Historical, Cultural Facts About Djibouti
Djibouti, small strategically located country on the northeast coast of the Horn of Africa. It is situated on the Bab el Mandeb Strait, which lies to the east and separates the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden.
Formerly known as French Somaliland(1896–1967) and the French Territory of the Afars and Issas (1967–77), the country took Djibouti as its name when it gained independence from France on June 27, 1977. Djibouti’s capital, Djibouti city, is built on coral reefs that jut into the southern entrance of the gulf; other major towns are Obock, Tadjoura, Ali Sabieh, Arta, and Dikhil.
The country’s Lilliputian aspect belies its regional and geopolitical importance. The capital is the site of a modern deepwater port that serves Indian Ocean and Red Sea traffic and hosts a French naval base. Djibouti city is also the railhead for the only line serving Addis Ababa, the capital of neighbouring Ethiopia.
Djibouti is renowned for its delicate multicoloured textiles, which are made into saronglike garments called futa. These garments are sold in the capital’s colourful central market.
The cuisine of Djibouti mingles African and French influences to produce meals that might include roast lamb with a delicate yogurt sauce, lentil stew, flatbread, and cucumber salad, served with mineral waterand fruit juice. The souk (marketplace) of Djibouti city is famed for its spicy oven-baked fish. The capital also houses several high-quality Vietnamese, Chinese, and Lebanese restaurants, making it a somewhat remote but altogether fascinating destination for gourmands.
A multi-ethnic country, Djibouti enjoys a rich, interwoven culture based on tribal traditions. In addition to Afars and Issas, sub-clans like Gadabuursi also inhabit the country. The remaining portion of the population consists of Ethiopians, Europeans and Arabs. Because of the many influences, Djibouti is a hodgepodge of ancient and modern.
Language is one of the major components of the Djiboutian culture. The multi-ethnic and multi-lingual population speaks Somali and Afar as their mother tongues, but the official languages are Arabic and French. Modern and Standard Arabic are also spoken, while good portions of the population also uses Ta’izzi-Adeni Arabic, Amharic, Omani Arabic, Greek, and Hindi.
Religion is also a main element of Djibouti culture, and two major sects are prevalent. Islam is the most practiced, appearing as early as the 7th century. About 94 percent of the people are Sunni Muslims adhering to the Shafi’i tradition. Others belong to the Salihi Sufi, Ahmadi and Qadiri orders. Christianity is also practiced, with just over three percent of the population following Ethiopian Orthodox traditions, and the rest Protestant.
Music also plays an important part in Djiboutian life and the two main ethnic groups both have their own traditions. Afar music is similar to the folk songs of the countries in the Horn of Africa like Ethiopia, but has distinct Arabic influences. The country’s musical tradition goes back to the nomadic days of the Afar people, when they traded goods with China, Egypt and India. Oral literature is also musical, and you may hear songs of war, praise, boasting, and for weddings. Somali folklore has a strong influence and their songs are mainly pentatonic (five pitches per octave), unlike major heptatonic or seven note scales. Djiboutians use different instruments like oud, bowl lyre and tanbura.
The way the locals dress show how they adapt to the hot and humid climate of the region. Western clothing (jeans and a t-shirt) has widely been adopted, but traditionally, men wear a sarong-like garment known as macawiis, which goes around the waist. Traditional women wear dirac, a long diaphanous voile dress that is lightweight and made from polyester and cotton. It is worn over a half-slip and a bra. Married women don headscarves or shash and cover their upper body with a garbasaar or a large shawl. Single women usually don’t cover their heads. Djiboutians also wear traditional Arabian pieces such as jellabiya for men and jilbab for women, a cultural garment closely resembling the Arabian thobe, but with a wider cut (think dress robe). Jilbab is a loosely fitted coat similar to a hijab. This piece covers the entire body except the hands, face and head and is worn with a scarf or a head wrap. Special occasions and festivals also call for beautiful jewelry and head dresses, which are reminiscent of the accessories worn by the Berber tribes.
Djiboutians are not into handicrafts. There is no tangible art present, except the beautifully preserved buildings demonstrating Islamic, French and Ottoman architectural elements.
Nothing could be more exotic, unique and perfect than this country called Djibouti. It is one of the universe’s masterpieces where different and oddly formed geological landmarks could be found. They also have the best of both the world’s oceans and land forms as Djibouti is surrounded by a gulf. The Red Sea is known to be a tourist attraction, along with the eight mountain ranges and different national parks. As one of the main trading points for Africa and Ethiopia, you will enjoy various cultures in their lively markets. There are plenty of places to go where you could meet and mingle with the locals and other groups of tourists.
Important and Interesting facts about Djibouti
- At 23,200 square kilometers (8,958 square miles), Djibouti is the third smallest country in continental Africa, after Swaziland (second smallest) and Gambia (smallest).
- Djibouti is just a little smaller than the state of Massachusetts.
- Lac Assal of Djibouti is the saltiest lake outside of Antarctica. It is even saltier than the famous Dead Sea.
- Not only is Lac Assal (Lake Assal) the lowest point in Djibouti, it is also the lowest point in the continent of Africa.
