assassinated,
and succeeded by General Malloum, a fellow
southerner. Over US$1 million in cash was
found in Tombalbaye’s residence, along with
plans to proclaim himself emperor.
FAST FACTS
Area 1,284,000 sq km
ATMs Should work with Visa cards soon
Borders Cameroon, Central African
Republic (CAR), Libya, Niger and Nigeria
all open; Sudan closed; Libya and CAR not
recommended
Budget From US$40 per day in N’Djaména,
US$20 to US$30 per day in other towns
Capital N’Djaména
Languages French, Arabic and more than 120 local languages
Money Central African CFA; US$1 = CFA498
Population 9 million
Seasons Dry (October to May), wet (June to September)
Telephone Country code
%
235; international access code
%
00
Time GMT/UTC + 1
Visas Must be obtained before arrival
WARNING
At the time of publication rebel activity was
intensifying and Chad appeared to be head-
ing into all- out civil war, though fighting
had so far been largely limited to the east.
Check the situation very carefully before
travelling here.
HOW MUCH?
Small calabash bowl US$1
100km Land Cruiser ride US$10
Coke US$0.50
30 minutes of internet use US$1
Handmade leather sandals US$4
LONELY PLANET INDEX
1L petrol US$1.20
1.5L bottled water US$1.20
Bottle of Gala beer US$1.20
Souvenir T-shirt US$10
Small bag of peanuts US$0.05
© Lonely Planet Publications
538 539
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