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Friday, March 28, 2008

Now in Djibouti: 164th country; Port City State at the mouth of the Red Sea

Djibouti: 164th country; Port City State at the mouth of the Red Sea
Friday 28 March 2008
Flew Ethiopian Airlines to Djibouti. After 2 weeks in Ethiopia where there were many tourists, I seemed to be the only real tourist landed here. The rest appeared to be businessmen and diplomats. Back to French speaking world again and the very high costs associated with over-valued currencies. Everything here is more expensive than Ethiopia, though marginally cheaper than French West Africa.
I shared the taxi with a French Foreign Legionaire on the way back to camp. The taxi driver went on about how business-like and touristy Djibouti is, but I hardly see any tourists nor the kind of bustling business or commerce he spoke about. Instead, the whole of Djibouti is a dead city, as it shuts down on Friday, like other staunch Islamic countries.
He drove me to Hotel de France but it was closed and we went to Hotel Horseed instead. Costs 6000 DF one night here. That's about US$34. It does not even include an en suite bathroom. For this amount, you get a nice modern room in Addis Ababa with bathroom and possibly WIFI. But at least the room is clean, people are friendly and the common bathroom appears unutlised. There is a cybercafé next door, which is wonderful.
Walked around the city, which is very small. People are friendly and greeted me, either in French or Arabic. Both are official languages in this country with two main ethnic groups, the Afars and the Somalis. Like Singapore, Djibouti is a small country with an important port. Djibouti lies at the strategic southern entrance of the Red Sea, just opposite Aden in Yemen. Djibouti sometimes call itself the "Singapore of the Red Sea" or "Singapore of Africa". Many people here chew qat (as in Yemen) the whole day. This is one major difference with Singapore. We don't chew narcotics as a past time.
I'm told the embassies would open tomorrow. I will go early to the Eritrean Embassy to try get the visa, then book a flight there. Don't know if there is a Sudan Embassy here. Met a number of people in Addis who were in Sudan and they all raved about how wonderful the country is. I'm tempted.

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