The climate is generally tropical. The northern areas are subject to harmattan winds, which are hot, dry, and carry dust. The northern regions have been subject to desertification, and the northeast is desert. The remainder of the country is prone to flooding from nearby rivers.
In the November 2008 issue of National Geographic, the Central African Republic was named the country least affected by light pollution and clear desert nights mean the skies are spectacular.
Until the early 1800s, the peoples of the CAR lived beyond the expanding Islamic frontier in the Sudanic zone of Africa and thus had relatively little contact with outsiders. During the first decades of the nineteenth century, however, Muslim traders increasingly began to penetrate the region of the CAR and to cultivate special relations with local leaders to facilitate their trade and settlement in the region. The initial arrival of Muslim traders in the early 1800s was relatively peaceful and depended upon the support of local peoples, but after about 1850, slave traders with well-armed soldiers began to penetrate the region.
European penetration of Central African territory began in the late nineteenth century during the so-called Scramble for Africa. The French, Belgian and British competed to establish their claims to territory in the Central African region.
In 1889 the French established a post on the Ubangi River at Bangui, the future capital of and the CAR and in 1894, the "French Congo's" borders with Belgian Congo Free State, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo and German Cameroon were fixed by diplomatic agreements. The French named their colony Ubang Shari.
On 1 December 1958 the colony of Ubangi-Shari became an autonomous territory and took the name Central African Republic. The founding father, Barthélémy Boganda, died in a mysterious plane accident in 1959, just eight days before the last elections of the colonial era. On 13 August 1960 the Central African Republic gained its independence and two of Boganda's closest aides became involved in a power struggle. David Dacko won and by 1962 had established a one-party state.
Since then a series of coups, including a notorious period under a self-declared emperor, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, and periodic violence from rebel groups, have dealt a very bad lot to the citizens of the Central African Republic. Today, this remains one of the most lawless, dangerous and unstable nations on earth.