Exciting and cosmopolitan Djibouti City
I have just returned after spending a week in Djibouti, and it was an exhilarating visit to a city and the country. In a busy week, a colleague of mine and I managed to see a number of interesting spots, thanks to our Djiboutian friends who arranged the trip and vehicles for us. We headed out to Lace Abbe, known for its large limestone chimneys and pink flamingos, Lace Assal, the lowest point of elevation on the continent, and the port town of Tadjoura that dates back to the Middle Age and the Day Forest. Here is my first of two posts about Djibouti through pictures and narrative.
I just took a stroll in the city center the day we arrived and it was quite enjoyable. Djibouti is a melting-pot where the two principal habitants of the country, Somali and Afar blend with people from Yemen, Qatar, India, Ethiopia and Europe. Most people speak a vast range of languages, Afar, Somali, Arabic, French, Amharic and English. Noisy and vibrant, Djibouti city is a wonderful mix of warm people, and frenetic energy. The downtown area, with its French and Yemeni-style buildings and their arcades framing the streets, houses the administrative, commercial core of the country.
The economic heart of the city is the Marbout square–, to which all roads seemingly lead, and is surrounded by walkways. The modern installations for a deep water port, docks and warehouses are located. The Ethiopian Street is noted for its night life hotspot and there’s everything from casual pubs to nightclubs, frequented by the expatriate communities and the local alike. The street of the Mouches is a market where there are all kinds of beauty products, perfumes, jewelry and clothes. It buzzes with activity in the mornings. You can smell the various aromas and incense as you’re walking down back alleys. You can see the hawkers in front of their respective shops. Many of the shops are owned by the Arab upper class, whose number reaches around 10,000. Indian barbers appear to monopolize the trade, and the majority of barber shops are run by Indian male barbers. The jewelry stores are owned by the Senegalese, which I found curious.
In the market that midday we ate beans with rashush, delicious stretchy flat bread sprinkled with nigella seeds. Djibouti has some amazing food, most memorably, Skoudehkaris, pot stew of meat and rice simmered in a spiced tomato broth eaten before ‘Chat’ sessions. By the afternoon, Djibouti city gets very quiet and it’s not just the heat that folks are avoiding, but the national pastime – chewing ‘chat’, begins in earnest.
So I’ll end with pictures and it is a privilege to share just a bit of this country.