backpacking in djibouti

  • Population: 721,000 (UN, 2005)
  • Capital: Djibouti
  • Area: 23,200 sq km (8,950 sq miles)
  • Major languages: French, Arabic, Somali, Afar
  • Major religion: Islam
  • Life expectancy: 51 years (men), 54 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 Djiboutian franc = 100 centimes


Backpacking in Djibouti

Republic of Djibouti is another one of Africa’s hidden gems. Surely there’s something to discover in here but it is more the “hidden” character of a gem that such nation is called. Locating this gem, Djibouti is snuggled between Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. The country is unheard of from a relative to an absolute degree. More about the country, Djibouti is mainly used as military base to guard and patrol the Gulf of Aden. It also is one of the two places in the world where the earth’s mantle is at its thinnest of 20 kilometres, the other being Iceland.

This area and that surrounding the country are volcanic, hence providing awesome character to the landscape. There are unique places and faces to see, eccentric flora to behold, and amazing opportunities to seek. The traveller may require the company of a guide for more surprising facts and information on the sights and sounds beyond the salt lakes, dolphins, and whale sharks– the kind books and history teachers can’t provide. Such facts include Djibouti as the film site of the original Planet of the Apes, not far from Lac Assal. But the bandwagon of bribery and corruption that is ever-present in Africa has had Djibouti rolling along.


backpacking in djibouti

Djibouti (11 30 N, 43 00 E) is a G-shaped landlot in Northeast Africa that has an area of 23,200 km2 of a stony coastal semi-desert terrain with scattered plateaus interrupted by central mountains. The highest of these mountains is the Moussa Ali with a summit of 2,028 m, but the lowest point of Djibouti has more claim to fame. The Lac Assal sunk -155 m below sea level is the lowest point in all of Africa, and is a lake that is even saltier than the Dead Sea.


The small republic has a stinking hot and dry desert climate rendering but 0.04% of land arable, hence agriculture is a simple “NA” on the records. It is the climate, add the close proximity of the surface to the mantle that credits for the hot-ass temperatures here. October through April are the cooler months fortunately visited by occasional rains.


The Djiboutians record a population of around 740,528 people, with the majority split between Somalis (60%) and Afars (35%). Among the 15,000 foreigners in Djibouti of French, Italian, Arab, and Ethiopian ancestry, the French outnumber the rest. Almost 70% of the population live in the capital city.


Almost all of the Djiboutians are Cushtic-speaking peoples. Basically SOMALI and AFAR are the most widely spoken languages, albeit, FRENCH and ARABIC are the official languages.


Nearly all the Djiboutians are Muslims, Islam being the state religion, covering 94% of the population as adherents. Christians, who comprise 6% of the population, are predominantly foreign nationals residing in Djibouti. More importantly, the constitution acknowledges equality of citizens notwithstanding faith and worship, who are therefore free to practice their religious practices and traditions. Djiboutian Muslims possess the freedom to convert and intermarry with one of a different faith, but negative social stigmas are unpredictable and unavoidable.


Diving head first into Djiboutian culture would lead the traveller to the capital city of Djibouti City where the lot of the inhabitants reside. Not only this, Djibouti City is right on the forefront geographically and that of the tourist infrastructure development. In this relentless volcanic-and-desert heat, the traveller will witness fascinating architectural marvels such as the Djibouti Church. There are different sorts of activities like water sports and diving, kite flying, and shopping at the Marche Central at the Blvd De Bender. Plus, the beaches of the city itself are just glorious. Now this is “full access.” Money talks in Djibouti, not because Djiboutians are scumbags.  It is just practical, period. Tips and bribery (for those unlucky situations) are highly recommended in these parts, need the indie traveller know.

A few km’s from Djibouti City, the Isle de Moucha is known for beautiful diving and beaches. At the Le Lagon Bleu Dive Shop, gear and wear are rented out for the celebrated whale shark- and dolphin-sighting, where 50 or more at a time of those lovely creatures would be swimming with your boat, of course, depending on season and their shyness. But, don’t count on Lac Assal for swimming as that is virtually impossible. More saline than the Dead Sea, three-quarters of your body mass will float above the water. So much salt cramped on the edges of the lake, this is the start of the Salt Caravan. And there’s so much more! Volcanic as the landscape is, there are quite a few “HOT” hot springs where the water is hotter than a bath – definitely non-swimmable.

Djibouti cuisine sparks more curiosity for it is more unknown than the country per se. There’s a lot to eat in Djibouti, both local and international food fare like Yemeni eateries. Also, expect fusion foods and restos all over, the oddest of which would be a Japanese-Greek-French fusion. But all three laudably delectable and perfect cuisines in one is a perfect combination, I’d have you believe. Comes with a price though, so to the local restaurants for something worth your while and money – more courteous service too. The indigenous/local food fare is affordable and amazing, I’d say well underdeveloped and well on its way to being part of world cuisine.


Enjoy the fah-fah, steamylocal soup of meat and vegetables right on the warm beach, or the skoudelkharis that is lamb and peppers in tomato sauce served with Djiboutian rice for a more full and satisfying meal. The fish in sauce, marake kaloune is salubrious and savory, but the grilled meats and fish are utterly sinful. Sure, they got camel, turtle steaks, and all that not-for- the-faint-of-heart dishes. Camel fat is the last thing you want rolling in your mouth and memory for your entire stay.


Backpacking in Djibouti

Backpacking Addictz looks at Backpacking in Djibouti.

Joshua Boorman

Joshua Boorman

Founder & Editor in Chief at Backpacking Addictz
Come with me on a journey with me to various destinations throughout the world. We discuss all things Backpacking, Lifestyle Design & Online Business to help you achieve new found freedom and create a life of meaningful fulfillment.
Joshua Boorman

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