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Chad History, Language and Culture

History of Chad

Indications of settlements around Lake Chad date back to Neolithic times, and the lake’s shores have acted as an important junction for several major trans-Saharan caravan routes for centuries.

From the 11th to the 15th century, the state of Kanem was the dominant force in the region, occupying much of the area that makes up present-day Chad. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the state of Borno, which had its centre on the other side of Lake Chad (in present-day Nigeria), exercised a major influence.

A gradual process of Islamisation took place across the region from this time, especially during the 16th and 17th centuries, which saw the kingdoms of the Bagirmi and Ouaddai reach their zenith. The slave trade was a key component of their economies, and as this declined from the early 19th century onwards, so did the kingdoms.

In the 1880s, Bagirmi and Ouaddai were conquered by the Sudanese warlord Rabih al-Zubair. Europeans arrived a few decades later, with Chad first defined as a national territory in 1910, as one of the four nations making up French Equatorial Africa.

Chad achieved independence in 1960, with François Tombalbaye, leader of the Parti Progressiste Tchadien (PPT), as prime minister. The country’s post-independence history has been characterised by political instability and tensions, largely due to religious and cultural divisions between the Muslim north and Christian/animist south. It is a pattern also found in other African countries, including Nigeria and Sudan.

The discovery of large oil deposits in the southern Doba region of the country has provided the government with an opportunity to develop the economy. It has also heightened interest in Chad, a relative international backwater, and has led to some improvement to previously rocky relations with France, the USA, and international institutions such as the World Bank.

Did you know?
• In villages, it is a popular belief that taking the dirt from the corner of a dog's eye and putting it in your own will help you see demons.
• A future husband must work in his future father-in-law’s fields for three years.
• Chad is sometimes known as “the Babel tower of the world” because of the number of languages spoken.

Chad Culture

Religion in Chad

50% Muslim, 35% Christian, 15% animist and other.

Social Conventions in Chad

Chadians are a relaxed and friendly people, but respect for traditional beliefs and customs is expected. Dress is informal, but conservative in respect of Muslim laws. There is strict segregation of women in the Muslim areas. It is customary to shake hands. The left hand should never be used for offering or accepting food, nor should the sole of the foot be exposed in the presence of a Muslim. Identification should be carried at all times; failure to do so may result in detention by police.

Photography: It is necessary to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Information in order to take photographs. Photographing military sites, airports and official buildings is prohibited. Other photography requires a Government permit.

Language in Chad

The official languages are French and Arabic. Other widely spoken African languages include Sara (in the south). The territory's boundaries enclose a small but highly diverse population.