Chad: Best Sahara and Gerewol

Why Chad?

Chad is a safe country today after decades of political instability. In fact, Chad stands today as the safest place in Africa where to experience real Sahara. For many desert experts, Ennedi is the Sahara’s best preserved area and the richest in diversity of ecosystems and rock paintings.
Chad, a country twice the size of France, has in the Ennedi Desert its jewel in the crown, but not the only one… Other Chadian deserts such as Borkou and Tibesti will delight any desert lover or adventure seeker. More, towards central Chad we have another major attraction. The Woodabe or Fula tribe with its seasonal Gerewol gatherings are becoming worldly renowned. The Chadian Gerewol has indeed a doses of authenticity that the Niger Gerewol has lost already due to commodification and the excess of tourism.

Other top attractions in Chad would be Zakouma National Park, in the South of the country, haven of the last herds of Central African Giraffes, Lions and Elephants. Also in the slightly more fertile South we find several tribal groups clinging to their unique cultures. In Last Places we like to meet authentic tribal groups and get to know their ways. Sara and Mbum tribes preserve unique dances in remote areas of Southwest Chad. Last but not least, not far from bustling capital N’Djamena the traveller can explore Lake Chad, the last big lake bordering the Sahara. Despite it has been shrinking dramatically over the last 30 years, one can still navigate on its waters and feel like being in a small sea. In Lake Chad we experience a unique lacustrine culture, the Buduma tribe. Ruled by a Sultan, the Buduma live islands covered in papyrus, fishing and herding the rare Kuri cattle with spectacular turnip-shape horns.

Key to exploring Chad’s deserts of Ennedi, Borku or Tibesti and the southern National Parks and tribes is having a top driver and guide. This is where Last Places comes into place. We do not only have a 15 year old experience operating in Chad, knowing every corner of the country, but we have formed a team of Chadian drivers and guides that together with European personnel allows us to deliver the best possible services in Chad.

Teda 

Also known as Tubu, Toubou, or Goran.

Population & Ecosystem
50.000 Teda live between Tibesti Mountains and Ennedi Desert in northern Chad. Some groups live also in eastern Niger and southern Libya. Teda clans live nomadic or semi-nomadic lives moving from one oasis to another with their livestock.

Economy & Society
The Teda live either as nomadic herdsmen or as farmers near oases. Dates are a staple crop, and a variety of grains, legumes, and roots also are cultivated. Cattle, goats, donkeys, camels, and sheep are kept, and caravan trade is an important factor in the economy. In a few places, the Teda also mine salt and natron, a salt like substance which is essential in nearly all components of Teda life from medicinal purposes, as a mixture in chewing tobacco, preservation, tanning, soap production, textiles and for livestock.

The Teda live in camps that consist of extended family members. The oldest man in the family has authority until his death. Marriages involve the payment of a substantial bride-price, which consists of livestock. Polygamy is permitted, but rarely practiced. Most Teda communities have only a few hundred inhabitants. The more settled groups who live in the villages are not there for the whole year. Generally, they live in round huts with stone or mud walls. The huts have cone-shaped thatch roofs supported by a central post. The nomadic Teda often live in rectangular or oval-shaped tents that have wooden frames and mats made of palm leaves or animal skins. Sometimes, they use caves for shelter while looking for pasture.

Teda people have been socially stratified with an embedded caste system. The three strata have consisted of the freemen with a right to own property, the artisanal castes and the slaves.
The endogamous caste of Azza among Teda have the artisanal occupations, such as metal work, leather work, salt mining, well digging, dates farming, pottery and tailoring, and they have traditionally been despised and segregated by other strata of the Teda.

Marriage between a member of the Azza and a member from a different strata of the Teda people has been culturally unacceptable.

The lowest social strata were the slaves (Kamaja). Slaves entered Teda society from raids and warfare on other ethnic groups in lands to their south. All slaves were the property of their masters, their caste was endogamous, and their status was inherited by birth.

Rough sports and violence are a regular part of life among the Teda. Although the man is usually the family leader, the wife may beat him if he challenges her authority in certain matters. Women usually carry daggers, and the men do not interfere in a fight between two women.

Culture & Religion
Teda men wear loose-fitting draw-string pants under long-sleeved robes. Their clothing is usually white, and they often wear turbans or small Muslim caps. Teda women traditionally wear long wrap-around dresses and head coverings. Modesty requires that women cover their arms, legs, and heads. Jewellery is also an important part of the women's adornment. Although the Tedaare not required to wear veils, they often wear them for protection against the sun, dust, or cold weather.

The Teda are virtually all Muslim. However, prior to their conversion, they were Animistic. They converted to Islam in the 1800s, but only after almost 1000 years of contact with Arab Muslims. Their Animistic background, however, seems to have been incorporated into their Muslim practices. 

