Djibouti, a little-known nation in the horn of Africa is a country of rich sea and landscapes, deep sorrows and conflicts, and a long, convoluted history. It’s one of Africa’s youngest nations, and although its neighbours have been caught up in border disputes, Djibouti has stayed free of recent conflict. It’s usually seen as little more as a transit point on the way to either Ethiopia or Eritrea, but it offers much more, including lunar type landscapes , verdant mountains, and wonderful beaches. Here are 15 things you didn’t know about Djibouti.
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This article originally appeared on AFKInsider.com.
1. Tiny package
Located in the Horn of Africa, this tiny country is the size of the state of Massachusetts, and only has a population of 800,000. In fact it’s the third smallest country in Africa (after Swaziland and the Gambia).
2. France in the Horn of Africa
Linguists and philatalists may have already guessed the colonial history of Djibouti correctly. Yes, it was a former French colony. And that would explain why only the French travellers seem to know about it as a destination.
3. It’s all in the pronunciation
Djibouti is actually pronounced ‘ji-boo-ti.’ Although it may be tempting to try to pronounce the D, you really shouldn’t. If you were to try to say ‘d-jib-out-i’ (which is quite a mouthful) you may get some strange looks. So go with ‘ji-booooo-ti’, with a nice long emphasis on the second syllable. Go on, give it a try!
4. Some like it hot
Djibouti is reckoned to be one of the hottest inhabited countries in the world. Imagine temperatures in excess of 45C/120F. And now that you’ve had to have a quick sit down from the very idea, imagine that, but with humidity. Or without, it all depends on how the climate there is feeling. Yet another reason Djibouti is not that popular as a tourist destination, and why chances are, you’ll have the open spaces to yourself.
5. How low can you go
This tiny country has the lowest elevation point in all of Africa. Lac Asal, or the Salt Lake, is 155 meters (509 feet) below sea level. That’s the third lowest depression on earth. And if that weren’t enough to tempt you, it’s also the second most saline (salty) lake in the world.
6. Whale sharks
These gentle giants are known to be in the Gulf of Tadjourah, and you can actually swim with a whale shark. There aren’t many places in the world (ok Western Australia, Australia) where you have this kind of opportunity.
7. So good they named it twice
Djibouti is the name of the country and also the name of the capital city. A handy trivia fact for trivia quiz buffs to have up their sleeves, and also a lovely fact to drop in conversation. “I’ve been to Djibouti, Djibouti. How about you?”
8. A bridge too far?
There is talk of building a bridge here to link Africa to the Arabian peninsula, and provide a road from China all the way to Cape Town, South Africa.
9. Peace in the Horn of Africa
Djibouti really is a peaceful country. In fact, personal ownership of guns is illegal (not the best place to shoot animals). So while you may rightly view Mogadishu and Somalia with caution, it is possible to visit here and not to worry.
10. Wide range of activities
For such a small country, Djibouti manages to offer a diverse range of activities. There’s hiking, eating succulent seafood (yes that’s a legitimate activity), watersports, windsurfing, as well as the more languid pursuits such as simply lazing on a sandy beach.
11. There are green mountains
Djibouti may be known as a sandy desert land, but it holds a surprise — the green Goda Mountains that stretch above the barren wastes like a welcoming surprise. The mountains shelter the nation’s only national park — the Forêt du Day National Park.
12. There’s fine cuisine
Djibouti inherited excellent taste in cuisine from its former French colonial masters. You’ll find a range of dishes to sample here, from French and European, to Yemeni or Ethiopian. And of course there is the fine bounty of the sea.
13. Taxis cost more after dark
Taxi fares in Djibouti, Djibouti increase 50% after sunset. So be warned and have extra money with you!
14. It’s got a US military base
Djibouti hosts the only US military base on African soil.
15. They celebrate Christmas
Although the country is 99% Muslim, the remainder are Orthodox Christian. You probably wouldn’t want to come here for a special “sandy” Christmas though, unless you don’t mind waiting a few weeks. The Orthodox Christmas falls on January 7, not December 25.