One of the least visited countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Central African Republic ranks amongst the poorest nations on the planet and has struggled to find its feet since gaining independence from France in 1960. Suffice it to say few tourists venture out this way.
A country of contrasts, the Central African Republic is a place where the Sahara Desert meets tropical Africa, where the pastoral traditions of Africa’s tribespeople rub shoulders with the colonial architecture of imperial France.
The French influence is particularly strong in the capital, Bangui, which retains its colonial aesthetic and is scattered with patisseries serving fresh baguettes and éclairs. Vibrant stalls around the central market provide cheap and tasty local cuisine, which ranges from fish straight out of the Ubangi River to fried plantain and fufu, a sour-tasting starch prepared from manioc flour which is a staple of the region.
The country’s frenzied markets are perfect places to interact with and better understand the culturally diverse tribespeople that makes up the population. The shortest interaction with these people shows them to be inquisitive, warm and generous beyond their means.
Geographically, much of the Central African Republic is composed of rolling grasslands, dusty deserts and steamy jungles. The northern reaches of the country are dominated by the seemingly infinite Sahara. With so little light pollution here, the night skies gleam with millions of stars.
The far south is home to equatorial rainforests, which are considered some of the best places in Africa to see forest elephants and western lowland gorillas. The jungle is also home to pygmy tribes, which live off the land in remote pockets of central Africa. Visits to these tribes are possible and offer an insight into their extraordinary lives.