Country Profiles:
Djibouti

Djibouti is a strategically located country on the northeast coast of the Horn of Africa and lying on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait; Arabic Bāb al-Mandab which literally means “the gate of tears.” A strait between Arabia (northeast) and Africa (southwest) that connects the Red Sea (northwest) with the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean (southeast). It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. Although Djibouti is one of the smallest countries in Africa by population and area, it is also a geo-strategic country, serving as great strategic and economic important regions on the planet. Djibouti serves as a gateway to the Suez Canal, one of the busiest shipping routes in the world and is the principal maritime port for imports from and exports to neighboring Ethiopia. Due to its political stability and general welfare index comparing to its neighboring country like Somalia and Eritrea, the country is a prime location for foreign military bases including Camp Lemonnier and ensured a steady flow of foreign assistance. Its former colonial power France maintains a significant military presence and also hosts America’s largest military base in the continent. It also headquarters the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regional body. Djibouti’s capital, Djibouti city, which means the city of seven masks inhabits over 70% of the population and the only country with its capital named after itself; and is built on coral reefs that jut into the southern entrance of the gulf.

Founded in 1285, the Ifat Sultanate was a prominent medieval kingdom with established bases in both northern Somalia and Djibouti.

Ifat ruled the region until Emperor Amda Seyon I of Ethiopia defeated them in 1332. In the mid-1800s, the French purchased a part of northeast Africa, naming it French Somaliland. In 1967, the area was renamed the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas, with Djibouti remaining its capital. In 1945 Djibouti was transformed into a French overseas territory, but local ethnic fighting, land disputes with Ethiopia and Somalia. The country took Djibouti as its name when it gained independence from France on June 27, 1977, formerly French Somaliland. The official languages are French and Arabic with 93% of the population being Muslim. Hassan Gouled Aptidon was the nation’s first president. In 1999, Aptidon resigned at the age of 83. He led the country for two decades and Ismail Omar Guelleh succeeded his five-term presidency.  Guelleh was re-elected a second term in 2005, and a third in 2011. With no strong challenger, Mr. Guelleh won a fourth term of office in the April 2016 presidential election.

As a significant regional port, Djibouti's modern economy revolves (almost totally) around the shipping and refueling industries, as the country has limited natural resource with only 4% of the land being arable.

Due to this unemployment rate is low even though it a rising developing country. However, the country is making efforts to alleviate the situation by instituting a wide range of domestic policies one of which being the new  Djibouti and Addis Ababa railway currently being constructed. Lake Assal in Djibouti lies 155 m below sea level, making it the lowest point on the continent. It is used for quarrying salt. Salt is exploited—some is exported and some use for domestic consumption. Other exports include aircraft parts, animal hides and skins, and live animals. Also, all the country’s electricity is generated by fossil fuels.

On the basis of linguistic criteria, the two major ethnic groups are the Issa, sometimes call Somalians as they are from a sub Somalian clan and speak a language from the Somali dialect and the Afar. Both groups speak related, but not mutually intelligible, eastern Cushitic languages. Cushitic languages is a division of the Afro-Asiatic phylum, comprising about 40 languages that are spoken mainly in EthiopiaEritreaDjiboutiSomalia, and northwestern Kenya.

Djibouti shares similar cuisine with Ethiopia and Eritrea in that they both have Injera and it is the country’s traditional flatbread; Banana fritters; Samboussa; Harira; Niter Kibbeh are popular dishes.

The musical styles, techniques and sounds of Djibouti consist of traditional Afar music resembles the folk music to Ethiopia; it also contains elements of Arabic music.

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