djibouti for the weekend
Last Updated : GMT 11:59:16
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Egypt Today, egypt today
Last Updated : GMT 11:59:16
Egypt Today, egypt today

Djibouti for the weekend

Egypt Today, egypt today

Egypt Today, egypt today Djibouti for the weekend

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“To start with there is the famous Lac Assal with its moon-like salt terrain, the twin islands of Moucha and Maskali, nicknamed the little African Caribbean, the distinctive architecture of the capital’s famous European Quarter, and if all of this is not enough for you, there is the one-of-a-kind experience of snorkeling with whale sharks!” This was the typical mini-dialogue I had with my friends whenever I mentioned that I was heading to Djibouti for the weekend. As soon as my Fly Dubai FZ-601 flight touched down in Djibouti-Amboli Airport, the continent’s vibe started taking over. First, it was the lush green surroundings, soon followed by the damp air trademark of exotic Africa, and of course, the lively chaotic small arrival hall, typical of many African states. The tiny 23,000 km African country occupies a strategic location at the mouth of the Red Sea, right at the Strait of Bab El Mandeib. Such a location gives the country an edge, both economically as well as politically. Here, many containers, going up and down the Red Sea, change hands. Across the border, the increase in pirate activities in neighboring Somalia had meant an increase in the demand for Djibouti’s naval basis and more income for the poor state. As a tourist, politics are nice to know; but certainly this is not what I was there for. To the surprise of many, including myself, Djibouti has a diverse portfolio of interesting sights to offer. I wasted no time and took off with a mini walk starting from the capital’s European Quarter. As the name implies, this is where Europeans were based back in the colonial days. It is a crossover of colonial European meeting Moorish architecture, with its white washed buildings and typical arcades harboring Parisian-styled cafés. Djibouti is a small country, and so is its capital. In less than ten minutes, my legs had already taken me to the African Quarter. A complete contrast to the European one, this is Djibouti City’s beating heart, with all the hustle and bustle typical of any open market. Here, anything and everything is for sale, from cheap “Made in China” plastic wares and colorful African fabrics to handmade souvenirs and Djibouti’s No. 1 item: Qat. The lucid sedative is part of the local culture and chewing Qat is a Djiboutian daily ritual. Around noontime, the harvest of the day comes fresh from Ethiopia. Even before the truck or boat carrying the Qat comes to a complete stop, a swarm of retail traders congregated, and in no time, the whole load was sold. In another hour or so, all of the small retail sellers sold their share of the day’s Qat. While the Spanish are famous for doing the siesta, Djiboutians are even more famous for their Qat time. Afternoons in Djibouti are Qat time, and this means the whole country descends to a tranquil state of slumber. Skipping on the Qat, I was in for a little siesta. Accommodation in Djibouti is straightforward: you either rough it all the way or you pamper yourself to the bones. Opting for the second, I checked in Djibouti Palace Kempinski. A luxurious over-the-top hotel, the Kempinski comes in with distinctive architectural design, melting African and Arab influences into one. This style is maintained throughout the hotel with all the mahogany-colored African-styled pieces of furniture as well as the paintings and artistic installations hanging on the walls. As expected from a well-experienced international hotel chain like the Kempinski, the hotel scores full marks when it comes to providing luxurious service. Accommodation in the Kempinski is categorized into rooms, suites and even one to two bedroom apartments — something that ensures every taste is being satisfied. Furthermore, on the first Thursday of every month, the hotel throws its famous full moon beach party — now a famous Djibotian nightlife trademark. If you are planning a trip to Djibouti, try to make it around that time. Waking up quite early, I was up for my tour de Djibouti. First, we headed to Lac Assal. Located just over 100 km west of the capital, the crater-like lake is surrounded by dormant volcanoes and a goliath salt field that reaches 60 meters in depth. It is the lowest point in Africa at 150 meters below sea level, and comes in with a mystical moon-like terrain. As soon as I was done walking on the snow-like salt, I headed straight to the sleepy town of Tadjourah. A small Afar town with a population of just 25,000, Tadjourah is a great place to sample laid-back Djiboutian life. Afar and Somalis are the two main tribes that make up the Djiboutian society. The key highlight of my trip came next: I was off to the Bay of Goubbet. This tiny place, off most tourists’ maps, is a great place to experience snorkeling next to the giant, yet gentle, whale sharks. The animal kingdom’s biggest fish frequents Bay of Goubbet between October and January of each year. Indeed snorkeling next to a 12-meter 2-ton monster-size fish may be scary at first, but the plankton-eating whale sharks are placid creatures that share no ferocity with other predating sharks. Without a doubt, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience you don’t want to miss out on. There is only one great finale that finishes off my Djibouti trip nicely, and that is a day trip to Moucha and Maskali. The twin islands just off Djibouti City offer a great opportunity to sit back, relax and work on your tan. With its undisturbed beaches and pristine nature, it's no wonder Moucha and Maskali are nicknamed the African Caribbean. From the unearthly terrain of Lac Assal and discovering the local Djiboutian culture to snorkeling with aquamarine giants and relaxing on island beaches, Djibouti was an amazing destination, even if it was just for the weekend.

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