Introduction

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, the third largest country on the continent, is in Central Africa. It is often referred to as DR Congo, DROC, DRC or RDC to distinguish it from its neighbor, Republic of the Congo. The Congo borders Central African Republic, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Angola, and the Republic of the Congo. The country has a small 40-kilometer stretch of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. The capital City is Kinshasa, the country's largest city. It has a breathtaking array of wilderness, rainforest, rivers, and volcanoes. There are 26 provinces including the capital, and these are further divided into 192 territories.

People

The Congo's population is 66,020,00 people, making it 19th in the list of 223 countries by population, and it's annual performance economically is $20,738 billion, and $329 per person. The nationality is known as 'Congolese' and the most populous ethnic groups include Kongo, Luba, and Mongo, but there are as many as 250 ethnic groups. The current President is Joseph Kabila and the Prime Minister is Adolphe Muzito. The average age of men is 15.8 years, women 16.4 years for an average of 16.1 years. This low average age is a direct result of the large number of AIDS victims. There are approximately 42 births per 1000 people, and 10 deaths per 1000 people.

Geography

The DRC lies on the equator, with one-third north of the equator and two-thirds south of the equator. The Congo is about 2.3 million square kilometers, bigger than the combined areas of Spain, France, Germany, Sweden and Norway. Due to the location on the equator, the Congo has a tropical climate, with heavy rain and frequent thunderstorms; one of the highest frequencies in the world. It also has the second-largest rainforest in the world (behind the Amazon). The topography ranges from mountain to desert, and the Congo River System dominates most of the country. The Great Rift Valley plays a key role in shaping the geography. This mountainous area provides low levels of volcanic activity due to the rift's active tectonic plates.

History

Early history of the Congo showed people in the Northern parts during the second Millennium BC. Here they developed agriculture and aboroculture based on the oil palm. From around 3,500 BC to 2,000 BC the first tool-making people traveled south to where the first villages were established and people began smelting iron. European exploration took place between 1870s and 1920s. King Leopold II of Belgium acquired the rights to Congo territory in 1885, naming it the Congo Free State. He had a reailway built along with other projects, which led to the exploitation of Africans. During 1960-1965 there was a political crisis and the Congo had many governments. Joseph-Desire Mobutu overthrew the leader in 1965 and the country was then named Zaire until 1997, when Mobutu was forced from the country and the nation reclaimed the original name. Since then there have been many civil wars and invasions.

Famous Attractions

The Congo has many attractions, but the most compelling is the beauty of nature. The rainforests should definitely be at the top of your list of places to see and experience. Odzala National Park, located within the rainforest, is one of Africa's least known tropical forest ecosystems where you may see gorillas, monkeys, and even elephants. Brazzaville is one of the Congo's safest cities, situated on the bank of the Congo River. There is also the National Museum and municipal gardens. In the Capital city, Kinshasa, there is a large collection of prehistoric and ethnographic artifacts at Kinshasa University.

Nightlife

Tourism is quite underdeveloped in the Congo, but there are market stalls and a thriving nightlife. There is a large selection of bars, nightclubs and pubs, especially in the capital, and many dance clubs and restaurants where you can try the local cuisine.

Culture

The Culture in the Congo reflects the many ethnic groups that live within the country. A popular and notable feature is the music, with blended musical sources to make soukous, the popular local genre. The Congo is also well known for its art, with masks and wooden statues. The official language is French, but there are around 242 spoken languages in the Congo. The national languages after French are Kikongo, Lingala, Tshiluba, and Swahili. The majority religion in the Congo is Christianity, mostly Roman Catholic, followed by about 80% of the population. From the remaining 20% of the population, about half are Muslim, and the rest have traditional beliefs including spirit worship and witchcraft. Three ministries govern education in the Congo. The education system is similar to that of Belgium, with about 19,000 primary schools and 8,000 secondary schools, serving a total of 270,000 students all together. Primary school education is, however, not compulsory, free or universal, and many children cannot go to school due to enrollment fees.

Cuisine

Most of the cultivated land, only around 2%, is used for farming. People gather fruit, mushrooms, honey etc. Many of the meals consist of starchy foods, with vegetables and meat usually in a stew. There is a popular starchy paste or mash, called fufu, rolled into small balls and dipped into the stew. Lituma is a popular dish made from mashed plantains formed into balls and baked. Sweet potatoes are also popular along with peanuts in some parts of the country. Fish are plentiful in the river and are baked, boiled, or fried, and eaten right away. Some preserved by smoking or salting. Goat is the most widely eaten meat, and insects such as grasshoppers and caterpillars are eaten. Popular sauces are made using tomatoes, onions and local herbs. Vegetable oil, salt, chili peppers and green peppers are also used.