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Great Reasons to Visit Djibouti
The Broken Link Between Africa and Asia

Djibouti is a country situated on the Horn of Africa, next to the strategically important Gate of Tears (Bab el Mandeb), guarding the entrance to the Red Sea from the Indian Ocean via the Gulf of Aden. Twenty miles to the east, across the entrance to the Red Sea, lies the Yemen.

This small country has many unique features which make a visit very rewarding. Once a French colony, it has retained many French connections and cultural perspectives.


The size of the US State of Massachusetts, the country has a coastal plain backed by stony desert (where the French Foreign Legion trains), and behind that plateaux and highlands - particularly the Goda Massif in the north.

It is bordered on the on the west by Ethiopia - a major trading partner, on the south by Somalia, and on the north by Eritrea, and embraces the Gulf of Tadjoura. The Gulf leads by way of the Ghoubbet Pass into Lake Ghoubbet (the Devil's Cauldron).

One of the least hospitable places on earth, Lake Assal is a crater lake ringed by dormant volcanoes and black lava terrain. It is located in the Afar Depression, part of the Great African Rift Valley, 153 meters below sea level - the lowest point in Africa. Lake Assal's waters are the most saline in the world, containing over 34 percent salt.

It is a semi-presidential republic, and its territory is, divided into five regions and eleven districts. The country is named after its capital city, Djibouti.


The rare Djibouti Francolin - a partridge - inhabits the the Juniper forests in the Goda Massif - a highland area in the north. There is a wide range of raptors, and in the month of August there are remarkable gatherings of migrating birds.

Mammals include wild dogs, warthogs and, surprisingly, leopards. Velvet monkeys are found in the Day Forest National Park, where sixty percent of the wildlife in Djibouti lives. There are camels aplenty, and also herds of donkeys.


Lake Ghoubbet, less than ten mile across, is not deep and has no fresh water flowing into it. It is plankton rich and a major breeding area for the harmless whale-shark, which lives on plankton. In addition, there are at least two hundred species of coral, manta rays, barracuda, sailfish and marine life galore.


Djibouti offers little for the artist, unless a photographer, though the government is trying to develop this aspect. Without a university, there is no academic life to mention. Of course, for authors writing about Djibouti and the region in general, there is plenty of material.


Dairy products and meat from the herds are the traditional foods, supplemented by grain-based dishes. An Ethiopian bread recipe, injera, is very popular.

A feature of the diet is the chewing of the narcotic leaf, qat, imported fresh from Ethiopia. Qat is consumed recreationally by nearly all men and has a mild amphetamine effect.

Places to Stay

Most tourists stay in Djibouti City. There are numerous international hotels up to five star standard, and smaller local hotels. There is a beach holiday complex on Moucha Island, twenty minutes by boat from Djibouti. There are smaller hotels in other towns (for example Tadjoura), but quality is variable.


Djibouti City has a French naval presence, plus a US military base at Camp Lemonnier. So, a lot of the lively nocturnal activity has developed to meet their needs. There are numerous bars, caf├ęs, clubs and restaurants. Activities are rather more restrained at Plage des Sables Blancs.

How to get There

Many flights require a change at Sana'a (Yemen), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) or Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, although a new airline has recently started direct flights from London and Paris.

In summary, Djibouti is a land of compromise, politically stable in a region of uncertainty, with many unique natural features to offer the adventurous visitor, from exquisite white beaches to cool forest parks in the hills.

Phil Marks, Jan 2011

Find out more about the history importance of the Gate of Tears, where modern man first emerged, Djibouti, the Red Sea and the Yemen in a stunning novel set there. An intriguing blend of piracy, terrorism, gold fever, geopolitics and naval confrontation, and lots more to discover at


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