Today, the Teda follow the Islamic calendar, including fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Both men and women faithfully say daily prayers, and more of them are now making pilgrimages to Mecca. Several Islamic schools have also been built in this region during the last century.
 

Sara

Also known as Sar, Kaba, Nar, Gulay, Ngambay, or Mbay.

Population & Ecosystem
1,045,000 Sara live in the moderately well-watered savannahs between Lake Iro in the east and the Logone River in the west. ‘Sara’ is the term employed by outsiders to refer to a group of non-Muslim tribes in southern Chad, all of whom speak mutually intelligible dialects. Each tribe is a distinct geographic, political, and endogamous entity.

Economy & Society
The Sara specialize in the slash-and-burn cultivation of cereals, especially sorghums and millets. They fish and raise chickens, dwarf goats, and a few horses. The French, in search of a stable supply of cotton fibre for their textile industry, introduced cotton as a cash crop in 1928. Post-independence governments have continued to emphasize the crop because its sale has brought 80 % of the country's foreign exchange. Because of cotton's importance, its production has been mandatory throughout the colonial and immediate postcolonial periods. Most cotton is produced by the Sara, who have added this work to their normal subsistence activities. Increasingly, manioc is substituted for cereals in areas where cotton production is high. Manioc requires less labour than do cereals but has less nutritional value. One reason for its popularity may be that it allows labour that would have been allocated to the growth of cereals to be directed instead to the maintenance or expansion of cotton cultivation.

Precolonial crafts included metalworking, pottery, cloth and basket weaving, calabash carving, and different forms of woodworking. All of these are in decline as their products are increasingly being replaced by manufactured imports.

Most Sara reside in small villages located near streams or along roads. In precolonial times, in principle, a hamlet was a distinct area in which members of a patrician lived with their wives, children, other kin, and followers. Villages were divided into a number of such tracts of different clans. Households in these villages tended to be dispersed, with their circular thatched huts standing in the midst of family members' fields, but colonial and postcolonial officials have obliged the relocation and concentration of households along more easily administered roads.
People in the precolonial states called those they raided ‘Kirdi,’ which generally meant any non-Muslim, and hence enslavable, person. The Bagirmi specialized in raiding Kirdi Sara during the 19th Century. In the early 20th Century the Sara were incorporated into French Equatorial Africa. The southern portion of Chad was considered by the French ‘1e Tchad utile,’ and it was here that administrators concentrated their efforts. The impact of colonization thus fell squarely upon the Sara. Their society was transformed by the introduction of taxes, paid in cash; of forced labour, especially on the Congo-Ocean Railroad; of obligatory cotton production; and of service in the French military, especially during World War IL By independence in 1960, the Sara were better educated and had greater experience with French political institutions than did the northern populations that had formerly raided them.

Most precolonial Sara tribes were highly acephalous; however, incessant raiding by the more northerly states had transformed nineteenth-century Sara lands into a laboratory of incipient centralization. Chiefdoms had begun to emerge among certain Sar, Nar, and Gulay. The most highly elaborated of these, organized around a person called the mbang (the Barma post-independence term for ‘sovereign’), was that of the Sar near the town of Bedaya.

The Sara have been extremely important in post-independence Chad. The first president, François Tombalbaye, was a Sar, and he and other Sara completely dominated the government, a reality that non-Sara—especially northerners—bitterly resented. Civil war began in 1966. In 1973 an increasingly hard-pressed and authoritarian Tombalbaye, in a bid to strengthen his legitimacy by reinstating certain, ‘traditional’ Sara institutions, created the Mouvement National pour la Révolution Culturelle et Sociale. For example, officials were supposed to participate in male initiation. Tombalbaye was assassinated in 1975 in a southern coup. By 1978, power had passed from the south to the north.

Culture & Religion
As we have seen Sara traditional society has radically changed in the last 60 years due to French colonial influence. Despite the profound changes, Sara people have kept until recent times facial and body scarification as a form of identity and personal beautification. Initiation rituals still occur in Sara society. They are performed every seven years for a duration of two months. For boys this is a period of hardship and painful scarification.

Singing and dancing have been and remain an important part of Sara life. Visual arts such as sculpture were little developed. Pearled dancing veils act as masks for women during rites of passage.

Precolonial religion was based on notions that different religious specialists could, by performance of appropriate ritual, influence different supernatural forces to restore or maintain natural and social well-being. Many Sara in contemporary times have converted to Christianity, often opting for some form of Protestantism.

There appear to have been three major forms of the supernatural. Nuba was a sort of otiose god who had created the world. A besi was a sort of ‘spirit’ that was immanent in, symbolized by, and named after natural objects—especially trees—or social activities, such as initiation. Bes interfere in peoples' lives by bringing misfortune. A badi, usually a deceased father or mother, can attack people and, like a besi, bring misfortune.

