Welcome to Djibouti City, a major shipping port and military base of operations on the horn of Africa…
… a place whose strategic location, religion, politics, corruption, and inhospitable climate conspire to create a perverse mix of wealth and poverty.
Where is Djibouti?
Despite its small size and arid climate, Djibouti’s location makes it one of the most strategically interesting countries in the entire world–first, as the southern gateway to the Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes–second, as a vital seaport for landlocked neighbor Ethiopia–and third, but not least, as an international military base of operations in the midst of one of the most dangerous, politically-unstable regions on the planet.
Djibouti is serviced by Ethiopian Airlines operating out of Addis Ababa…
Its location in the midst of some of the most politically unstable and dangerous countries in the world (Yemen, Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia) makes Djibouti a strategically important base of operations for American and European military powers.
Djibouti Passport Visa
As an American passport holder, I was able to get a visa upon arrival.
Notice the languages: French (a vestige of French colonialism) and Arabic…
The currency (Francs) is also a vestige of French colonialism…
$100 a night, no kidding–in a place of extreme poverty–a stark reminder of my freedom, safety, wealth, power, and privilege as an American citizen.
Djibouti Street Scenes
The Western military presence helps creates an atmosphere of relative calm and safety in a place where poverty, famine, unemployment, human trafficking, prostitution, and drug abuse are widespread.
The following photos beg a simple question (just one of many): What prevents a miniscule fraction of the countless megabucks coming in from outside military interests to trickle down to providing some shade for mothers and their children at the bus station?
Food & Drink
I don’t remember what this cost, but probably the equivalent of several day’s wages for a hard-working citizen here.
Shisha Bar on the Waterfront
Departing Djibouti, Another Lesson in Humility
[Frank hopes to turn this into a separate travel story]
As I arrived at the Djibouti airport to fly back to Addis Ababa, an assertive young man offered to fill out my exit paperwork. After needing a moment to understand what he was saying, I admired his initiative, handed him my passport, accepted his service, and tipped him generously. Yet another reminder of what a privileged bubble I live in.