Country Information: 15 million people live in Chad and the capital is N’Djamena. The primary languages are French and Arabic, though Chad is called the “Babel Tower of the world” because of all of the other languages spoken there. Chad is religiously split, with a predominantly Muslim population in the north and a predominantly Christian population in the south. The top exports are crude petroleum, raw cotton, insect resins, refined petroleum, and other oily seeds. The time zone is 5 hours ahead of EST.
Jim’s Perspectives: The Republic of Chad is one of the world’s poorest countries, ranking at or near the bottom in most rankings, including infant mortality. 50% of the population lives below the world’s poverty level, surviving on subsistence farming.
The country has struggled with political conflict and violence. However, it has become more stable with the growing US troop presence in and around the capital of N’Djamena, Chad’s dusty capital. While the US doesn’t officially have a base in Chad, it does have a behemoth embassy as well as several facilities, one of which is a drone base which monitors the movements of Boko Haram and other insurgent groups in the area.
Make no mistake about it, Chad is a police state. The police presence in and around the capital is significant. Want to take a photo of a streetscape or of the fruit at the market? Forget about it. See those cute kids riding a donkey? Don’t even think about it! If you do, you’ll find yourself at the police department paying a $200 fine.
All tourists are required to visit the police station. You’ll bring a passport photo, fill out a document and pay a servicing fee to the chief (I paid 200 CEFA = $4USD). Then you’re free to go.
Chad is landlocked, with Cameroon and CAR to the south, Nigeria and Niger to the west, Libya to the north and Sudan & South Sudan to the east. Due to climate change in this area, Lake Chad, which used to be a mega-lake the size of New Jersey, is now only a puddle, having shrunk by 95%. So, you not only have extreme poverty … but a shrinking lake. The decline of arable land around the lake has worsened … and to exacerbate the situation Boko Haram has crossed from Nigeria to spread terror in Chad. As a result, there are now 11 million people around Lake Chad who are “on the edge”, surviving on 1 meal per day.
The name Chad in the local language actually means lake, and it was given this name by mistake by the Europeans. It is anything but a lake … as most of the country is desert.
Tourists visiting N’Djamena should not miss going o the village of Gaoui, which is the only viable tourist site around the capital. Don’t lament not being able to take pictures in N’Djamena because you’ll have plenty of opportunities in Gaoui. Gaoui was the home of the Sao people who were considered giants! My guide was a Sao, and was easily 6’6″, while other Chadians were 5’6″.
Today the women of Gaoui are expert potters, making spectacular pots which store the rain that comes in June and July.
When I visited in 2017, the Hilton in N’Djamena was the finest hotel in central and northern Africa, as it housed many of the US military troops doing security patrols of the country. Its impressive lobby, restaurants, bar (with live music), and spacious rooms were a treat to the senses. Security was impressive as was the pool encompassing much of the back of the property.