Many Sara conceived of death not so much as a biological event as a modification in social status. Each person was believed to have something like a soul. At death, this separated from the body. Provided the proper rituals were performed, however, the deceased did not perish but became a badi. Participation in mortuary ceremonies was important as a way of validating a person's membership in a clan.
 

Mbum

Also known as Mboum, M’boum, Buna, Mboutimba, or Wuna.

Population & Ecosystem
20.000 Mbum live in the fertile wooded savannahs and hills of Southwest Chad. An important number of Mbum also lives in Adamawa Plateau in neighbouring Cameroon.

Economy & Society
The Mbum are subsistence agriculturalists, specialized in the slash-and-burn cultivation of cereals, especially sorghums and millets. They fish and raise chickens and dwarf goats.
The Mbum have had a long and close relationship with the neighbouring Dii or Duru people in the eastern parts of Adamawa Province of Cameroon to the extent that it is frequently difficult to make any distinction between the two. Their relationship with the Fulani, who entered the region in the early-19th century, is more complex. The Fulani are often perceived as a ruling class; nevertheless, the Mbum have historically participated actively in the states set up by the Fulani.

Culture & Religion
The most visible aesthetic features of the Mboum are traditional hairstyles and nose piercings of the older generations. Old Mboum villages also show interesting vernacular architecture (round adobe conical huts with pointed thatched roofs). Music and dances are part of daily life culture in Mbum society.  In the village of Pao, 142 kms south of Moundou, near the Cameroon border, beautiful head masks are still worn during rites of passage. They are made of fibres, coloured with red paint. They remind of Mali’s Dogon Kanaga elongated masks.

African traditional religion is deeply rooted in Mboum’s ethnic identity and conversion essentially equates to cultural assimilation. Missionary activity and Islamization have been active in the region after Chad’s Independence (1960). Despite some conversions, most Mbum are still attached to the
 

Wodaabe

Also known as Bagirmi Fulani or Mbororo.

Population & Ecosystem
200.000 Wodaabe live in the forested savannah plains between Dourbali and Sarh. The Wodaabe in Chad are a sub-group of the much larger Fulani, a tribe that is spread across much of West Africa. They have also spread eastward and are now in parts of the Central African Republic.

Economy & Society
The Wodaabe in Chad are nomadic, mixing farming with shepherding. Although some Fulani tribes travel seasonally with their flocks, the Wodaabe have a permanent home they live in for half of the year. They only travel during the dry season, when grazing lands and water are scarce. Many of the men have multiple wives. Since cattle are a symbol of wealth among the Wodaabe, brides are sometimes chosen because of the amount of cattle they own.

Fula society is divided into casts. The fairly rigid caste system of the Wodaabe people has medieval roots, was well established by the 15th-century, and it has survived into modern age. The four major castes in their order of status are ‘nobility, traders, tradesmen (such as blacksmith) and descendants of slaves’.

On top of the pyramid there are the Dimo, meaning ‘noble’. The imo are followed by the artisan caste, including blacksmiths, potters, griots, genealogists, woodworkers, and dressmakers. They belong to castes but are free people. On the lower part of the pyramid there are those castes of captive, slave or serf ancestry. The Fulani castes are endogamous in nature, meaning individuals marry only within their caste.

Central to the Wodaabe people's lifestyle is a code of behaviour known as pulaaku, literally meaning the ‘Fulani pathways’ which are passed on by each generation as high moral values of the Wodaabe, which enable them to maintain their identity across boundaries and changes of lifestyle. Essentially viewed as what makes a person Wodaabe, or ‘Fulaniness’, pulaaku includes:

Munyal: Patience, self-control, discipline, prudence
Gacce / Semteende: Modesty, respect for others (including foes)
Hakkille: Wisdom, forethought, personal responsibility, hospitality
Sagata / Tiinaade: Courage, hard work

 
Culture & Religion
The traditional dress of the Wodaabe consists of long colourful flowing robes, modestly embroidered or otherwise decorated. Both men and women wear a characteristic white or black cotton fabric gown, adorned with intricate blue, red and green thread embroidery work, with styles differing according to region and sex.

It is not uncommon to see the women decorate their hair with bead hair accessories as well as cowrie shells. Wodaabe women often use henna for hand, arm and feet decorations. Their long hair is put into five long braids that either hang or are sometimes looped on the sides. It is common for women and girls to have silver coins and amber attached to their braids. Some of these coins are very old and have been passed down in the family. The women often wear many bracelets on their wrists. The women can also be seen wearing a colourful cloth around, the waist, head or over one shoulder.

Like the men, the women have markings (combination of scarification and tattooing) on their faces around their eyes and mouths that they were given as children.

