CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
Capital | Bangui
Population | 4,511,488 (July 2009 est.)
Area | 622,984 sq km
Official language | French
Holidays | Republic Day, 1 December (1958)
Currency | Cooperation Financiere en Afrique Centrale francs (XAF)
Time Zone | UTC+1
Best time to visit | November to April (dry season)
Connecting with the Culture | Buying ebony sculpture, leather goods and batiks at Bangui’s artisans center. Taking a guided tour of `Emporer’ Bokassa’s former palacae outside the capital, past lion cages and other gruesome relics of his time in power. Spotting wildlife at St. Floris and Bamingui-Bangoran parks. Visting the specatcular Chutes de Boali (Boali Eaterfalls) during the rainy season. Trekking through the Dzanga-Sangha Reserve.
Read | The Central African Republic: The Continent’s Hidden Heart, a social history by Thomas E. O’Toole.
Listen | to `Aka Pygmy Music’, a UNESCO recording.
Eat | the staples: rice, fermented cassava (manioc root) and bananas.
Drink | a jug of home-brewed palm or banana wine.
In a word | Bara alal kwe (hello in the Sango language)
Characteristics | Forest elephants, lowland gorillas, Pygmies; dictators; political chaos.
Surprises | A country of rare natural beauty, with some of the world’s most amazing wildlife, Central African Republic (CAR) nonetheless remains underdeveloped. It’s a country that has important mineral deposits and great natural resources, yet remains underdeveloped, fragemnetd and poverty stricken. For centures CAR has endured invaders and corruption of its leaders. True to the spirt of Africa though, the people ofthis nation are open friendly and generous and like all humans the people of CAR are glad for a release. They like to drink banana and palm wine or beer abd dance the gbadoumba, mambo and lououdou. Hunting safaris are still huge business in CAR, and have been ever since the French arrived a century ago. Big-game hunting grounds near the Sudanes border were personally sponsored by former French president, Giscard d’Estaing.