Djibuti (it’s a country)

5 Aug

Falling off the map can be good for you.


Patrick and I headed to Djibouti, a country we knew virtually nothing about. All we knew was that it contained the lowest point in Africa, and that this was probably the closest to Somalia (Somaliand) that I’d ever get (less than 30km).

When we arrived (neat video), we learned several things right off the bat:

  1. Djibuti is hot as hell. It was 108 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Their flag has the most gorgeous color blue in it.

  3. We were confident that we would only be at Djibouti International Airport twice in our lifetimes: once when we landed, and once when we departed.

  4. We were going to get ripped off on on the ride to our hotel because we hadn’t looked up the exchange rates. Djibouti, we learned quickly, is an expensive country. 



Djsweating my booty off.



Pimp my ride: Djibouti Edition


Early the next morning we met up with a Couchsurfer, Jon from Turkey, who offered to drive his company’s four-wheel drive for an adventure across this desolate part of the world to Lac Assal — the 2nd lowest point in the entire world (the first being the Dead Sea).



Scenes from the long drive.



I spy with my little eye something tan


Salt road > dirt road 🙂


On the drive, we played the question game. One question was, “When was the last time it took you longer than you thought it would to get somewhere?”  Jon decided that the next time he had to answer that question his answer would be this trip to Lac Assal.  Because it did take us a while to reach the Lac — there were so many trucks and traffic — Djibouti has an important location directly next to the Red Sea, with an Italian, French, Japanese, and US military base. Fun Fact: The Japanese Djibouti base is their only overseas base. It was crazy to see all the military in this small country and, as always, it drove home the point that there are so many things I don’t know about this world.

We also passed a lot of trucks heading to Ethiopia to deliver goods on land, we saw a (maybe) antelope, and a truck carcass on the side of the road as if it were some kind of warning about what was coming up (read: desolation).  We also noticed barrels of water being delivered to the very few people who lived along the road out this way.  Water is a precious, precious commodity in the desert.  And no one actually lives in Lac Assal because it’s uninhabitable as it’s…well, it’s salt.



Djibuti call



Pro tip: Don’t shave before you get in the water.


This is a video of pure salt:



We explored, tested the waters and tried to float.  We found some natural salt balls.  And, at one point, I fell into a hole, got some cuts.  Ouch.  The salt was sharp and rubbed into my wound.  Patrick, on the other hand, was feeling playful in the water, like an otter; he was loving the opportunity to float IN THE REAL WORLD.  It was sensory deprivation but with no boundaries. 


Afterwords, we all rinsed off with some dear fresh water, we had bought extra for this exact purpose.  The salt was so strong you wouldn’t want to let it sit on your skin for any length of time.  



Salt safety 101: wear shoes


When we got back from our salty excursion, we said goodbye to Jon and met up with another Couchsurfer, Douchan, who owned the best restaurant in town and graciously let us sleep in his spare bedroom.  Douchan was working the whole time and was also hosting a Spanish and a French couchsurfer — two solo female travelers in Africa, which I thought was pretty awesome. 



Fish two ways



Will risk getting rabies to pet.


For the next few days or so, we tried to figure out what to Dj-do in Djibouti. It was tough, actually, there wasn’t much to see AND it was atrociously hot outside.   We assumed the most popular Tinder profile in Djibouti would be something like: I have AC and a backup generator. #Heartbreaker.  We went to some markets, but when we found something we wanted to eat, the smell around us was so bad that we already had lost our appetite

We would wake up and for no reason I would still be tired.  It was the heat.

And, although we were there during “rainy” season, it only rained once while we were there…but we did witness locals taking full advantage.



Even a professional scientist wouldn’t be able to tell you how dirty that water is.


We took advantage of the water too… but instead of swimming in that garbage, we went to the Red Sea to take a dip.



Contemplating a midnight swim.


While we were swimming, some trash (most likely) kept bobbing around (so much for not swimming in garbage), but we weren’t totally convinced that it wasn’t a sea monster so we got out. We found out later that it might’ve been a giant turtle, and in that case, “we got out because we’re environmentalists”. – Patrick, the king of a spin story 🙂


The next day, we headed to the most luxurious place in all of Djibouti, the movie theater. Probably the only movie theatre in the whole country.  Because of all the army bases in Djibuti, this theatre showed several movies in English. (We saw two).  Spiderman and the Lion King, the former we liked better but the latter  was awesome to see while we were actually in Africa.   We spent the (much) better part of our day here.  It had air conditioning, which was crucial, and a grocery store attached, called Casino, WHICH SOLD ICE CREAM! (also crucial) This place was our home for almost 8 hours, I kid you not. (Not that you thought I was kidding.)  While at the mall, we read a children’s story where the heroine, a literal heron, dies of starvation. Dark… 



Not a single other person in the theatre; it was fantastic!


This air conditioning day was also a day of food variety!  We had pad thai for lunch and ate a small veggie pizza for dinner.  Never mind that none of it was that tasty.  The ice cream throughout the day MORE than made up for it all.

Besides all of that food that I have already mentioned, we also got a large caramel and salt popcorn mix in what I like to call a “Sammi’s stomach is about to hurt combo.” But actually, Patrick’s stomach started to hurt. Plot twist.



On our last day in Djibouti, Patrick wanted to get his hair cut …in a shipping container on the side of the road:



A haircut– Djibouti style. We pointed to the coolest picture on the wall and Patrick got his African style on. 


That night, we were able to afford a delicious lobster meal (thanks to our generous host Douchan who helped us save money ) and I got to do one of my favorite things: eavesdrop on foreigners living abroad.


The next morning, we walked to the airport (the 2nd and final time I would be at Djibouti International), and arrived 1.5 hours early. Because we were too early, they made us sit outside of the airport and wait for our flight.  When we final did get inside, a cat greeted us with meows and we did have to do some more waiting for our tickets to be issued.  When we finally got on the plane, we realized that it was just as hot on there as it was outside. Good bye forever, Djibuti.

We landed back in Ethiopia where both Patrick and I had layovers (but we couldn’t leave the airport) before heading on our separate adventures. Patrick had 12 hours before he was off to a trumpet festival in Serbia, while I had 24 hours before heading to Togo. While we waited, we watched the worst episode of Queer Eye — Below Average Joe — and were amazed how we were in a major international airport and no credit card machine would work. At least for awhile.  Eventually they did and Patrick and I shared one final meal in Ethiopia.


Lest we forget…
Bugzaire. Norrrn.


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