Wodaabe men are often seen wearing solid-coloured shirt and pants which go down to their lower calves, made from locally grown cotton, a long cloth wrapped around their faces, and a conical hat made from straw and leather on their turbans, and carrying their walking sticks across their shoulders with their arms resting on top of it. Often the men have markings on either side of their faces and/or on their foreheads. They received these markings as children. Wodaabe ethics are strictly governed by the notion of pulaaku. Women wear long robes with flowery shawls. They decorate themselves with necklaces, earrings, nose rings and anklets.
One of the most important events in Wodaabe culture is the Gerewol, a yearly ceremony that gathers all the Wodaabe clans so that young members of the tribe can flirt and meet their future wives and husbands. Gerewol happens at the end of the rainy season (late September, early October) but rehearsals and smaller Gerewol ceremonies can be seen all year around. During the Gerewol, dancing and singing become central.

The Wodaabe have a rich musical culture and play a variety of traditional instruments including drums, hoddu (a plucked skin-covered lute similar to a banjo), and riti or riiti (a one-string bowed instrument similar to a violin), in addition to vocal music. Zaghareet or ululation is a popular form of vocal music formed by rapidly moving the tongue sideways and making a sharp, high sound.
The Wodaabe were one of the first people groups in Chad to be converted to Islam. The Wodaabe still hold on to many old Fulani traditions. They believe that family, cattle, strong morals, beauty, poetry, singing, and dancing are the most important things in life.
 

Korbo

Also known as Dangaleat, Guera, Hadjarai or Hadjeray.

Population & Ecosystem
5.000 live in 5 villages at the feet of Korbo Mountains in Guera region in South Central Chad. Until the 1960s most Korbo lived on top of the hills but progressively have descended and live now is the fertile plains near the rocky mountains. They are part of the Hadjarai cluster of mountain tribes living in South-Central Chad.

Economy & Society
Korbo are subsistence farmers and shepherds. The main crop grown is millet; but some cotton, okra, beans, and corn are also grown, along with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Their main diet consists of a millet paste, eaten with a sauce made from wild leaves, meat, or dried fish. The Korbo receive income from selling surplus millet and from transporting goods for others. They trade with the nearby Arabs on a regular basis in order to purchase items they cannot otherwise obtain. In these trades, millet is given for milk, meat, and items made by Arab blacksmiths. The Korbo make only a few handicrafts, most of which are for their own use and not for sale to others. Some of the crafts include woven palm leaf mats, clay jars for transporting and storing water and grain, and cotton thread and fabric.

The term Hadjarai, which means ‘of the stones or mountains,’ is a collective term used to describe a group of mountain peoples living in the Guera region of South Central Chad. They are descendants of peoples from the surrounding plains who fled to the mountains in an attempt to escape the invasions of neighbouring tribes.

Though never united in the past, the Hadjarai people share a strong spirit of independence, forged in pre-colonial Chad by their repeated clashes with slave-raiding razzias in their territory, and supported in particular by the Ouaddai Kingdom. This tradition of independence has led to frequent clashes with the central government after Chad gained independence in 1960, at first largely because of attempts to force them to move from the hills to the plains. They were among the staunchest supporters of the rebels during the Chadian Civil War.

Korbo society is divided into a number of villages. Most villages have several clans, each of which lives in its own neighbourhood. Each village is run by a chief or headman, who is primarily in charge of settling disputes between the villagers. Every village also has a ‘chief of the land,’ who holds the ‘religious power’ of the village. 

The Korbo are rural and live in round, mud-brick huts with cone-shaped, thatch roofs. In town, the dwellings are also made of mud-brick, but are rectangular in shape and have flat roofs. The villages consist of several compounds. Each compound contains a number of huts belonging to an extended family.

Culture & Religion
Most of the Korbo women wear colourful print fabrics, which are either wrapped around their bodies or tailored into dresses. Head coverings are worn by the women when they are outside their own compounds. The men wear Western-style pants with shirts, or long robes with or without pants.  Korbo have lost most their original culture due to Islamization. Despite this they still gather in the village main square to dance. During the dancing and singing women (mostly the older generation) will wear beautiful and quite unique raffia helmets and metal anklets. The generation over 50 years old shows pierce lips (beauty mark back on those days) and a distinct hairdo.
                 
Although a majority of the Korbo have completely converted to Islam, pre-Islamic beliefs, however, are still practiced by the older generations and some traditionalist families. Therefore, the clans remain united in religion. All of the groups belong to what is known as the Margai cult. The Margai are believed to be invisible spirits who live in nature's formations and control the natural elements. This belief has survived the rapid conversion of most Korbo to Islam during the colonial period, despite attempts by the French colonial authorities to avoid Islamization through the promotion of Christian missions.
 

Buduma

Also known as Yedina.

Population & Ecosystem
90.000 Buduma live on scores of islands located within Lake Chad.

