After a long flight flying from London I arrived at Djibouti City early in the morning. It was my first time going to Djibouti. The airport was tiny and the process of passing immigration is interesting. Obtaining the visa on arrival was hectic to say the least. I first stood in line at the immigration desk, where I was asked for the arrival form that I completed on the flight over. They additionally wanted the boarding pass. For what? I could not tell you, since it was obvious which flight I had arrived on seeing as there was only one plane on the apron.
The immigration officer then passed my passport to another officer standing at the back, who had a whole pile of other passports in his hands. I was then shepherd to another office where I was issued the visas and stamped the passport. Finally, my passport was returned to me and I could carry on to the transfer bus to the hotel.
SOME BASIC INFORMATION:
ℹ️ Travel: Djibouti is located on the ‘horn’ of Africa bordering Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia; and toward the bottom of the Red Sea. Flight time for London is roughly 8 hours. Djibouti was a French colony and became independent in the late 1970’s. With this Djibouti has two languages – Arabic and French.
ℹ️ Currency: The Djibouti Franc. (FDJ)
ℹ️ Weather: Average daily maximum temperatures range from 32 to 41 °C (90 to 106 °F), except at high elevations, where the effects of a cold offshore current can be felt. In Djibouti city average afternoon highs range from 28 to 34 °C (82 to 93 °F) in April.
On the commute to the city I saw a lot of people on the streets. It was hot and humid. I arrived at the hotel that was surprisingly beautiful – marble interior that gave a cool reprieve from the baking heat. Out towards the rear of the hotel was a stunning swimming pool that was like stepping into a hot bath, overlooking the Red Sea.
The streets of Djibouti City were hectic but I felt fairly safe. Some locals would say “hi” or “welcome”. The one sight I wanted to see was Lac Assal down the RN9 highway. Lac Assal is a salt lake. After trying unsuccessfully at a few places, I found a helpful tour company that offered a day trip to Lac Assal for GB£210 (US$300). Djibouti is not a country set up for easy and cheap tourism, so hiring a car to go places is extremely expensive, nonetheless I was looking forward to the excursion booked for the following day.
That day I decided to spend it walking around Djibouti City taking photographs of the streets and buildings. I spent a few hours sightseeing but in all fairness there was not a great deal to view. I had read about how appalling Djibouti City was, but I felt pretty safe walking around with my camera in my hand, and while there were a few people who were begging for money, the large majority were either very friendly, or indifferent towards me. As soon as I felt I was getting hungry I decided to return to the hotel where I spent the remaining afternoon grabbing food and sitting around the hotel pool. The food is a mix of Middle-Eastern meets French.
LAC ASSAL (LAKE ASSAL)
At dawn the following day, I, along with a small group of tourists, boarded a Land Rover and made our way to Lac Assal. For the vast majority of the journey the road was tarmacked and in good condition. However the road is only a 2 lane road and it is used by a lot of trucks transporting goods to and from Ethiopia.
It took about two hours to cover roughly 10 miles!! There’s a few villages on the way there, but the landscape is very barren. Lac Assal is known to be the saltiest lake in the world. At 510feet (155m) below sea level, it is also the lowest point in Africa. It is a nice place to visit, but definitely not worth the excursion fee!