|Part of Djibouti from the air|
From the air Djibouti looks like a moonscape of stark crags and sand, but once on the ground there are green bushes and many more rather colourless thorn shrubs. The city itself is low and not unpleasant with Moorish architecture and colonnades, trees, and parks here and there. The facade of the old synagogue - all that is left - is equally Moorish. There used to be a fair community of Yemeni Jews, but most left after the Six-Day War and none are now left.
Djibouti, as opposed to the other capitals visited this time, is considered pretty safe to wander round. An afternoon stroll toward the port brings into view a large modern mosque with lofty minaret, a palm-strewn esplanade, and a statue in front of the white People's Palace, at present used for the legislature. A side lane leads up to the grand presidential palace, the former French governor's residence; not only can I not take a photo of it, I'm not even allowed to walk past, or even approach as soldiers gesture verboten in a variety of sign languages. Still, there's a good photo op way back near the port when nobody's looking.
|Building in June 27 square|
|Crippled street kid|
Djibouti By Night, La Nuit, Bei Nacht - At last a city to walk around at night; no fears of muggers, bandits, cut-throats and the other usual suspects in the centre. The place is fairly hopping, the streets well lit, coloured lights from Sunday's Independence Day celebrations still twinkling, people everywhere, pavement cafes doing a brisk trade, an air-conditioned Italian ice cream parlour offering excellent sorbets. Nightclubs, bars, casinos are here for the taking - L'Oasis, New Delhi, Hermes with reclining Greek statues and faux ionic columns, disco music, flashing disco lights, flashing disco floors, flashing 'disco' women too in short, short skirts. How many of them are incognito in burkas by day?
|Kids play soccer near new mosque|
The excellent photo ops, of course, elicit shouts of verboten from passing males; too late, already snapped. Qat plays only a small part, though, in the alleys lined with little shop fronts selling leather, electronics, dresses, everything. Barrows overflow with every kind of fruit, much more than seen in West Africa. And everywhere little beggar kids run up for alms. The anti-camera shouts aren’t restricted to qat only.
|Presidential palace from waterfront|
|Woman buying qat|
|Street in main market|
|Buying qat under expatriate Israeli Nestle umbrella|
|Mian mosque in market|
|Kids 'arcade' in market alley|