Economy & Society
Most Buduma are cattle herders or fishermen. They live on the more stable islands of Lake Chad in permanent villages. These scattered villages are enclosed by reed fences. Buduma weave their huts from papyrus reeds, so that the huts can be easily lifted and moved to higher ground when the lake rises. The village life and economy of the Buduma center on their cattle and, to a much lesser extent, on their crops of wheat and millet. Buduma cattle have distinct horns which are especially long. The horns help the cattle to swim when they lean their heads back in the water. Buduma do not use their cattle for meat, but for milk and sacrifices only. 

During the dry season, all able-bodied Buduma move to the floating islands to establish temporary camps. These islands are really floating rafts of matted vegetation, sometimes drifting and sometimes anchored by roots. 

Throughout the dry season, Buduma depend on fishing for their livelihood. They are well-known for their distinctive papyrus reed boats. Buduma use the smaller of these crafts for fishing and the larger ones for transporting cattle or for prolonged family accommodation. Although the Buduma formerly fished only for their own consumption, they now also fish commercially, transporting dried fish to Nigerian markets for trade. This new pattern of commerce has enabled the Buduma to purchase material goods they have been unable to produce themselves.

Unlike the diet of any other people in Africa, the Buduma diet is based on cow's milk and fish, with only a few cereal products. The people also collect water lily roots and grind them into flour, providing a supplement to their diet. The Buduma have remarkable physiques due to the high amounts of protein they eat daily. Consequently, Buduma are powerful swimmers, able to stay under water for long periods of time.

Buduma teach their children from an early age to swim, manage boats, to help with the nets and to fish. By age 15, boys are circumcised, marking their maturity into manhood. Men do not marry until their late twenties, usually marrying women substantially younger than they. 

Buduma are fiercely ethnocentric, placing a high value on preserving their distinct culture. Thus, they believe strongly in marrying within their own people group. Some Buduma men may intermarry with neighboring Kanembu women, but the men never take their wives back to their island homes. A Buduma woman will never marry a "mainland" man.

This historically large, shallow lake is located where Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger meet. Although the shores of Lake Chad have long been inhabited by populations of mixed origin, the Buduma have managed to preserve their identity and homeland. They have resisted outside influences throughout history, remaining a fiercely independent people who, even today, are ruled by their own chiefs. 

In the past, the Buduma carried out violent raids on the cattle herds of their neighbours. They were feared villains with aggressive reputations; thus, they were respected and left alone for many years, protected by their own habitat of water and reeds. Today, they are a peaceful and friendly people willing to adopt some modern changes. Although their neighbours call them Buduma, meaning "people of the grass (or reeds)", they prefer to be called Yedina.

Culture & Religion
Buduma have adopted most of the aesthetics of the dominant Kanuri culture near Lake Chad. Facial scarification, consisting on two or three vertical lines of both cheecks, nose piercing, and hairdo based in small fine braids are Buduma female traits. Men wear either Western clothes or. The Buduma are largely Muslim. They also believe in the God Kumani, founder of the world, and put faith in priests who they believe will appease the spirits.
 
 

Missirie

Also known as Miserie or Red Arabs.

Population & Ecosystem
700.000 Missirie nomadic Arabs live between Lake Chad and Abeche in central Chad. Their ecosystem consists of stony plains where they graze their animals.

Economy & Society
Men manage the cattle and the crops of millet, yams, plantains, and cassava melons. They also build sun shelters, which they use for eating and entertaining while they are tending the herds. Young boys herd calves and small livestock. Most children attend a Koranic school, although girls usually withdraw after about six years.

Missirie ancestors emigrated from Sudan to Chad during the 14th century. They were primarily nomadic camel herders and slave traders. By the 18th century, the Arabs counted their wealth in their large herds of horses, cattle, goats, and sheep. Although the Arabs are respected by the Chad government because of their wealth in animals, they do not play a very large role in Chad's political arena. Their pastoral lifestyle has also saved them from being forced by the government to change culturally-an action that has disrupted the lives of the more settled peoples.

The Missirie generally have two homes-one in the village and one in a nomadic camp. During the dry season they live among more sedentary groups and share their agricultural lands. When the rains come the Missirie spread out among other Arab groups that live in the region. Marriage is used to strengthen kinship ties and is more a family than an individual concern. Arab men frequently have more than one wife. One wife usually lives in the nomadic camp, while the other lives in the village. 

The roles of Missirie men and women are strictly separated. Women are responsible for almost all tasks concerning home and family, including the construction of adobe houses, woven straw tents, the cooking areas, or any other structures associated with the house. They are the children's primary caretakers. Women also milk the cows that provide the family with dairy products. They earn extra income (which they keep) by selling the milk, butter, cheese and other products.

