Sarh

Overview

Introduction

This town's second name, Ville Verte (or Green City), comes from the leafy green trees planted during colonial times. Unfortunately, the trees are about the only thing that's thriving in Sarh. Old colonial homes along the Chari River are rotting, factories and hunting lodges are closed, and the people living there have little to do. The main industry is a large textile factory by the river just north of town. Visitors are most likely to find themselves in Sarh if they're passing through en route to one of several animal reserves in the region: Manda National Park, Zakouma National Park and Bamingui-Bangoran National Park (in the Central African Republic—if you visit it, you'll need a double-entry visa). However, except for Zakouma, the parks have few animals left (most have been wiped out by poachers).

If you are spending any time in town, you might want to visit the museum, which contains photos, straw masks and some rather unusual items such as kitchen gadgets. The central market is also worth a peek, mostly for the people-watching. The highlight of the area is the annual December-January dance of the Mbororo nomads, immortalized in Werner Herzog's documentary Nomads of the Sun. The Woodabe, who establish a camp across the Chari River, perform a beauty contest where the men dress up like women—lavishly painted, tattooed, braided, beaded and feathered.

From Sarh, you can drive 75 mi/120 km east to Kyabe, an isolated agricultural town. It's the home of the Sara-Kabba people, an ethnic group known for their traditional dances, as well as the decorative scar patterns on their foreheads and cheeks. The area has a timeless quality about it—elders still light their pipes with rocks and flint, which they keep in a pouch around their necks. Traditional dance festivals take place during the October-November harvest time.

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