Chad was never high on my Must See list. It’s one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world. Most of its inhabitants are subsistence herders and farmers. Arbitrary imprisonment, extrajudicial killings, and limits on civil liberties gives Chad a poor human rights record. Chad joins South Sudan at the bottom of the Human Development Index.

Human Development Index, 2021 data

Although the US State Department doesn’t give Chad its worst possible travel advisory

wikitravel is unable to recommend anything to do in Chad.

The watersheds that sustain Lake Chad

I knew all this before coming here, which is why I planned just a three day visit — shortened to two days by a detour to Nigeria.

Flying through the haze over Chad, I glimpsed the one thing I most wanted to see: Lake Chad. The lake — or what’s left of it — is a shimmering shallow sea surrounded by dry grasslands and patches of green where seasonal rivers flow. The Chari and Logone Rivers provide 95% of Lake Chad’s water. Since the 1970’s, the water in these two rivers has been reduced by half due to overgrazing, deforestation, large-scale irrigation projects and climate change. Consequently, Lake Chad has shrunk by 80% in the past 50 years. At this rate, Lake Chad will disappear within the century.

Besides Lake Chad, the other notable site in Chad is the Sao village 10 km outside of N’Djamena. The Sao people were the original inhabitants of the Lake Chad basin. They lived here for a couple of millennia when Lake Chad was a vast reservoir that sustained a fishing industry, flourishing farms, and great herds of livestock. The Sao civilization, located in the center of Africa, was a crossroads culture with advanced technology. Archaeologists have found artifacts in bronze, copper and iron.

When you visit the Sao village today, you’ll see a replica of one of the last sultan’s mud and straw buildings and be invited to play drums with the museum’s curator. You’ll also be offered colorful ceramic pots that this village is known for.

Chad’s capital city, N’Djamena, with a population of 1.5 million is Chad’s only city. The city center is graced by Place de la Nation and unusual monuments. Chad’s other population centers are large villages of 100,000 or less. Here’s a short video of a dusty street market in N’Djamena.

To be frank, Chad is a desolate, poor country in the middle of nowhere. When Lake Chad dries up, there won’t be much reason for anyone to stay here. My visit here would’ve been dreary if it weren’t for crossing paths with Bart from Belgium, my occasional travel partner. Over beer and fresh fish from the river, we commiserated about the future of Chad.

Chad is my 188th country. I have only five countries left, all of which have travel restrictions and special visa requirements. So, I’m going to pause my travels for a while and go someplace warm and relaxing where I can go snorkeling with rays and turtles every day. For anyone who has followed my travels, you know where this is. Can you guess where I’m going next? See you there!