Marriage among the Missirie strengthens kinship ties. First, marriage is more a family than an individual concern; senior males from each family make initial contacts and eventually negotiate the marriage contract. An ideal union reinforces the social, moral, and material position of the group. Second, parallel cousin marriage (that is, union between the children of brothers or male relatives more removed), is preferred. This custom encourages the duplication of bonds within the group rather than the creation of a far-flung network of more tenuous, individual alliances. Finally, the marriage ceremony is itself a community affair. Marriage among the Missirie is an expression of solidarity. The ceremony is celebrated by a faqih (Muslim religious leader), and a joyous procession of neighbours, relatives, and friends escorts the bride to the house of her husband.

Culture & Religion
Ouled Himet clan of the Missirie tribe, lives with its domestic animals between Hadjer el Hamis (Elephant Rock) near Lake Chad and Oum Hadger. It is one of the most traditional Arab groups in Chad. Young women continue to make intricate hairdos, they pierce their nose with metal rings and decorate themselves with beaded necklaces. Scarification tends to disappear but still can be seen in both men and women cheeks.

Almost any occasion - the arrival of a visitor, unexpected good fortune, or someone returning from a trip - is an excuse for a communal feast. Betrothal, marriage, and moving newlyweds to their new residence calls for a major celebration, because it is considered a life-stage transition. This celebration also offers young people an opportunity for courting. Even the death of a family member is followed by feasting after a mourning period.

Chadian Arabs are predominantly Sunni Muslims, but they are not particularly interested in Muslim fundamentalist ideals. They observe the five pillars of faith (declare the faith of Islam, say daily prayers, give alms, fast, and make the pilgrimage to Mecca). 

 

Bua

Also known as Niellim.

Population & Ecosystem
23.000 Bua live in the forested plains and hills north of Sarh (Southern Chad) along the Chari River.

Economy & Society
The Bua are farmers and herders. The Bua travel a lot with their cattle, sheep and other animals. Bua people living near Chari River also fish.

Culture & Religion
Bua people scarified their faces with vertical marks in both chicks. The tradition started to fade in the 1960s with the arrival of missionaries and forced schooling. This information was gathered by Last Places team in 2017 in Karma village, near Chari River. In the religious aspect the Bua were forced into becoming Muslims at the beginning of 20th Century though most still follow the original African religion. The Bua living near roads or in bigger towns have converted into Christianity or follow Folk Islam.

Festivals of Chad

Chad Gerewol
The Gerewol also written Guerewol is an annual courtship ritual competition among the Wodaabe people of Chad. Young men dressed in elaborate ornamentation and made up in traditional face painting gather in lines to dance and sing, vying for the attentions of marriageable young women. The Gerewol occurs each year as the traditionally nomadic Wodaabe cattle herders gather at the southern edge of the Sahara before dispersing south on their dry season pastures.

At the end of the rainy season, end of September, the Wodaabe travel to Dourbali (Durbali) to participate at the Gerewol festival, a meeting of several nomadic Wodaabe clans. Here the young Wodaabe men, with elaborate make-up, feathers and other adornments, perform dances and songs to impress women. The male beauty ideal of the Wodaabe stresses tallness, white eyes and teeth; the men will often roll their eyes and show their teeth to emphasize these characteristics. The Wodaabe clans will then join for their week-long Gerewol celebration, a contest where the young men's beauty is judged by young women.

Gerewol rehearsals and smaller Gerewols can be seen in Chad all year around. It is important to have an informant well connected to the different Wodaabe clans so that the information is verified and transmitted in time.

The music and line dancing is typical of Fula traditions, which have largely disappeared among the vast diaspora of Fula people, many of whom are educated, Muslim, urbanites. This is characterized by group singing, accompanied by clapping, stomping and bells. The Wodaabe Gerewol festival is one of the more famous examples of this style of repeating, hypnotic, and percussive choral traditions, accompanied by swaying line dancing, where the men interlink arms and rise and fall on their toes.

The Gerewol competitions involve the ornamented young men dancing the Yaake in a line, facing a young marriageable woman, sometimes repeatedly over a seven-day period, and for hours on end in the desert sun. Suitors come to the encampment of the woman to prove their interest, stamina, and attractiveness. The participants often drink a fermented bark concoction to enable them to dance for long periods, which reputedly has a hallucinogenic effect.
 
Horse Festival in Ati
Yearly festival (dry season), celebrated in Ati town to honour its sultan. Hundreds of white riders parade on their horses. A spectacular and rare medieval ceremony.

Festival International des Cultures Sahariennes (FICSA) or International Festival of Sahara Cultures
Sahara Cultures Festival of Chad has been organised since 2014 when the first direct flights from Marseille to Faya where launched (unfortunately, these have stopped now). This festival was conceived to attract tourism to Chad by promoting nomadic cultures of the Chadian Sahara and Sahel. It is celebrated in Amdjarass, in the very heart of Ennedi Desert late March during 5 days.
 

