From the natural wonders of the Sahara Desert and Lake Chad to the tribal culture and hospitality that flourishes across the country, Chad quietly gets on with creating unforgettable experiences, while the rest of the world looks on unaware.

With a predominantly rural population, urban life is restricted to N’Djamena, the capital. As Chad’s commercial hub it attracts people from over 200 different ethnic groups. The result is a diverse set of social structures rubbing alongside one another and stark contrasts between the capital’s modernist heart and the ancient ways of nomadic tribespeople such as the Tuareg and Toubou.

Ethnicity remains far more important than Chadian identity and tribes hold dear a rich cultural heritage that remains largely unchanged by time or the outside world.

Chad’s prehistoric cave paintings, found amid gnarled rock formations in the Sahara Desert, document the existence of large animals in the region for millennia, so it is therefore unsurprising that even today the country is home to some of Africa’s most iconic species, including elephant, rhino, giraffe, leopard and lion.

Birdsong, made all the sweeter by the desert landscape, is near constant in the hidden palm-fringed oases of the Sahara, while the clear blue waters of Lake Chad form the second largest wetland in Africa and an important source of water for not only birds but reptiles and larger mammals too.

Whether it is to experience the solitude of the Sahara, seek out the hospitality of the Tuareg or witness animals surviving in the one of the most extreme landscapes on Earth, Chad offers hardy travellers an extraordinary experience. It may be nicknamed the “dead heart of Africa,” but as anyone who knows this country will tell you, that moniker couldn’t be further from the truth.

Area:

1,284,000 sq km (495,800 sq miles).

Population:

14,496,739 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

9.1 per sq km.

Capital:

N’Djamena.

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

President Idriss Déby since 1990.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacké since 2016.

Electricity:

220 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs with two round pins are standard.