The brightly coloured national flag of Djibouti was first raised on the day of the independence - June 27, 1977. The red star represents unity and has 5 points to indicate that the Somali people live in 5 places. Green is for the earth, blue symbolises the sky and white represents peace. The hoist side is where the red star is.
Djibouti is the main training area for military personnel from many countries. I was told it has the same terrain as Afghanistan. Certainly there is a very strong military presence from all corners of the world wherever you go - Spain, Italy, UK, USA, France and Sudan to name a few.
While on our boat trip we regularly saw fighter jets flying low over the boat - I thought it best not to get a photo of one, but managed this sneaky pic of a training exercise on the beach.
Qat is a green plant that is used in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Yemen and Somalia to give a mild amphetamine effect when chewed. Eritrea is too dry to grow much so the Qat is imported from Ethiopia. It has to be fresh the day it is picked so it is flown in and waiting cars speed the Qat to the sellers throughout the country. Qat is particularly popular in Yemen where it is widely cultivated and used. For more information on Qat see my
1 Djibouti franc = 100 centimes and prices, by African standards, are high There are exchange places in Djibouti Ville and at the airport to cash traveller’s cheques and exchange cash note. Banks have working ATM’s as well. Notes always look old and faded.
Coins: 10, 20, 50, 100, 500
Notes: 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000
Water does run out here. They do desalinate water from the sea, but there are water stoppages anyway. That is why you will find large water containers in your bathroom if you stay in budget accommodation. If you are working/living here then you need to get one of these with a lid to keep it from evaporating. I was luck and managed to always shower when the water was on, but it once went off briefly just before I got in one day. Keep it filled up!
Djibouti is not that far from the Euqator and also at sea level. That makes it a very hot place. These pictures show me taking the temperature on 2 different days. Mostly the reading was 33 degree Celsius = 91.4 degree Fahrenheit. This is in the shade. In December. Yep, in WINTER! Local people told me they thought it was now cool. And the wind does not blow that often. So dress as cool as you can (but no shorts) and drink plenty of water.
Djibouti uses the standard ‘European’ 2 round pin plug and operates on 220 V 50 Hz. You may come across the safer plug with a male grounding pin, but not very often! British visitors can use a standard adapter like they do for Spain.
Djiboutians are chat addicts. Chat is a plant grown in Ethiopia and is a mildly-stimulating narcotic. You can chew its leaves, it should stimulate thinking and creativity. I was invited by a friend I met on the Dire Dawa-Djibouti bus to try it, but I didn't feel it getting into my head too much.
It's interesting that much of Djibouti's social life evolves around chat. People meet in the afternoon just to sit down, chew and talk. Many of the shops and institutions open around 7:30 or 8 and work until the lunch break at 1pm. In the afternoon it's not uncomoon that they don't open at all as people just go and chew...
Obviously chewing is much more popular among men than among women...
The Afar tribe, also known as the Danakil, is one of two main ethnic groups in Djibouti. They make up about 40 percent of the country's population, which is estimated to be between 130,000 and 170,000. Members of the tribe also live in parts of nearby Ethiopia and Eritrea. The other main group in Djibouti is the Issa tribe, which has close ties to Somalia. In Djibouti, the Afars live under the domination of the Issas, and are often discriminated against. (There was a short-lived civil war between the Afars and Issas that ended in 2001). As a result, many of the Afars prefer to live far from cities and towns, and have little involvement in "modern" Djibouti.
The Afars claim to be of Arabian origin, but their language and animistic practices suggest descent from neighboring Cushite peoples. They are a nomadic tribe, moving from highlands to lowlands with the seasons and the availability of water. While moving across the countryside, they carry their domed huts with them and reassemble them at each campsite. Traditionally, the huts were covered with mats woven from palm fronds, but nowadays, many use plastic tarpaulins, as pictured here. Most Afars eke a living out of their harsh environment by tending herds of goats. However, many are involved in the salt or fish trades.
The territory inhabited by the Afars is arid and consists of bare rocky desert, salt flats, and acacia scrub. Due to the harshness of the land in which they live, the Afars are frequently affected by drought and famine.
People in Djibouti speak local languages, including Arabic, and French. They generally do not speak English.
I was in a group of divers, most coming from England. The English divers had obviously not researched Djibouti well because they expected to be understood by everyone.
Djibouti is one of a few places on Earth where you will not get away with English, so please, for your own enjoyment, learn a few words of French. This will enhance your experience of Djibouti, allow you to communicate with its inhabitants and you will receive better service because people will understand you!
If you are very lucky, while on a trip to Lake Assal, you might see a caravan of camels going to or coming back from Ethiopia.
The Afar tribe still undertakes the 4-day trip to Ethiopia to barter their salt for corn flour in the local markets. They then come back (another 4 days!).
Please respect them and be discreet when taking pictures. They do not like to have their photograph taken so if you see them, take only a picture or two and always from a distance.
If you are driving your own vehicle, slow right down when passing the caravan.
If you can read French, follow this link for a book about the salt caravans of Djibouti:
Since djiboutians are mostly muslims, you can greet them by saying "assalamalaikum" meaning "peace be upon you".
If uou speak french, read the Marie Christine Aubry book 'Djibouti l'ignoré'
a great book to understand the cultural and history development of Djibouti
Llot Du Heron, DJIBOUTI, DJ
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
Let us start with the service or lack of. Whether it is begging to get served at the bar while...more
Siesta Beach, Djibouti, 555, Djibouti
Good for: Couples
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