Art and Architecture in Chad

Vernacular architecture in Chad
Vernacular architecture is commonly recognized as the fundamental expression of the world’s cultural diversity. The desire for modernization and the well-known globalization phenomenon are some of the most frequent evoked issues responsible for endangering the survival of vernacular heritage in Africa. In Last Places we aim to highlight the outstanding universal value of vernacular architectural heritage in Chad and to raise awareness to the increasing need, not only the protection of these structures’ integrity but also for the preservation of such ancient and sustainable building techniques as a living heritage. Chad’s most spectacular forms of vernacular architecture are found at the shores of Lake Chad and Chari River. Kotoko society built complex urban structures, palaces and walls to fortify the towns. One of the best examples is found in Gaoui, near N’Djamena. Bol palace, on the shores of Lake Chad, was an interesting example of Kotoko vernacular architecture with its main entrance decorated with hippopotamus skulls but it has been now transformed into a concrete modern building losing its unique local character. Southwards, near Chari River and not far from Cameroon border we find several tribal groups that have developed beautiful forms of vernacular architecture. Moundang people in Lere build adobe giant granaries with beautiful forms attached to their homesteads. Neighbouring Musgum or Mousgoum people where probably one of the best home builders in this part of Africa. Their cone or breast shaped huts where real works of art. Today only a few of these constructions survive (mainly in Cameroon). Other regions with interesting forms of vernacular architecture are the Guera mountain area in Central Chad with interesting utilization of stones and wood to build the homes, and Teda nomadic constructions in Ennedi and Tibesti desert regions. The lack of rain in these areas permits the generalized usage of vegetable fibres to build the tents and huts.
 
Rock paintings in Chad
One of the cultural, aesthetic highlights of Chad’s northern desert region is its amazing ‘collection’ of rock paintings. Covering a large area not far from the northern borders with Libya and Niger this region is very rich in rock art sites. Most of the art here may date from between 9000 years ago and 4000 years ago while some of the large animal engravings may date back to 12000 years or more. Like much of the Sahara, the Tibesti experienced dramatic climate change during this period resulting in an influx of wildlife and human populations from the Middle East. The majority of the rock art here dates from these times before the inhabitants were forced to leave their lands and move to the Nile Valley or other areas with more water. To the south east of these mountains is another mountain range known as the Ennedi. It is an ancient eroded sandstone plateau around 35.000 Km2 in extent. This is another rich rock art region although most of the art is more recent. Some of the most interesting art here, for instance, is from the horse period some of it probably made during the last 2000 years. There is also a lot of art from the Pastoral period which preceded and also overlapped with the horse art.

Zakouma National Park
Situated just south of the Sahara desert and above the fertile rainforest regions, Zakouma National Park is well positioned as the primary safe haven for Central and West African wildlife. Greater Zakouma Ecosystem covers an expansive 30.693 km2. This ecosystem, which is situated just south of the Sahara Desert and above the fertile rainforest regions, comprises of critical conservation areas for key species in Central Africa.

The main attractions of Zakouma National Park are the feeling of wild untamed ecosystem, the lack of overcrowded tourism, and its magnificent fauna:

Biggest elephant population in West-Central African savannah, now exceeding 550 individuals, the rare Kordofan giraffe (of which 50% of their global population is found in Zakouma), roan antelope and Lelwel’s hartebeest. The park’s buffalo population, reduced to about 220 animals in 1986, numbers over 10,000 today. In 2018, a partnership between the governments of Chad and the South Africa enabled African Parks to translocate a founder population of six black rhinos to Zakouma, hailing the return of the species after almost half a century of its absence.
 
Lake Chad
Last big lake at the gates of the Sahara Desert, Lake Chad is divided between Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria. Today, it remains the only existing stronghold of Kordofan Giraffe and Ostrich in Chad together with Zakouma National Park. Other remarkable species in Lake Chad would be the hippopotamus, Nile crocodile, thousands of migratory birds (more than 350 bird species), and around 120 fish species. The Lake Chad environment also presents an exceptional mosaic of plant formations forming as many biotopes, oasis and wet zones of international importance. Last Places offers trips to Lake Chad to observe its natural wonders and also meet the people living in the hundreds of islands that spot the lake.

Almost extinct, the Chad wild dog (Lycaon pictus sharicus), would still be surviving in eastern part of Lake Chad and in the border between Chad and Central African Republic (Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park). It is also known as the Shari or Chari River hunting dog, the Saharan wild dog or the Central African wild dog, is a subspecies of the African wild dog native to Central Africa.

