The Central African Republic is in fact at the geographic center of Africa, bordered by Cameroon to the west, Chad to the north, Sudan to the east, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Republic of the Congo to the south.
The former French colony of Ubangi-Shari became the Central African Republic upon independence in 1960. After three tumultuous decades of misrule - mostly by military governments - a civilian government was installed in 1993. Subsistence agriculture, together with forestry, remains the backbone of the economy, with more than 70% of the population living in outlying areas.
Bangui - the capital
Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Pygmy settlements in the rainforests surrounding Mbaiki.
Dzangha Sangha National Park
Other African cities and countries are widely accessible via boats and barges that travel along the Ubangui river. The Ubangui river begins in Sudan and ends in Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville). However, although it is currently the rainy season, there has been a dearth of rain which has contributed to a decline in the river's depth. Thus, travel by boat along the Ubangui is limited until the rainy season picks up. Although slow, it is possible to reach all the way to Kinshasa and Brazzaville via the river.
Traditional trade carried on by means of shallow-draft dugouts. Oubangui is the most important river, navigable all year to craft drawing 0.6 m or less. 282 km of waterways are navigable to craft drawing as much as 1.8 m
There is a wide diversity of food in Bangui, including Chinese, Lebanese, French, local food and so forth. Food in restaurants owned by foreigners are very expensive and can be $10-$20 US per dish (or more). Local food, however, may also be expensive depending upon the restaurant and its location. There are abundant French bakeries in the downtown area in the centre of Bangui with moderate prices for baked goods as well as meals. Food in supermarkets is very expensive, although cheaper food can be purchased at local markets and from sellers in the street.
Local beer ("33", Mocaf, Crystal) and soda (MOCAF is a major producer) is similarly priced to products in the United States. Wine is available in some French wine shops but can be very expensive. Palm wine is common. Water is produced in Cameroon and Central African Republic and can be purchased in all of the local supermarkets. Imported products such as Coca-Cola and Fanta are also available.
Costs in Central African Republic are exorbitant for foreigners who plan to maintain a lifestyle similar to those in their origin country. Costs in some restaurants, hotels and supermarkets match or exceed those in the United States and other Western nations. Much of the commerce and goods must be flown or shipped into the nation, explaining the high costs for many goods. "Local" goods that are imported into CAR from regional nations such as Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon are slightly less expensive (rice, beans, water, etc.). Finally, many of the supermarkets in Bangui and other cities are owned by Lebanese people and families, so there is abundant Middle Eastern food imported into the country, although these products are also very expensive.
The main language is French with a dialect called Central African French. The form is very understood by the Francophone nation. There are a lot of indigenous languages also. Whilst French is the official language of Central African Republic, Sängö (also referred to as Sangro or Sangho) is the lingua franca and is spoken by most of the people in Central African Republic (some 2000 have it as a mother tongue whilst 80% have it as a second language). To find out if someone speaks Sängö, simply say Balâo (which means Hello), if they respond back with Balâo mïngï then you have found yourself a sango speaker.
The locals often eat with their hands. If you are eating with them, and using your hands as well, be sure to eat with your right hand. The left is generally used for bathroom purposes, and therefore it is rude/unappealing to them if you eat with your left hand.
Some areas of Bangui have clean and filtered drinking water, so it is safe to drink water served at some restaurants and bars. However, the purity of the water is not reliable and thus it is safer to buy bottled water or boil/filter water. Outside the capital there is no guarantee of water purity. All food should be cooked or peeled prior to being served, particularly food purchased at local markets, where hygiene is a concern. If illness should arise, it is better to seek counsel with one of the doctors at an embassy (the French embassy and US embassy both have fine doctors) or at a clinic at an organisation like Institut Pasteur. The local clinics and hospitals sometimes have a limited supply of necessary resources such as syringes, medicine, etc.
Central African Republic has a very high amount of HIV infections. DO NOT HAVE UNPROTECTED SEX.
Hot, dry, dusty harmattan winds affect northern areas. Floods are common.
In March 2003, rebel forces took over the government of the Central African Republic, and the group's leader named himself president. He remains in power today, and despite peaceful elections in March 2005, tourists could be at risk, particularly during public gatherings. Armed robberies along roads outside of the capital have also been reported.
English lessons are available at the Martin Luther King centre of the United States embassy. French and Sango lessons are available at the Alliance Francaise. There is also a university in Bangui with university degrees and some graduate programmes.
There are myriad opportunities for working by teaching English or for any of a number of humanitarian or religious organisations in Central African Republic. Many of the streets of Bangui are lined with organisations including MSF (Doctors without Borders), UNICEF, International Red Cross, European Union, WHO, Institut Pasteur, Catholic Relief Serices, COOPI and many others. Most organisations are involved in health and development programmes, although others deal with education, religion, etc. Speaking French is essential for somebody who wants to be effectively involved in working with these organisations, as English is rarely spoken, even in Bangui.
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|Population||4,303,356 (June 2006 est.)|
|Religion||Indigenous beliefs 35%, Protestant 25%, Roman Catholic 25%, Muslim 15% (animistic beliefs and practices strongly influence the Christian majority)|