Chad (French: Tchad) is a country in the Sahel, south of Libya, east of Niger and Cameroon, north of the Central African Republic, and west of Sudan. It shares a short border with Nigeria.
For more than 2000 years, the Chadian Basin has been inhabited by agricultural and sedentary peoples. The region became a crossroads of civilizations. The earliest of these were the legendary Sao, known from artifacts and oral histories. The Sao fell to the Kanem Empire, the first and longest-lasting of the empires that developed in Chad's Sahelian strip by the end of the 1st millennium AD. The power of Kanem and its successors was based on control of the trans-Saharan trade routes that passed through the region.
French colonial expansion led to the creation of the Territoire Militaire des Pays et Protectorats du Tchad in 1900. By 1920, France had secured full control of the colony and incorporated it as part of French Equatorial Africa. The French primarily viewed the colony as an unimportant source of untrained labour and raw cotton. The colonial administration in Chad was critically understaffed and had to rely on the dregs of the French civil service.
Fifteen thousand Chadian soldiers fought for Free France during WWII and after the war ended, France granted Chad the status of overseas territory and its inhabitants the right to elect representatives to both the French National Assembly, and to a Chadian assembly. Chad was granted independence on August 11, 1960 with the PPT's leader, François Tombalbaye, as its first president. Two years later, Tombalbaye banned opposition parties and established a one-party system. In 1965 Muslims began a civil war. Tombalbaye was overthrown and killed in 1975, but the insurgency continued. In 1979 the rebel factions conquered the capital, and all central authority in the country collapsed. The disintegration of Chad caused the collapse of France's position in the country, and a civil war in which the Libyans (unsuccessfully) become involved.
A semblance of peace was finally restored in 1990. The government eventually drafted a democratic constitution, and held flawed presidential elections in 1996 and 2001. In 1998, a rebellion broke out in northern Chad, which sporadically flares up despite several peace agreements between the government and the rebels. In 2005 new rebel groups emerged in western Sudan and have made probing attacks into eastern Chad. Power remains in the hands of an ethnic minority. In June 2005, President Idriss Deby held a referendum successfully removing constitutional term limits. In February 2008, an attempted coup rocked the capital.
Each year a tropical weather system known as the intertropical front crosses Chad from south to north, bringing a wet season that lasts from May to October in the south, and from June to September in the Sahel.
Broad, arid plains in center, desert in north, mountains in northwest, lowlands in south. Lowest point: Djourab Depression (160 meters). Highest point: Emi Koussi (3,415 meters).
The dominant physical structure is a wide basin bounded to the north, east and south by mountain ranges such as the Ennedi Plateau in the north-east. Lake Chad, after which the country is named, is the remains of an immense lake that occupied 330,000 km2 of the Chadian Basin 7,000 years ago. Although in the 21st century it covers only 17,806 km2, and its surface area is subject to heavy seasonal fluctuations, the lake is Africa's second largest wetland.
WARNING: Chad is currently experiencing political turmoil and the UK and US governments advise against all but essential travel to Chad. Anywhere outside the capital, N'Djamena, is highly dangerous, especially in the north—where a special travel permit is necessary.
Citizens of the following countries do not require a visa: Benin, Burkina-Faso, Cameroun, Republic of Central Africa, Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal.
For all others, a visa is necessary. A single-entry visa costs US$100 for 1 month and multiple-entry visas cost US$150 (3 months) or US$200 (6 months). A letter of invitation is required.
Air France has daily flights from Paris to N'Djaména. Air Ethiopia also flies four times a week between N'Djamena and its hub in Addis Ababa, with one of those flights continuing to/from Bamako, Mali. Toumai Air Tchad also flies to a limited number of West and Central African destinations such as Cotonou, Bangui and Douala. The Libyan airlines Afriqiyah Airways also operates flights to N'Djamena that connect through Tripoli.
There are no usable rail links.
Roads are in bad repair and are typically unpaved - there is only one paved road, which currently runs from Massakory in the north through N'Djamena on to Guelendeng, Bongor, Kelo and Moundou. It is the best road in the country but still has numerous potholes and runs through the center of a number of small villages and drivers should exercise caution and moderate speeds even while on the main road.
There are several border crossings with Cameroon, most notably via Kousseri near N'Djamena and near the towns of Bongor and Lere. Be very careful, drive defensively, don't stop unless there is a very good reason. Do not drive at night, as coupeurs de route (road bandits) are common. They are a particular concern along the two roads leading out of Guelendeng, towards Ba-Illi (where ex-pats were attacked in two separate incidents in 2005, resulting in the death of one Catholic nun) and towards Bongor.
It is impossible to reach Chad by boat unless crossing illegally through Lake Chad.
The main languages of Chad are French and Arabic. Few Chadians other than the educated and well-traveled speak literary Arabic, however; a dialect of Arabic known as "Chadian Arabic" is much more widely spoken and is the closest thing the country has to a trade language. Chadian Arabic is significantly different from the standard Arabic of North Africa and the Middle East. Literary Arabic speakers can typically understand Chadian Arabic but the reverse is not true. There are over one hundred indigenous languages also spoken.
There are no restrictions on bringing foreign currencies into Chad. Although travel guides for Chad are hard to come by, some sources claim dollars (in some places) and the CFA franc (and therefore also the Euro to which it is pegged) are accepted.
Meat dishes are very popular in Chad, and foreign travelers speak highly of the meat (such as lamb). Food is usually eaten without utensils, and hand sanitizer may be a good precaution. Please note that Muslims find it offensive to eat with the left hand. If eating with or being served by Muslims in Chad, be sure to eat with your right hand only.
Follow common health travel guidelines concerning raw fruit and cooking requirements to avoid disease. The US State Department website has resources concerning safety while eating abroad.
Years ago few hotels existed in Chad, but now N'Djamena hosts a myriad of affordable options.
Chad is consistently engulfed in political turmoil and attacks from rebels will probably not happen, but are certainly a reality. The situation has stagnated, but it remains a threat. Violence from the Darfur conflict is pouring into Eastern Chad from Sudan, a country which shares hostilities with Chad. Any activity outside of N'Djamena is done with difficulty at best. Northern Chad is barren, scorching desert and guides (good luck) and meticulous planning are required.
N'Djamena is RELATIVELY safe, although one should be wary of petty street crime and corrupt police/officials. Most border crossings are extremely difficult (Sudan and Libya not being a viable option) although the border crossings with Niger and Cameroon are relatively painless.
Don't accept water from any stores unless you know the brand. Eat only your own food that you buy in grocery stores. Avoid restaurants whenever possible. Stay away from people that look sick, there are many diseases in Chad to beware of. Go to a doctor once a month if you can afford it.
There are 200 distinct ethnic groups. In the north and center: Arabs, Gorane (Toubou, Daza, Kreda), Zaghawa, Kanembou, Ouaddai, Baguirmi, Hadjerai, Fulbe, Kotoko, Hausa, Boulala, and Maba, most of whom are Muslim; in the south: Sara (Ngambaye, Mbaye, Goulaye), Moundang, Moussei, Massa, most of whom are Christian or animist; about 1,000 French citizens live in Chad.
The Chadian-Libyan conflict is something to be avoided at all times; Chadians known to be living in Libya have been tortured & murdered on previous occasions.