A friend of mine is planning to get married soon and amongst other things, I was a little curious as to where the honeymoon will be (if their jobs allow them that is)! We drew up a list and the bride-to be said she’d rather do a couple of places in Africa than one country in the West. At the time I knew I would be doing a small tour myself so I said I’d look around and then suggest; now I need you to decide whether I should suggest this spot to her, but only after you’ve read this!
Ok, so a little basic history about Chad. Chad means, ‘large expanse of water’, and actually derived from Lake Chad which experts say has shrunk in the last 13,000 years. Chad is very hot with temperatures getting up to 60 degrees Celsius in the peak of the dry season. While I was here, the temperature hovered between 32 and 39 degrees and our hosts said it’s the coolest they’ve had in a while; especially since it rained the night we got in.
Before I tell you what I had for dinner (since we got in at night), when I was younger I was in love with oranges so much I could eat up to nine or ten a day. One day the Fairy Godfather saw me with a big bowl and knowing the fate of the oranges therein said, ‘at this rate you’ll wake up soonest with an orange tree on your head’. Suffice to say that it’s almost a chore for me to eat oranges now; I was so scared!
Dinner was rice (looking forward to a rice plantation on my head at this rate) with potato and carrot sauce and loads of chicken. It was a lovely meal except that I had to keep apologizing for each onion ring I pulled out of my plate, I so cannot stand onions and they were so many!
Ah ha! Before I forget, I stayed in Hotel Santana and it was a really nice, Egyptian style decorated room. One evening, out of extreme boredom and I knew I couldn’t go out because the sun was blazing like it was angry with the Chadians, I started flipping channels, looking for something nice to watch. Fourteen channels and no English later (save CNN, BBC, Aljazeera, and then MBC 2 with its ancient movies), I was going crazy. Continued flipping till I saw an MTV logo and I was like, ‘yes! Finally something I can relate to’! Two non English songs later, I consoled myself with the thought that it was probably time for alternative music or stuff from around the world. Then it was time for news; immediately I saw writing from the right to the left I knew I was in trouble! It was MTV Arabia! What!!! That was it; I gave up, and slept.
The day we were to leave Chad, we got to the airport early only to be told our flight would be delayed for 3 hours. God of grace, just like that? A little about the airport; like every other office/organization in N’djamena’ they pride themselves in the number of different uniforms their workers wear, even if they’re doing the same thing! Did I mention that the flies in N’djamena nearly killed me? They were so many, even in the airport (what was I thinking, flies have ‘restricted areas’)? The flies were part of the reason I was almost never outside the car or my hotel room. Other reasons would be the sun, the strong unnerving presence of the non English speaking, mostly under aged, heavily armed military men on the street but, let’s leave that for now.
Since Ethiopian Airways had given us three hours to play with, our hosts decided to drive us around the town to pass time; this is what I found out. By the way, I saw some security cameras on the way out of the departure lounge that (forgive me) looked as old as Chad’s independence and I wondered if there was even a CCTV room in the airport.
Back to what I saw, do you sometimes wish someone could come take care of your issues? Yes? Means you have Chadian streaks in you, streaks that mean that you expect help from everywhere but within! A couple of reasons I said that
- Kempinski, the largest hotel in N’Djamena (and Chad by extension) was built and is managed by Libya.
- The largest mosque in N’Djamena which houses a primary and secondary school and a university was built by Saudi Arabia. Can you now guess the more prominent religion in Chad? I must say however that religious induced fighting is rare, there are many other things to fight about. But, I digress.
- When Chad had issues with rebels and there were attempts on the presidents life, the American government built blockades outside the President’s house; France offered him exile and Ukraine (amongst others) supplied the soldiers and weaponry that quelled the insurgency. Speaking of France, they have a huge military base in N’Djamena where according to our host; the best surgeries (if any) are done. Before nko?
We passed by the President’s palace; more like a fortress if you ask me, with the heavily armed mostly underage soldiers every 10 feet! I asked if we could stop and take pictures; you know, Buckingham palace style and things. Our host laughed so hard I almost felt insulted, till he said the guards had express orders to shoot to kill anything that stops around the palace unlawfully, including tourists. He said that once, the wife of the American envoy to Chad was in a car that mysteriously developed a fault and stopped outside the palace. Men and brethren, the soldiers opened fire o! With the American flag, diplomatic number plates, they opened fire! Fortunately the car was bullet proof but the lady was traumatized and it was a big international issue at the time. Are you still asking why I don’t have pictures of the palace? I thought so!
We saw a river which is the boundary between Chad and Cameroon. I was told people swim across the river; made me wonder where they keep their passports when they’re swimming, especially since there are no immigration desks on both sides!
A little about President Idriss Deby Itno; he’s been in power for about 20 years now and has already declared that he’s contesting again when the country goes to the polls in April next year. ‘He’s going to win’, our host says, ‘it’ll be the moon in the morning if he doesn’t’. What is amazing is that he’s given the UN quit notice from the country; people say it’s because he doesn’t any ‘interference’ in the elections. Interference? Ok o.
By the way, the United Nations have a big base in N’Djamena; noticeably close to the airport. And I don’t blame them. As fortified as the place is, I think they need a close by exit in the event of violence because as far as I am concerned, like a lot of other poverty stricken places in Africa, Chad is as volatile as they come.
On a lighter note but still on the scarcity of resources, bananas are not sold in bunches but finger by finger. I asked and was told it’s so that you can buy only what you can afford, and only what you can eat!
So, I’m done! I’ll leave you to holler at my bride-to-be friend; all I can say is if I had known I’d encounter so many flies in N’Djamena I’d had chopped off the ears of the guy who sat in front of me on the plane and used his ears for swatting, especially since I’ve never seen ears so wide and floppy in my entire Fairy life!