- Djibouti is located in Eastern Africa, between Somalia and Eritrea, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.
- Djibouti enjoys proximity to few of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Apart from the closeness to the lanes, the country is also close to the Arabian oilfields.
- Another famous lake located in Djibouti is Lake Abbe. This lake is also famous as the place of the discovery of Australopithecus skeleton Lucy. It was founded during the Afar depression in 1974. The lake is also known for its limestone vents and flamingos.
- The Danakil Desert is a lowland geothermal region which covers much of western Djibouti. The Danakil Desert extends into Ethiopia and Eritrea. Erta Ale is a volcano that settles in the Danakil Desert.
- Along with Mount Mabla, the Forêt du Day National Park is one of Djibouti’s two remnant areas of closed forest. This is the largest forest in Djibouti. The most valuable part of national park is 900 ha large stand of East African junipers Juniperus procera which grows in the heights above 950 m.
- Moucha Island is a small coral island off the coast of Djibouti. It is located at the center of the Gulf of Tadjoura. Moucha Island is the largest island in Djibouti. Less than 3 km long, Moucha Island’s mainland is surrounded by the smaller Maskali Islands, a few islets and a coral reef.
Cool, Funny and Fun Facts about Djibouti
- Taxi fares in Djibouti increase 50% after sunset.
- The Djibouti francolin is critically endangered and found only in Djibouti, a nation in the Horn of Africa. This species is grayish-brown overall with white stripes and streaks on its underparts which become finer towards the upperparts. It has black markings on the head and a gray crown and has a short tail.
- The longhorn beetles, typically characterized by extremely long antennae, which are often as long as or longer than the beetle’s body. This species is endemic to Djbouti.
- Juniper Tree is the only juniper to occur south of the equator, and is thought to be a relatively recent colonist of Africa. It is an important timber tree, used for building houses, for poles, for furniture; bark used for beehives.
- Khat is a flowering plant native to the Horn of Africa including Djibouti and the Arabian Peninsula. Among communities from these areas, khat chewing has a history as social custom dating back thousands of years.
- The blue-naped mousebird, also formerly called the blue-naped coly is found in the wild in the drier regions of Djibouti and is also a common pet bird. Adults have an ash brown, grayish body, crested head with a turquoise nape, and a black-and-red bill, whereas juveniles lack the blue on nape, and have pink facial skin and greenish bills.
- The common warthog is a wild member of the pig family found in the grasslands of Djibouti. The name comes from the four large, wart-like protrusions found on the head of the warthog, which serves as a fat reserve and are used for defense when males fight.
- The Grevy’s Zebra, also known as the imperial zebra, is the largest extant wild equines and the largest and most endangered of the species of zebra. The Grevy’s zebra has some isolated populations in Djibouti.
- DJIBOUTI – CIRCA 2011: A stamp printed by DJIBOUTI shows image portrait of famous American singer, songwriter, dancer, businessman and philanthropist Michael Jackson, circa 2011.
- Yasmin Farah (born 22 September 1993) is a Djiboutian table tennis player. She competed for her nation at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Historical and Cultural facts about Djibouti
- Christmas in Djibouti is celebrated not on December 25 but on January 7, as is the practice of many Orthodox Christian churches.
- The nation’s favorite pastime is qat chewing. Qat is a medicinal plant with mild narcotic properties.
- The history of the country dates back to the days of the barter system when the people inhabiting the region traded skins and hides for the perfumes and spices of ancient India, China and Egypt.
- Construction of a railway linking Djibouti to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia began in 1897. The railway was completed in 1917.
- Ablé immigrants from Arabia migrated to what is now Djibouti in about the 3rd century B.C. Their descendants are the Afars, one of the two main ethnic groups that make up Djibouti today. Somali Issas arrived thereafter. Islam came to the region in 825.
- In 1891 the French made Djibouti the capital of French Somaliland. Djibouti gained independence from France in 1977.
- In the Djibouti Tradition, the major religion that is followed is Islam. There are mosques in various parts of the country. The most popular and holy place for the Muslims in the country is in the Goda Mountains where the tomb of Sheikh Abu Yazid is present. This is an integral part of the custom of Djibouti.
- The women of Djibouti wear long skirts and cover their faces with a veil. The married women also cover their head with cloth. During the religious festivals, people always stick to the traditional dress.
- The art and culture of the country is mostly passed on locally from one generation after generation. The local people dance, sing and also act for a particular story in their native language.
- The influence of French and Islam tradition and culture can be witnessed in the architecture of the buildings of Djibouti. The art works in the houses of Djibouti people include various forms of calligraphy, plasterwork and motifs.
- The two chief racial groups of the country are Afar and Issas who play important role in the country and in the influence of culture. Somalis also live in Djibouti and their vocal tradition have influenced the two cultural groups of the country to a large extent.
- The Afar group also has stylish literature which is mainly verbal and the major part of the literature is preserved in the form of songs. Songs in Djibouti are usually classified into various groups such as praise songs, war songs and many more. The official languages that are spoken in the country are Arabic and French.