Djibouti is a former French colony which gained its independence on 27 June 1977. As a heritage of the French colonial period, today French along with Arabic is one of the two official languages in the country. Although independent already for several decades, the small African country is still largely dependent on the financial support provided from France. Djibouti is the smallest country on the eastern coast of Africa and one of the smallest on the continent as a whole. It occupies an area of only 23,200 square kilometers and is located between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, on the coast of the Strait of Bab el Mandeb.
Djibouti is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Ethiopia to the west and south, and Somalia to the southeast. Across the Strait of Bab el Mandeb, about 26 km east of Djibouti, are the Arabian Peninsula and the continent of Asia.
The country is composed of 6 regions – Djibouti (the capital region and home to over two thirds of the population), Obock, Tadjoura (bearing the same name as the Bay of Tadjoura), Arta, Ali Sabieh and Dikhil (the most isolated and sparsely populated region in Djibouti).
Djibouti is one of the most arid and barren parts of Africa. Most of its territory is occupied by large, dusty and rocky plateaus, sandy deserts, barren mountain slopes and spectacular volcanic craters.
Here and there one sees a lonely dry bush or an umbrella-shaped shade throwing acacia tree. The endless desert landscape stretches out as far as you could see.
Covering an extensive wooded mountainous area not far from the ocean, the Dry Forest National Park is an oasis for the flora and fauna in the area. The park is the most green, lush and full of life corner in Djibouti.
Djibouti is practically devoid of permanent rivers, but in contrast, there are many salt lakes that stand out against the beige surrounding landscape. The largest salt lake in the country is Lake Abbe, attracting impressive flocks of pink flamingos.
It occupies an area of 450 sq.km. and reaches a depth of over 36 meters. Most of its territory, however, gets within the borders of neighboring Ethiopia.
Best known and perhaps the most beautiful, Lake Assal is a crater located about 157 meters below sea level, in the deepest depression in Africa. With 35‰ (parts per thousand) salinity, it is considered to be among the most saline lakes in the world.
It occupies an area of 54 sq.km. and in places reaches a depth of about 40 meters. Salt, water and sunlight create together an amazing play of colors and shades, which range from snow white through light blue, dark blue to greenish.
The salt precipitated on the shore forms strange-shaped salt figures resembling some kind of strange-looking mushrooms. Quite often you can see people to swim in the lake or local residents to sell made of salt figurines along the shore.
Though mostly occupied by deserts and semi-deserts, the country has a very rich fauna. Open and seemingly devoid of life areas are home to ostriches and various species of desert antelopes, oryx in particular.
This is a kind of antelope known for its long horns and large, massive body. For the ostrich, a fearful and vigilant bird, the lack of dense and high vegetation creates a feeling of security because large predators are unable to approach unnoticed.
The most arid and inhospitable places are home to the African wild ass, one of the most resistant to harsh conditions animals on the continent. Djibouti’s wilderness boasts an amazing variety of reptiles, including some very dangerous species of poisonous snakes.
They love to relax undisturbed under the tropical sun, but during the hot hours of the day regulate their body temperature by hiding in cool, shady places.
Djibouti is home to some typical large African predators such as lions, hyenas and cheetahs. Leopards inhabit some remote, quiet and forested areas.
The presence of dense vegetation is very important while the leopard hunts, because it helps the animal to enclose antelopes, wild boars and others. Dragging it up amidst the branches of the trees, the large cat protects its prey from other hungry predators.
Because of the absence of rivers and other freshwater bodies, crocodiles and hippos are rare in Djibouti. They can be found only in a few isolated regions such as Abbe Lake.
The warm and sunny shallows along the coast of Djibouti are full of various life forms. Under the surface of the Gulf of Tadjoura you will find beautiful coral reefs, harboring hundreds of species of fish, large and small sharks, sea turtles and crustaceans.
Amidst the waters of the gulf are located the islands of Moucha and Maskali. They are surrounded by clear blue lagoons and concentrate a huge wealth of species of sea creature. The islands boast beautiful white coral beaches and fresh green mangroves.
Djibouti is a developing country with a low standard of living and serious unemployment. The port is a major source of income for the local population.
Except from a transport point of view, ocean waters are very important also as a food source, especially given the low productivity of Djiboutian agriculture.
The country imports from abroad most fruits, vegetables and plant-based products as a whole. The country usually suffers from severe weather conditions that are extremely unfavorable also for stock-breeding.
Most people that breed animals in Djibouti are nomadic pastoralists. Nomadic farming is very popular in the country, because this is a way to be increased the chance of finding food for the herds. In the country are grown mainly goats, animals known for their resistance and unpretentiousness.
Djibouti’s population is around 906,000 inhabitants. Over 600,000 of them live in the capital city Djibouti, a large port city and an important economic center.
Most people living outside the capital are nomads, with the exception of the population of a few not very large towns and some typical small African villages. In religious terms, like most of North Africa, Djibouti is a mainly Muslim country.
About 95% of the total population consists of Muslims, and most of the other inhabitants are Christians. In terms of ethnicity, the majority of the local population is from the ethnic groups Somali and Afar.
Being located in the tropics not far from the Sahara Desert, Djibouti suffers from prolonged droughts combined with very hot weather. The country is one of the hottest in the world.
On the ocean coast the average daytime temperature in the shade in winter rarely falls below 30°C and in the heat of summer easily exceeds 40 – 41°C. During the hot midday hours the heat can be burning.
In the vicinity of Lake Assal are possible temperatures of over 50°C during the summer months! Rainfalls are very scarce throughout the year.
When to visit Djibouti? December, January and February offer the best conditions to travel to Djibouti. During this time of year the nights are pleasantly warm, and the average daytime temperatures are about 29 – 30°C.
How to get to Djibouti? The best way to get to Djibouti is by plane. Regular flights are available from different destinations around the world, including UAE, Yemen and other parts of Africa.
Probably the most regular flights, however, are between Djibouti and the French capital Paris.
What not to miss? Joining a safari group is the first thing to do when already in Djibouti. It is advisable also to visit one of the salt lakes (Lake Assal is recommended).
Do not miss to try fresh seafood, specialty of camel meat and diving with giant whale sharks in the Indian Ocean (although reaching up to about 12 metres, these sharks are very peaceful and do not pose a threat to humans).
Dangers. Being democratic and strongly influenced by France, Djibouti is considered to be among the less dangerous countries in Africa, especially compared to some neighboring African countries such as Somalia.
If you are planning to travel to Djibouti, however, it is advisable to beware of robberies and fraud with counterfeit and substandard goods. Note also that the risk of becoming a victim of a crime usually grows outside the capital city.
To take good care of your health before visiting the country, check with your doctor what vaccinations you need.
In Djibouti there is an increased risk of some infectious diseases such as hepatitis A and E, various types of fevers, especially yellow fever, malaria and many others.
It is believed that between 20 and 30 thousand people are infected with HIV / AIDS!