Djibouti City is the capital of Djibouti, an East African country occupying a strategic point at the mouth of the Red Sea. It is nestled between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia and serves as an important transshipment hub for goods from the east African highlands. The country is mostly made up of arid land, but also features a pristine coastal belt, volcanic plateaus and lush green mountains.
The city of Djibouti is located on a peninsula, jutting between the Gulf of Aden and the Gulf of Tadjoura and is home to 70% of the country’s population. It is, in fact, the only proper city in the country while the rest of the Djibouti people mainly live as nomadic herders.
There is no state religion, but the majority of the population (95%) is Islamic. Religious minorities also exist, such as Orthodox Greek, Protestant, and Roman Catholic.
Djibouti city has been influenced very strongly by the French. It is not a very attractive city and mostly serves as the transit point for visitors on the way to Eritrea or Ethiopia. It does, however, have interesting features worth exploring, such as the beaches along the eastern shore, a large Central Market, the national stadium Stade du Ville, the Presidential Palace, and Hamoudi Mosque.
There are various activities available in or from the city: hiking, diving, snorkeling with whale sharks, and even windsurfing on wheels. It provides a base for exploring the inland which abounds in marvelous natural features, such as dormant volcanoes, salty lakes, the Red Sea coast and the islands. The lush green mountains of Goda are a great place for hiking and are also an important religious site. The surreal salt plains at Lake Abbé and the sandy beach on the Gulf of Tadjoura are also worth visiting.
Djibouti has a very hot climate, which can be humid as well as arid. Summers are especially hot. The city, however, experiences sea breezes which alleviate the extreme heat of summer. In the period from October to April, temperatures are somewhat lower, and there is occasional rain as cyclones from the Indian Ocean bring heavy rains and flash flooding.
January average temperature 25 deg Celsius 10 mm rainfall February average temperature 25 deg Celsius, 3 mm rainfall March average temperature 25 deg Celsius, 10 mm rainfall April average temperature 27 deg Celsius, 10 mm rainfall May average temperature 30 deg Celsius, 8 mm rainfall June average temperature 32 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall July average temperature 35 deg Celsius, 5 mm rainfall August average temperature 33 deg Celsius, 8 mm rainfall September average temperature 31 deg Celsius, 3 mm rainfall October average temperature 28 deg Celsius, 13 mm rainfall November average temperature 26 deg Celsius, 20 mm rainfall December average temperature 25 deg Celsius, 13 mm rainfall
The city is served by the Ambouli Airport. From here there are regular flights to Europe and other African destinations.
Use the Green Taxi cabs but it is recommended to negotiate the price before entering the car. Note that getting around Djibouti is not cheap and due to the lack of infrastructure and regulation, taxis often inflate their prices.
The best beaches are located on the eastern shore and include Khor, Ambado and Dorale. The underwater world of the Djibouti coast is rich and colorful. Scuba diving in these waters is rewarded by marvelous reefs brimming with marine life. Between September and January, the migrating whale sharks stop here to rest. It is quite likely to also see unusual species such as the giant nudibranch and mobula rays. The best dive sites are located in the north, around the Seven Brother’s Islands.
Presidential Kempinsky Palace Central Market National stadium Stade du Ville Presidential Palace Hamoudi Mosque
Venturing further out:
Khor Ambado Beach
This soft sandy beach is peaceful and quiet and an ideal place for picnics or snorkeling.
One of the best known attractions in Djibouti, the salty Lake Abbé is one of a chain of six connected lakes. It lies on the border with Ethiopia in the Afar Depression, where three pieces of the Earth’s crust meet, pulling in different directions. The lake is also the mouth of the Awash River. The striking desolate area is well known for its white limestone chimneys, some taller than 50 meters, puffing out clouds of steam. Travelers come to marvel at the sunrise over Lake Abbé and to see pink flamingoes. Film aficionados may be interested to learn that some scenes of ‘Planet of the Apes’ had been shot in the area.
The Crater Lake, also known as Bahr al Assal, is located in the center of the country, about 120 km west of Djibouti city, in the Danakil Desert. The area, located at -155 meters below sea level, marks the lowest point on the African continent. The lake is famed to be the saltiest body of water on Earth; it is even saltier than the Dead Sea and ten times saltier than the ocean. Surrounded on all sides by dormant volcanoes, the lake is a majestic sight. The water is very warm; around 34° C and no fauna or flora lives in the thick water. It is a very popular place to bathe because of these qualities. The salt produced from the nearby saltpan is exported to Ethiopia.
To the northwest of the country lie these mystic green mountains that stand in harsh contrast to the generally arid landscape. The mountains are home to several indigenous tribes. Dittilou, Randa and Bankoualeand are all regions of the Foret du Dayy National Park, and all have great hiking trails. The most popular and holy place for Muslims in Djibouti is the tomb of Sheikh Abu Yazid, located in the Goda Mountains.
Tadjoura is located on the Gulf of Tadjoura, and is one of the oldest towns in Djibouti. It serves as a popular quiet place where visitors come to rest and fish, lie on the beaches, scuba, snorkel, and waterski. The town also offers pleasant lodging and eateries.
The country is 95% Islamic and the only non-Muslim holiday, holiday that is officially recognized, is Christmas. Independence Day on June 27 is the most important national holiday. On this day all Djiboutians come together in celebration of their national identity.
NATIONAL HOLIDAYS IN DJIBOUTI
New Year Day (January 1) Mouloud (Birth of the Prophet) Workers or Labour Day (May 1) Independence Day Eid ul-Fitr or Id-Ul-Fitr (End of Ramadan) Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) Islamic New Year Christmas Day (December 25)
Women in Djibouti wear long skirts and cover their faces with a veil. Married women also cover their head with a scarf. People wear traditional attire during the festivals. Family and local community play a crucial role in terms of education, culture and morals.
Djibouti enjoys a stable political situation. However, travelers should exercise caution when traveling to any remote area of Djibouti, especially near the borders with Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Tensions exist between neighboring Ethiopia and Eritrea due to their long-running border disputes. And, due to recent Eritrean incursion, practice extra caution near that border.
Crime that occurs is mostly petty theft. There have, however, also been more serious crimes such as home invasions, but still, major crimes are mostly not directed towards foreigners. Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods.
If trouble occurs, contact the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate.
Adequate medical facilities in Djibouti city are limited, and medicines are often unavailable. Take out full travel insurance before your trip.
Emergency Phone Numbers
Police - 17 Fire Department - 18 Ambulance - 35 13 51
U.S. Embassy Djibouti
Address: Plateau du Serpent, Boulevard Marechal Joffre, Djibouti City Phone: (253) 35-39-95
Djibouti has a hot climate. The period between May and September is especially hot, with average daily temperatures of 40° C, often peaking to 45° C and be aware that the humidity is high causing the temperature to feel hotter than it already is.
The best time to visit is during the cooler season, between mid-October and mid-April when average temperatures come down to around 25° C.