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Chad is a country of contrasts. From the barren canyons of Guelta d'Archei and the magnificent Sahara Desert to vast wooded savannas and one of Africa's larger fresh water lakes - home to hippos and crocodiles. The changes from fertile savannah to arid desert are as distinct as the changes between traditional society and the remarkable colonial houses left as a legacy to the European occupiers. Though many of its artifacts have been lost over the years, the National Museum of N'Djamena still makes for an interesting visit, along with the city's central market.

By the 16th century three distinct rival kingdoms had emerged in the area that is now Chad: the Kanem-Bornu, the Baguirmi and Ouaddaï. Between 1883 and 1893, all three kingdoms came under the rule of the Sudanese conqueror Rabih al-Zubayr. The French overthrew him in 1900, bringing all the kingdoms into four territories known as French Equatorial Africa, which included Ubangi-Shari-Chad (as well as what is now the Central African Republic, Gabon and the Republic of Congo). In 1946, the territory, now known as Chad, became an autonomous republic within the French Community. Complete independence was achieved in 1960. After nearly 30 years of civil war, a peace agreement was signed in 1990. But the continuing rebellion, inter-communal fighting and an influx of refugees from neighboring Sudan to the east remain challenges to the government of President Idriss Deby.

Chad borders Cameroon, Libya, Nigeria, Niger, the Central African Republic and Sudan. In addition to its natural resources, including oil, Chad also has abundant fauna. In the south there are elephant, rhino, giraffe, ostrich, lion and buffalo. The Lake Chad region has flourishing bird life, whereas the desert provides a suitable habitat for a number of reptile species.

With more than 100 languages spoken, three religions practiced and a fascinating ancient history to enjoy, the culture of Chad is rich and diverse. In the capital, Ndjamena, you might hear Arab musicians playing traditional music and performing epic narrations. About 9 million people live in Chad with two distinct groups in the north and south. In the north are semi-nomadic and nomadic Muslim peoples, including Arabs, Tuareg, Hadjerai, Fulbe and Toubou. In the south, where most of the population is concentrated, live sedentary agricultural peoples, including the Sara, Massa, Ngambaye and Moundang. In addition to indigenous languages, the main languages are French and Arabic.

Chad is landlocked and the easiest way into the country is via the international airport in N'Djamena. Other smaller airfields at Abéché, Sarh and Moundou are only capable of receiving small jet traffic and propeller aircraft.

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