Djibouti (city)

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Jabuuti  (Somali)
Gabuuti  (Afar)
جيبوتي (Arabic)
Panorama of Djibouti City
Panorama of Djibouti City
Coat of arms of Djibouti
Coat of arms
Nickname(s): Pearl of the Gulf of Tadjoura
Djibouti is located in Djibouti
Location in Djibouti
Coordinates: Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Country  Djibouti
Region Djibouti Region
Founded 1888
Districts 27
 • Capital 630 km2 (240 sq mi)
 • Urban 100 km2 (40 sq mi)
Elevation 14 m (46 ft)
Population (2013)
 • Capital 623,891
 • Density 990/km2 (2,600/sq mi)
Time zone East Africa Time (UTC+3)
Area code(s) +253
ISO 3166 code DJ-DJ

Djibouti City (Arabic: جيبوتي‎‎, French: Ville de Djibouti, Somali: Magaalada Jabuuti, Afar: Gabuuti) is the capital and largest city of Djibouti, which is named after it. It is located in the coastal Djibouti Region on the Gulf of Tadjoura.

Home to around 600,000 inhabitants, the city contains over 60% of the nation's population. The settlement was founded in 1888 by the French, on land leased from the ruling Somali and Afar Sultans. During the ensuing period, it served as the capital of French Somaliland and its successor the French Territory of the Afars and Issas.

Known as the Pearl of the Gulf of Tadjoura due to its location, Djibouti city is strategically positioned near the world's busiest shipping lanes and acts as a refueling and transshipment center. The Port of Djibouti is the principal maritime port for imports to and exports from neighboring Ethiopia. Additionally, the city hosts a number of foreign embassies, and is the headquarters of many international organizations, non-profit organizations and companies. Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport is the main domestic airport, connecting the capital to various major global destinations.


Historical affiliations

From 1862 until 1894, the land to the north of the Gulf of Tadjoura was called "Obock". It was ruled by Somali and Afar Sultans, local authorities with whom France signed various treaties between 1883 and 1887 to first gain a foothold in the region.[1][2][3]

Djibouti City's Al Sada Mosque in the 1940s.

The French subsequently founded Djibouti City in 1888, in a previously uninhabited stretch of coast. In 1896, the settlement was made the capital of French Somaliland.[4] The city later grew considerably in size following the construction of the Imperial Ethiopian Railway. It at the time had a population of 15,000 residents,[5] exceeding the population of all cities in neighbouring Ethiopia except Harar.[6] Although the initial company failed and required a government bailout to avoid falling under British administration,[6] the Franco-Ethiopian Railroad itself was a success and allowed Djibouti city's commerce to quickly eclipse the former caravan-based trade carried on with nearby Zeila in British Somaliland.[7] Djibouti became the center of exports from southern Ethiopia and the Ogaden, including trade in Harari coffee and khat.[5]

When Germany invaded France in 1940, Djibouti fell under the control of the Axis-allied Vichy French. In response, the United Kingdom closed the port, but it could not prevent local French from providing information on the passing ship convoys. In December 1942, about 4,000 British troops occupied the town. Djibouti city had about 22,046 residents. By 1940 there were 26,987 residents and by 1950 the population has grown to 34,564. It then became the headquarters of the succeeding French Territory of the Afars and Issas.

Since independence in 1977, the city has served as the administrative and commercial capital of the Republic of Djibouti.


Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1916 17,981 —    
1930 22,046 +22.6%
1940 26,987 +22.4%
1950 34,564 +28.1%
1960 39,962 +15.6%
1965 50,071 +25.3%
1970 62,000 +23.8%
1977 110,248 +77.8%
1982 166,316 +50.9%
1987 250,891 +50.9%
1992 352,612 +40.5%
1999 462,447 +31.1%
2003 507,353 +9.7%
2005 535,951 +5.6%
2012 604,013 +12.7%
2013 623,891 +3.3%

Djiboutian population is divided into several human components: the Afars and the Somalis, the Muslim religion for the most part, that are traditionally attached to anthropological group Hamitic. Djibouti is a multi-ethnic city. It has a population of around 496,000 residents (Djiboutians), making it the largest settlement in the country.[8] The city's urban landscape is shaped by many communities.

