Capital | Djibouti City
Population | 516,055 (July 2009 est.)
Area | 23,000 sq km
Official language | French, Arabic
Holidays | Independence Day, 27 June (1977)
Currency | Djiboutian francs (DJF)
Time Zone | UTC+3
Best time to visit | November to mid April when the weather is coolest.
Connecting with the Culture | Exploring the great sal lake of Lac Assal. Visiting the weird, lunar landscape of Lac Abbe at dawn. Snorkeling the stunning coral reefs off Djibouti’s Red Sea coast. Spotting birds and animals in the Foret du Day national park. Trekking behind the Afar nomads and their caravans along the ancient salt route. Sharing a poisson yemenite (fish supper) with the locals.
Read | Khamsine, a collection of lyrical, sometimes semi-erotic, poems by Djiboutian poet William JF Syad.
Listen | to solo guitarist Aidarous and Guux musician Taha Nahari.
Watch | Total Eclipse, which was made in part in Djibouti.
Eat | local foie (liver) for breakfast and cabri farci (stuffed kid) for lunch.
Drink | the fizzy and slightly salty local bottled water or tea.
In a word | Salam ealekum (greetings)
Characteristics | Nomads, men chewing qat; arid deserts; the Red Sea; the civil war; camels. Many Afar nomads still file their front teeth into ferocious looking points; Afar huts are usually spherical, while Somali huts are more quadrangular in design.
Surprises | Djibouti’s strangely seductive blend of African, Arab, Indian and European influences is seasoned with a hefty dose of qat, the mildly intoxicating herb that is chewed by most males and sets the county’s pace to unhurried. The capital city of Djibouti city is unforgettable, filled with traditionally robed tribesman and French legionnaires, hennaed women and Somali refugees, and filled with the aromas of French cuisine and local bars. Away from the coast, the inland is a treat of eerie volcanic landscapes and vast salt lakes.