• Djibouti,
    © iStockphoto.com / Mtcurado
  • Djibouti
    © Vladimir Golubev / 123RF
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Djibouti

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
Surrounded by Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, Djibouti is a very small country. Independent from France since 1977, the country has managed to make a name for itself and has a decent quality of life today and those who travel to Djibouti will not be let down. Opening on the Gulf of Tadjoura and the Gulf of Aden, Djibouti benefits from the most amazing underwater life, in a sea that is always at a good temperature. The underwater landscapes are as unique as the ones found on land. Its hot water lakes are surrounded by lunar and desert landscapes. If you add that to the nomad tribes here, then you have a total change of scenery.

Our Editorial team's advice

In our imagination, Djibouti has a perfume of adventure, of danger and hot sand. Rimbaud, Monfreid, Kessel, Londres and Gary, many of them spent parts of their life on those shores. The grounds are set for lyrical chants : feathered feet travellers, pirates and slave merchants, fierce camel herders, indigenous beauties with an absent stare, telluric energy and obsessive heat... The reality is somewhat less exotic. Today, the caravans grouped in the wadi or the Dhows leaving for Aden transport more video players and video tapes than salt from the lake of Assal. And train attacks by armed gangs don't happen any more. Farewell fantasies, farewell tropics ! We are left with the leisures you would be wrong to deprive yourself of : underwater diving, big game fishing, wind carts, cruises in
4 x 4 or camel rides escorting the salt caravans. And who knows, the adventure could be at the end of the path.

pros

  • +An incredible underwater life, amongst the most exceptional on the planet, in a sea that is always warm.
  • +A practical and comfortable base to visit the region : Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea.
  • +A scent of incense and adventure, following in the footsteps of great travel writers : Rimbaud, Monfreid, Kessel, Londres, Gary...
  • +The discovery of a lost Francophone district, that mixes the Orientalism and provincialism worthy of any typical French department.

cons

  • -A cultural desert, meaning there is not much to see.
  • -The French Foreign Legion, with its soldiers in beige shorts, and a bunch of Occidentals very keen on prostitution.
  • -From May to September, the heat is unbearable, the temperatures rise to 45°C. It is a real oven.

Traditions

The Afar are pastoral nomad tribes that travel through the desert with their sheep and camel herds. Their social structure is very hierarchical. Authority used to be in the hands of the sultans. The only one left is in Tadjoura, and his role is strictly honorary. The Afar are polygamous, but the women do not wear the veil, although many of them are still victims of female circumcision and infibulation. The Issa are also Muslim nomads. They move around freely between Djibouti and Somalia. The Afar and Issa, long term enemies, are renowned for their warlike customs. Disputes over cattle, pastoral land and water points, used to turn into bloody conflicts. A young man could not even consider marrying if he had not killed at least one enemy, and the custom was to take his manly attributes as a trophy. Nowadays, the conflicts are rare, but a nomad will never separate from his dagger and firearm. In the evening, the families unite in round hut camps called Toukouls. On the condition that you are introduced, you can benefit from their hospitality, and be invited for tea and food in the tent. In town, as soon as the afternoon begins, people forget about their activities and meet up in houses, where ,lying down on mats and cushions, they chew some khat for hours, a euphoric plant, and real social pest. The Djiboutians consume up to 15 tons of khat every year ! Even though the local population is relatively tolerant, you should, as in all Muslim countries, dress correctly and conserve good manners.

Food

Djibouti is full of nice little restaurants. You can eat a little bit of everything : spaghetti and pizza, fish, camel meat or turtle steak. You can taste European dishes, but also Ethiopian specialities (Watt) or Yemeni ones (oven cooked fish), and even lobsters. Amongst the famous restaurants : La reine de Saba, Le Parisien, La Sirène de l'Escale, le Golfe and le Kokeb. For smaller budgets, there is the fatira, a kind of omelette with tomatoes, onions and meat; chawarmas, diced meat with salad, tomatoes, onions and and chips; or even samosas (fried meat pastry). As for drinks, you can find delicious fruit juices everywhere, shaï tea (tea with cinnamon, clove and cardamom), and alcoholic beverages in European restaurants.

Ideal Weather Search

Find weekly weather forecasts for Djibouti . Different criteria make it possible to predict with precision the best time of year to go to Djibouti . A comprehensive weather score, made up of temperature indicators, bad weather predictions, sunshine levels and wind speeds, will allow you to choose the activities best suited to the weather conditions and therefore make the most of your holiday in Djibouti .

Souvenirs

Things to bring back : mainly the nomad tribe's crafts. Sculpted daggers, weaved objects, amber or malachite necklaces, silver jewellry, sculpted wooden head-stand, khôl, spices and incense. Many of the craft objects found on the merchant stalls or in shops come from Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia, or even Kenya. Shops are open from 8 am. until 12 pm. and from 4.30 until 7.30 pm and closed on Fridays.