Jun 272020

Today is Independence Day in Djibouti, officially the Republic of Djibouti, marking its formal severance of colonial rule by France in 1977. The country is located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Somalia in the south, Ethiopia in the south and west, Eritrea in the north, and the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in the east. Across the Gulf of Aden lies Yemen. The country has a total area of 23,200 sq km (8,958 sq mi). The Republic of Djibouti is predominantly inhabited by two ethnic groups, the majority Somali and the Afar.

I have chosen to celebrate Djibouti today because it is one of a handful of countries I have been interested in visiting for some time.  I was due to make a trip to England this June for a school reunion and spent many months at the beginning of the year figuring out an itinerary that would include a stop in Djibouti (Cambodia to India to Dubai to Djibouti to Turkey to England) but COVID-19 cut that plan off.  I’ll make it there some day, but not any time soon.

In antiquity, the territory together with Somalia was part of the Land of Punt. Nearby Zeila, now in Somalia, was the seat of the medieval Adal and Ifat sultanates. In the late 19th century, the colony of French Somaliland was established following treaties signed by the ruling Somali and Afar sultans with the French and its railroad to Dire Dawa (and later Addis Ababa) allowed it to quickly supersede Zeila as the port for southern Ethiopia and the Ogaden. It was subsequently renamed the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas in 1967, and then, via overwhelming referendum in favor, declared independence 10 years later, although there is still a substantial French Foreign Legion presence in the country.

Here’s a small gallery:

The food is a big attraction for me – a blend of Somali, Middle Eastern, French, Indian, and other tastes.  The national dish is Fah Fah, which is a goat soup/stew.  I could give a recipe but it is essentially goat meat simmered for hours with onions, garlic, vegetables, and coriander.

Here is a better option: a Somali dish of rice and goat.  Sorry that the video is in Arabic.  You’ll get the gist (there is a bit of English mixed in):