Dakar Stories and Tips

N'djamena, Chad: A Capital Adventure

This is the starting point of the journey from Chad to Senegal. N'djamena is a bustling city that still bears the evidence of past wars, as evidenced by the bullet holes and cracked walls that adorn some long-standing buildings.

There is a fairly large ex-patriot community in N'djamena, and it is catered to by a selection of comparatively high-priced restaurants, cafés, and bars that are not frequented by many locals. Many boutique groceries in the main downtown shopping districts rarely see a Chadian beacuse of the high prices.

In this part of town you can also find gifts like masks, local crafts, and brass figurines made by local craftsmen. They are less costly in other parts of town and in the outlying villages, but it is great for one-stop shopping or if you need some luxury after a dusty trip "en brousse."

Don't miss the large central post office, and the philatelarie on the second floor. You can buy a huge assortment of national stamps including those with images of Bill Clinton and Elvis playing music together, Elvis Presley and other American icons, as well as more locally-relevant stamps of craft items, cultural stamps, and regional stamps. The shady outdoor area surrounding the post office is like a small botanical garden with winding paths that meander among people selling everything from inexpensive locally designed postcards and drawings to salted and pickled mangoes.

Also not to be missed is the enormous central market of N'djamena. Its center was recently renovated and upgraded and is now an enormous open-air plaza filled to the brim with merchants of every imaginable kind. The one rule of shopping in the "souk kabir" is never fall in love with something so that you can't leave it behind. The best way to get the best price is to walk away and come back later. The market is a great way to hone your bargaining skills. If you are traveling to the interior of the country, potential hosts always love to receive gifts from the grand market that they can't get in their villages. Tea glasses, tea pots, fancy dishes, and cloth are all great gifts for hosts.

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