The dusty capital city of N'Djamena, near the Cameroon border, isn't really worthy of a visit by itself, but as the country's largest city (pop. 1.26 million), it often figures in a visit to Chad. You might want to take time to browse and people-watch in the market areas (those scattered about town are open only in the morning—the Central Market has longer hours). Should you find yourself in the city for more than a few hours, you might visit the National Museum, which has collections of Sarh culture dating back to the ninth century. There are some lively nightclubs in town, but ask the personnel at your hotel for tips on which venues are safest for visitors.

Note: Always carry your passport or a photo ID, and plan on showing it to the police if requested. Petty crime is common around markets and shopping areas.

N'Djamena is often the jumping off point for visits to Lake Chad, which begins about 50 mi/80 km northwest of the capital. To be honest, the lake is not that impressive—it has been shrinking in size for decades and sometimes dries up completely. Though the water level is highest just after the rainy season, the lake is never more than 5 ft/1.5 m deep. And the hippos that were once common along the shores have begun to disappear. Furthermore, touring Lake Chad is not all that convenient. The most interesting parts require a 185-mi/300-km drive from the capital. There, you can see traditional fishing and reed boats similar to those found on the shores of Lake Titicaca in Peru. Thor Heyerdahl tried to use the Chadian design to build his reed ship, Ra, to sail across the Atlantic, but it fell apart halfway across. (Ra II succeeded, with help from the Peruvians.) The lake is generally seen as a long and tiring day trip from N'Djamena—there's no place to stay in the vicinity of the lake aside from some camping areas. It's best to get a four-wheel-drive vehicle to negotiate the deep sand along the lakeshore. In 2015, Boko Haram militants from nearby Nigaria conducted suicide attacks in villages around Lake Chad and security in the area is tight. Most government travel advisories warn against visiting the area at this time.

Note: Don't wade or swim in the lake—bilharzia (a parasite that causes potentially fatal liver damage) is present in the water.

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