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Honeymoon in Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly known as Zaire) is no longer considered risky, however tourism is not recommended at this time.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (République Démocratique du Congo) (abbreviated:DROC) is a country in Central Africa. It straddles the Equator and is surrounded by Angola to the southwest (Angola's discontiguous Cabinda Province lies to the west and north of a very narrow strip of land that controls the lower Congo River and is only outlet to South Atlantic Ocean), Republic of the Congo to the northwest, Central African Republic to the north, Sudan to the northeast, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania in the east from north to south, and Zambia to the southeast.

The country has formerly been known as Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Congo or Zaire. The country is also known as Congo-Kinshasa to distinguish it from its northern neighbor, the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville).

Understand

The country has had a tumultuous recent history. Congolese politics have been dominated by the civil war in neighbouring Rwanda, with the influx of refugees from that conflict adding to the factional disputes following Mobutu's overthrow. Active civil war has been taking place on Congolese territory since approximately 1998. Joseph Kabila has established a government of national unity; however, bitter divisions still exist nationwide, and the situation is unstable at this time.

This country is truly vast. At 2,345,408 square kilometres (905,567 sq mi), it is larger than the combined areas of Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Norway.

History

Mobutu Sese Seko was president from 24 November 1965 until forced into exile on 16 May 1997 when his government was overthrown militarily by Laurent Kabila.

Kabila immediately assumed governing authority, but his regime was subsequently challenged by a Rwanda- and Uganda-backed rebellion in August 1998. Troops from Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Chad, and Sudan intervened to support the Kinshasa regime. A cease-fire was signed on 10 July 1999 by the DROC, Zimbabwe, Angola, Uganda, Namibia, Rwanda, and Congolese armed rebel groups, but sporadic fighting continued.

Kabila was assassinated in January 2001 and was succeeded by his son Joseph Kabila. In October 2002, the new president was successful in getting occupying Rwandan forces to withdraw from eastern Congo; two months later, an agreement was signed by all remaining warring parties to end the fighting and set up a government of national unity.

honeymoon in congo

Climate

The country straddles the Equator, with one-third to the North and two-thirds to the South. As a result of this equatorial location, the Congo experiences large amounts of precipitation and has the highest frequency of thunderstorms in the world. The annual rainfall can total upwards of 80 inches (2,032 mm) in some places, and the area sustains the second largest rain forest in the world (after that of the Amazon). This massive expanse of lush jungle covers most of the vast, low-lying central basin of the river, which slopes toward the Atlantic Ocean in the West. This area is surrounded by plateaus merging into savannas in the south and southwest, by mountainous terraces in the west, and dense grasslands extending beyond the Congo River in the north. High, glaciated mountains are found in the extreme eastern region.

Language

French is the lingua franca of the country and nearly everyone has a basic to moderate understanding of French. In Kinshasa and much of the Western DRC, nearly everyone is fluent in French with Kinshasa being the second or third largest French-speaking city in the world (depending on your source), although locals may be heard speaking Lingala amongst themselves. Much of the eastern and southern half speaks Swahili or related languages. The rest of the country speaks either Kikongo, Lingala, Tshiluba, or a smaller tribal language.

What to see

Epulu River

The "Academie des Beaux-Arts" is often considered a touristic site and is in itself and with its gallery a good place to meet the famous artists of this country. Big names like Alfred Liyolo, Lema Kusa oder Roger Botembe are teaching here as well as the only purely abstract working artist Henri Kalama Akulez, whose private studio is worth a visit.

What to do

Congo is the centre of popular African music. The rhythms are irresistible, once you get the feel for it. Try visiting a local bar or disco, in Bandal or Matonge (both in Kinshasa), if possible with live soukouss music, and just hit the dance floor!

What to buy

The currency is the Congolese franc. Banknotes are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 centimes, 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 francs. The only Congolese bank notes currently in circulation in most places are the 50, 100, 200 and 500 franc notes. They are almost worthless, as the highest valued banknote (the 500 franc note) is worth only about US $0.90.

US dollars in denominations above $2 are much preferred to francs. In contrast, US coins and $1 and $2 US notes are considered worthless. Note that if you pay in dollars, you will get change in francs. Though francs may sometimes come in bills so old they feel like fabric, US notes must be crisp (less than 3 folds) and bwe printed in or after 2003, or they will not be accepted.

In some shops, the symbol FF is used to mean 1000 Francs, and 1 US Dollar is considered equivalent to 1000 Francs

There are some supermarkets in Gombe commune of Kinshasa that sell food and drinks, soap, kitchen devices and bazar: City Market, Peloustore, Kin Mart, Hasson's.

SIM cards and prepaid recharge for mobile phones are available in the street and at Ndjili airport, at a reasonable price.

Money

Mastercard/Maestro ATMs are available now in Kinshasa at the "Rawbank" on boulevard du 30 Juin (Gombe District), and in Grand Hotel. It spits out USD$. Visa card are also usable with "Procredit" bank ATMs in Kinshasa, avenue des Aviateurs, or outside in front of Grand Hotel (only $20 and $100 notes).

Food

Congo has one national dish: moambe. It's made of eight ingredients (moambe is the Lingala word for eight): palm nuts, chicken, fish, peanuts, rice, cassave leaves, bananas and hot pepper sauce.

Drink

Do not drink the local water. Bottled water seems to be cheap enough, but sometimes hard to find for a good price. The usual soft drinks (called sucré in Congo) such as Coke, Pepsi, Um Bongo and Mirinda are available in most places and are safe to drink. Local drinks like Vitalo are amazing. Traditional drinks like ginger are also common.

The local beer is based on rice, and tastes quite good. It comes in 75 cl bottles. Primus, Skol, Castel are the most common brands. Tembo, Doppel are the dark local beers.

In rural areas, you may try the local palm wine, an alcoholic beverage from the sap of the palm tree. It is tapped right from the tree, and begins fermenting immediately after collection. After two hours, fermentation yields an aromatic wine of up to 4% alcohol content, mildly intoxicating and sweet. The wine may be allowed to ferment longer, up to a day, to yield a stronger, more sour and acidic taste, which some people prefer.

Beware of the local gin. The distillation process, if not controlled properly, can generate methanol instead of ethanol, which is toxic and can cause blindness.

Accommodation

There are more and more hotels in Kinshasa, with smaller hotels available in Gombe and Ngaliema area.

Source: Wikitravel.org

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