Another rare animal species found north of Lake Chad is the Addax antelope. Relatively short-legged, stocky antelope (95-105 kg) with long corkscrew horns. Strong facial markings and distinctive mop of dark brown hair. Coat colour changes from bright white in summer, hot season months to darker grey in winter. Highly adapted desert-dweller. Pale coloration and large hooves are adaptations to hot sandy habitat. Nomadic species, exploiting ephemeral annual pastures and more permanent perennial grazing. Movement out of the desert during periods of drought or during hot season in search of shade and grazing. Inhabits sandy desert with dune fields and firmer sand sheets. Strong seasonal association with areas of perennial desert pastures composed of tussock grasses and succulent thorn scrub.

Forms small mixed herds of up to a dozen individuals, although larger groupings do occur in areas of favourable grazing or during seasonal movements to new pasture. Critically endangered with probably less than 300 in the wild living between Borkou Desert in Chad and Tin Toumma Desert in Niger.

Chad Visa
A valid passport and a visa are required for travel to Chad. Applications for visas have to be made in advance in Paris. Last Places assists all travelers that need any type of help applying for the visa. We recommend that passports be valid for six months from date of arrival.


Vaccines and Travel Health
A valid yellow fever vaccination certificate is essential for entry to Chad. Malaria is prevalent in the country. It is wise to take Malaria prophylaxis when travelling through Southern Chad. If you only travel to desert areas there are less chances of getting malaria mosquitoes. Said this, we recommend to bring anti-malaria tablets. Water supply is unsafe to drink, visitors should drink bottle water. Visitors should also avoid eating unpeeled, unwashed fruit and vegetables.


Security in Chad
Chad has experienced in the recent past war and social unrest. Today, a strong government, petrol income, and a general improvement in people’s lives make Chad one of the safest countries in West and Central Africa where to travel too. N’Djamena is a safe city though one must be careful in markets with pickpockets as in most parts of the World. The Tibesti Desert region, bordering Libya is often closed to foreign travellers due to the chaos reigning in Libya. One must check the situation before travelling there. Another area that needs special attention is the Sudan border where Darfur conflict has caused the displacement of thousands of people into Chadian territory, creating big refugee camps at the border.


When to go to Chad
Travelers can visit Chad all year around. Last Places offers trips to Chad all year around. Said this, the best time to visit Chad is from December till April with an average temperature of around 25ºC and very little chance of rainfall. The month in which you decide to visit will largely depend on your ability to deal with high temperatures, as the heat can rise to around 40ºC during the hotter months between May and October. Ennedi and other deserts can be visited all year around but southern tribes and Zakouma National Park can only be visited between December and April. Afterwards the region gets flooded and completely impassable.


Currency in Chad                                                                                 
The unit of currency is the Central African Franc (FCFA). Visitors should bring enough cash for their needs. Money can be exchanged at the airport or at the bank. Euros are changed without any problem. Credit cards are only accepted in larger hotels, and cash withdrawals are not possible. Few ATMs in N’Djamena accept foreign cards.



Time in Chad
GMT +1



Electricity in Chad
Electrical current in Chad is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round pin attachment plugs are in use.




Communications in Chad
The international dialing code for Chad is +235. There are many more mobile telephones than fixed lines and the mobile coverage around N’Djamena and other main centers is much more reliable than fixed lines. Internet access is rare out of N’Djamena.


Language in Chad
The official language of Chad is French, though in desert areas, very few tribal people speak French or understand it. Teda and Arabic are the common languages north of N’Djamena. In this case a local translator is needed. French is spoken widely in the South of Chad.


Prohibitions in Chad
Do not take photographs of government buildings, or use binoculars near them, as this could lead to arrest.



Chad is a secular country, however Islam is strong in the north and centre of the country. It is thus quite difficult (and not recommended) to search for or to consume alcohol, at least outside of the cities. In the bush villages (including the Muslim ones in the centre of the country) you can drink artisan beer served in calabashes, but do note that it packs a deceptive punch and is to be avoided if you are concerned.

In N'Djamena, in the larger cities, and in the south of the country, alcohol consumption is not a problem!

SET DEPARTURES TO Chad Chad

Chad: Ennedi desert, oasis and Gerewol

Cultural and nature trip for adventurous travelers seeking authentic experiences in the heart of Africa. Some trekking in the Ennedi Desert and tribal meetings in dry savannah of the South. We will move in Toyota 4x4 vehicles through this wild country. We will be accompanied by a chef and local guides from the beginning to the end of the expedition.

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Gerewol Rehearsal & Undiscovered Southern Tribes

Cultural trip for tribal lovers. Gerewol ceremony and tribal encounters in the dry savannah South. We will move along this wild country with Toyota 4x4 vehicles. A cook and local guides will accompany the expedition from beginning to end.

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Chad: Gerewol rehearsal & Undiscovered Southern Tribes

Cultural trip for tribal lovers. Gerewol ceremony and tribal encounters in the dry savannah South. We will move along this wild country with Toyota 4x4 vehicles. A cook and local guides will accompany the expedition from beginning to end.

View Trip Details