Although all ethnic groups are represented in the capital, the main languages are Somali and Afar. Arabic and French are also widely spoken and understood. English may be spoken at tourist facilities, but is not widely spoken by locals or taxi drivers. In the colonial period, European expatriates, primarily French, would also contribute to Djibouti's population. Djiboutian-born descendants of these settlers as well as more recent arrivals from can be found throughout the city.


Djibouti's population is predominantly Muslim. Islam is observed by 94% of Djibouti's population, while the remaining 6% follow Christianity.

Religion Percentage
Muslim 94%
Christianity 6%



Astronaut image of Djibouti City

Djibouti City is the capital and largest settlement in Djibouti, situated in the Horn of Africa. The city is located in eastern Djibouti, approximately 21 km (13 mi) northwest of the Somalia border. It is a seaport, with the only sheltered harbour on the western side of the Gulf of Aden. The landscape around the city, along with Djibouti's coastal lowlands, is desert or semi-desert. The city's sandy beaches are popular tourist attractions and include Siesta Beach and Heron Beach. It is known as the "Pearl of the Gulf of Tadjoura" due to its location.


Djibouti is among the warmest and driest cities in the world. Featuring an arid climate (Köppen: BWh), the city sees on average 131 mm (5.16 in) of rainfall per year. Average high temperatures range from 29 °C (84 °F) during the months of December, January and February, to about 42 °C (108 °F) in July. There are two seasons: a summer dry season from May to October and a cooler season with more precipitation from November to April (winter). The rainfall on the coast usually occurs between November to March, whereas further inland it falls between April to October. In the summer months, temperatures routinely exceed 40 °C (104 °F), with relative humidity often exceeding 50%, even during the daytime. Sunshine is abundant in the city, averaging eight to ten hours a day year-round. It is lowest during the rainy period, when there is some coastal fog and greater cloud coverage as warm air passes over the cool sea surface. However, precipitation is highly variable and long periods without any rainfall occur throughout the year. Unusual episodes of heavy rain sometimes occur, with a maximal 224mm falling in November 1949.[9]

This climate zone has summers that reach a maximum temperature of 42 °C (107 °F) and a minimum temperature of 32 °C (89 °F). Winters have average nighttime temperatures of 70 °F (21 °C) and a daytime maximum temperatures of 84 °F (29 °C). There are barely any days in the year without sunshine, and even during the winter there are many clear days.

Climate data for Djibouti City
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 32.1
Average high °C (°F) 28.7
Daily mean °C (°F) 25.1
Average low °C (°F) 21.5
Record low °C (°F) 16.0
Average rainfall mm (inches) 10.0
Average rainy days 3 2 2 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 2 2 17
Average relative humidity (%) 74.6 74.7 75.1 76.9 72.6 62.6 45.8 48.7 64.5 68.3 74.2 71.3 67.44
Mean monthly sunshine hours 243.9 218.7 262.4 274.0 314.7 283.5 259.0 276.8 278.7 296.7 285.8 271.6 3,265.8
Source #1: Hong Kong Observatory (temperature and rainfall),[10] NOAA (sunshine and records)[11]
Source #2: BBC Weather (rainy days only)[12]
Average sea temperature[13]
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
26 °C 26 °C 27 °C 28 °C 30 °C 30 °C 31 °C 29 °C 30 °C 30 °C 28 °C 27 °C


Djibouti City is home to different architectural styles that represent various periods in its history. The old section is filled with bazaars and souks nestled along narrow streets. It is serves as both a center for commerce and entertainment, as well as a residential area. A few of the building fronts have been renovated and date back to the 19th century. The Place Menelik in the city center is also distinguished by its Moorish-inspired arches. On account of its numerous exotic edifices and structures, the city has also been likened to a European settlement and described as a "French Hong Kong in the Red Sea".[14]


The Djibouti National Assembly in downtown Djibouti City.

