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From The Hippo’s Ears: Central African Republic

Facts you may not have know about Central African Republic:

The Central African Republic (République centrafricaine/Centrafrique) is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Chad to the north, Sudan to the northeast, South Sudan to the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the south, the Republic of the Congo to the southwest and Cameroon to the west. The CAR covers a land area of about 620,000 square kilometers (240,000 sq mi) and had an estimated population of around 4.6 million.

CAR is a Unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic, and gained independence from France in 1960.

1.  When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?

A handshake is a very common greeting in all areas. “Bonjour” is common as a French greeting, and in Sango, “Balao” is commonly used.

2. What languages are spoken in the country?

The Central African Republic’s two official languages are French and Sango (also spelled Sangho), a creole developed as an inter-ethnic lingua franca based on the local Ngbandi language. French is the language of writing and formal situations.

3. Do you use a twelve hour clock, or a twenty-four hour clock?

We use a 24-hour system.

4. What side of the road do people drive on? What do we need to know about driving in the country?

We drive on the right side of road.

5. How important is punctuality?

Time is flexible in CAR. People don’t always arrive on time for meetings – this is part of the culture.

6. Which types of music are popular? Who are some of the most popular musicians?

Music of the Central African Republic includes many different forms. Western rock and pop music, as well as Afrobeat, soukous and other genres have become popular nationwide. The sanza is a popular instrument. African folktales are very popular as well. The Banda people have produced some modern popular music, using a trumpet-based kind of jazzy music. Pygmy styles include liquindi, or water drumming, and instruments like the bow harp (ieta), ngombi (harp zither) and limbindi (a string bow).

For a taste of music from CAR, listen to Laetitia Zonzambé Mbi Nze.

7. Are there any Traditional Dances?

Pygmy nationals have numerous kinds of traditional dances. Dance is seen by the community as a means of bonding and bringing the people in the community together. Dance can be done both in public and in private. The types of dances, the location, and times when people dance all depend and determine a person’s role in the community and station in their life. Likewise, some dances are for ceremonial purposes, and some are designated for entertainment.

Watch traditional Pygmy dancing here.

8.  What traditional Festivals are celebrated in the country?

Independence Day

This public holiday commemorates the Central African Republic’s proclamation of independence from France on August 13, 1960. The day is celebrated joyously, as everyone is thankful for the freedom from slavery. Festivities are held in major cities including the capital, Bangui.

Feast of the Assumption

August 15 is the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and is marked a public holiday. While it is traditionally a Roman Catholic event, the day is considered a multi-faith holiday in the Central African Republic. Processions are organized and holy masses are held throughout the day along with prayer gatherings.

National Day

The Central African Republic celebrates its national day on December 1. The day is marked by sports festivities, speeches, parades, and other activities throughout the nation. There are boat races along the Ubangi River. Military officials, soldiers and political leaders attend the parade in the capital along with the locals. Music, traditional dances, and food are in abundance.

9. What are the seasons like?

The climate of the Central African Republic is generally tropical, with a wet season that lasts from June to September in the northern regions of the country, and from May to October in the south. During the wet season, rainstorms are an almost daily occurrence, and early morning fog is commonplace. Maximum annual precipitation is approximately 1,800 millimetres (71 in) in the upper Ubangi region. The northern areas are hot and humid from February to May, but can be subject to the hot, dry, and dusty trade wind known as the Harmattan. The southern regions have a more equatorial climate, but they are subject to desertification, while the extreme northeast regions of the country are already desert.

10. What are some interesting facts about the President?

President Faustin-Archange Touadéra has been President of the Central African Republic since March 2016. He was previously Prime Minister of the country from January 2008 to January 2013. Touadéra was born in Bangui. He earned a mathematics doctorate, and went on to lecture mathematics at the University of Bangui, and was vice-dean of the University’s Faculty of Science from 1989 to 1992. He became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bangui in May 2004. Touadéra was appointed as Prime Minister by President François Bozizé on 22 January 2008, following the resignation of Élie Doté. He is married, with 3 children.

11. What are the country’s major industries?

Diamonds constitute the country’s most important export, accounting for 40–55% of export revenues. Agriculture is dominated by the cultivation and sale of food crops such as cassava, peanuts, maize, sorghum, millet, sesame, and plantain. The Republic’s primary import partner is the Netherlands, with other major import locations being Cameroon and France.

12. What are some of the things visitors can look forward to experiencing?

Major tourist attractions include Notre-Dame of Bangui Cathedral, Oubangui River, Marche Central , Musee de Boganda, Dzanga-Sangha Reserve, and Les Chutes de Boali.

13. What is a popular local drink?

Water, palm wine, and millet beer are the traditional mealtime drinks, although beer, soda, and wine have gained popularity.

14. What is a popular local dish?

Indigenous agriculture in the country includes millet, sorgum, banana, yam, okra, yellow onion, garlic, spinach, rice and palm oil. Meats can be scarce in the Central African Republic, although fish is used in a variety of dishes, and other sources of protein include peanuts. Roadside stalls sell foods such as baked goods and makara (a type of fried bread), sandwiches, barbecued meat and snacks. Popular dishes include kanda ti nyma (spicy meatballs made with beef), and m=uama de galinha (chicken with okra and palm oil).

15. What do you pay, on average, for the following?

CAR uses the Central African CFA franc. (1 USD = approximately 588 CFA).

3 Course meal: 20,000 CFA
Domestic beer: 2,500 CFA
Cup of coffee: 2,000 CFA
Coca cola (330ml): 400 CFA
Milk (1l): 300 CFA
Loaf of white bread: 250 CFA
Apples (1 kg): 330 CFA
Water (1.5l): 850 CFA

16. Any general safety tips?

  • Travel to CAR in general is not advised by many foreign governments, due to ongoing unstable security situations, activities of armed rebel groups, and the high level of violent crime.
  • If you do travel to CAR, maintain high levels of awareness, keep a low profile, and limit travel within the country.
  • Have adequate stocks of personal supplies on hand in CAR, and monitor media coverage closely.
  • Check if your travel insurance covers CAR, and make sure your country of residence has a diplomatic office in CAR before traveling to the country.

17. In conclusion, famous (and sometimes infamous) people from the country include:

  • Raphaël Nzabakomada-Yakoma, writer and historian. After earning his PhD in History, in France, he worked at the Faculty of Literature and Human Sciences in Bangui from 1972 to 1982, where he was Dean from 1976 to 1979.
  • Anicet Lavodrama, a retired professional basketball player. Lavodrama played for the Houston Baptist Huskies from 1981 until 1985, and he was selected by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 3rd round of the 1985 NBA Draft.
  • Léandre-Alain Baker, an actor and film director. Baker is the author of several novels and plays, and has been making short films since 1993.

 

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Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]. Image sources: hdptcar [1], Alllexxxis [2], Philippe JIMENEZ [3].