Saturday, September 24, 2005

Djibouti, or rather French Somaliland - ooh la la!

Downtown Djibouti
So now we are in Djibouti City, capital of Djibouti, previously Le Territoire des Afars et Issas and before that, French Somaliland. The country is home to the two peoples - the Afars and the Issas, with the bulk of the people here being Issas, who are in fact Somalilanders. They have been joined recently by Somalilanders from Hargeisa, Ethiopians and some remnants of French colonialism. The languages spoken are Somali and French and English. Coming off our boat from Obock, some chaps were sitting around, one of them proudly claiming not to understand me asking for a taxi in English because he was a Francophone. Poor chap!

Anyway, what a contrast with Assab. Djibouti City is a loud, thriving, colourful, busy coastal city. The port was full, contaoiner ships, a battle ship, fishing boats, pleasure boats, dhows, dinghies, a thriving fish market, all this before you even land on the jetty. The green and white taxi, taking us to our hotel (Hotel Horseed) takes us down muddy tracks, past colourful street markets, the ladies in a blaze of reds and pinks and greens and blues, the ground strewn with the thin plastic bags of the khat - which is forbidden in Eritrea. It is hot, very hot and very humid.

After checking in we go out onto the streets, all the time stopping to chat to the chaaps calling out Ca va? Bonjour! and the like. Before long I realise that everyone is very amused to hear that I too am a Somalilander, proudly producing m passport to show them I was born in Somaliland. I am greeted with wide smiles and hearty handshakes. I meet countless Mohammeds, Siads, Ahmeds and Faisals. It is great! They tell me that Hargeisa is a beautiful place, cool in the mountains. Everyone wants teh country to be internationally recognised and most of them listen to BBC Somaliland. I tell them that if countries do not recognise the country then the BBC does.

It might not be the easiest of places. There are some angry faces, some Islamic idiots, ladies shouting, Francophone fanatics and the like, but we give as good as we get. Great to see people with such energy and pride and joie de vivre, to use a French expression! Ooh la la!

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