Djibouti City has the distinction of being both a city and an administrative province. The Djibouti Region is one of the six regions of Djibouti. It borders the Gulf of Tadjoura to the north and east, and the Arta Region to the south and west. The Djibouti Region is the smallest province in the country, but also the region with the highest population. Containing Djibouti's capital, Djibouti City, the province occupies an area of 200 square kilometres.

Headquarters of the Social Development Agency of Djibouti.

Djibouti City has been the capital of Djibouti since independence in 1977. Due to its maritime location, it was the logical choice as the young republic's administrative center. Following independence, Djibouti City continued with its status as the country's political and cultural hub. It is the seat of the government and home to all the national institutions: the government house, the parliament, ministries, the presidential palace, the vice-presidential residence, the constitutional court, judicial bodies and other public organizations.

Djibouti City also serves as a hub for various state agencies, as well as continental and international organizations. The Social Development Agency of Djibouti (Agence de Développement Sociale de Djibouti) has its head offices here, as does the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) trading bloc. Additionally, the Regional Somali Language Academy, a language regulator established in June 2013 by the governments of Djibouti, Somalia and Ethiopia, has its headquarters in the city.[15]

Djibouti City is also home to the Armoured Regiment of Djibouti. Its base is the only active duty military installation within the capital.


The Saoudi Mosque on Boulevard Bounhour.

Djibouti City is the most populous settlement in Djibouti, and has a vibrant cultural life. For much of its recent history, the town was characterized by roadside markets and small shops that sold a wide variety of goods. The culture of Djibouti City has evolved under the influence of many different peoples and civilizations, including Somali, Afar, Yemeni and French traditions. The capital is home to a large number of mosques in various architectural styles, which date from different historical periods. Five times a day, Muslims are called to prayer from the minarets of the city's many masjids. Additionally, the local opera is a traditional form of musical theater well-known throughout the nation.


As in the rest of Djibouti, football is by far the most popular sport. The city is home to Stade du Ville, which plays host to the Djibouti Cup and to football teams from the Djibouti Premier League. Djibouti city has established a high-profile reputation as a host city of international sporting events. At the beginning of the 20th century, a number of sporting institutions were established in the city, particularly in school and college settings.


A news broadcast on Radio Television of Djibouti.

Djibouti City has long been a center of media in the country. The first forms of public film display in the city and Djibouti at large were newsreels of key events during the early colonial period. The Djibouti City–based Radio Television of Djibouti is the principal national public service broadcaster. RTD airs 24 hours a day, and can be viewed both within Djibouti and abroad via terrestrial and satellite platforms. Djibouti also hosts modern Djiboutian traditional music. Several newspapers, magazines and printing facilities have their offices in the capital. Djibouti is also a center for broadcast media, with a number of radio and television stations airing from there.


The Café de la Gare, one of a number of popular restaurants in the city.

Djibouti City has long been renowned for its diverse cuisine. Traditional Somali, Afar and Yemeni delicacies are served alongside international dishes; especially French culinary staples. The Yemeni dish mandi is also a popular meal, particularly during lunchtime. Several other popular dishes feature seafood and meat, including Fah-fah (spicy boiled beef soup).

Additionally, there are a number of restaurants located throughout the city. These establishments serve everything from traditional dishes, to gourmet delicacies, to fast food and snacks. Among the more popular eateries in the capital are the Café de la Gare and the Zip Zap Restaurant and Shisha Lounge.


Annual events and celebrations in Djibouti City include Independence Day, which is feted on 27 June. The Muslim festivals of Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha also feature prominently in the city's cultural observances, events and celebrations. Additional local, national and international events are likewise held here throughout the year.

Main sights


Ryad Market in the heart of Djibouti City.

Foreign visitors to Djibouti City usually like to frequent the shops on Bender Road (Rue de Bender), where myriad things ranging from traditional fabrics and leather products can be found at bargain prices. The newly built Casino Supermarket (Casino Supermarché) is the capital's largest such shopping center. For fresh produce, meat, clothing, and other goods and services, the open Ryad Market (Marché de Ryad) is a commercial outlet of choice.


The Hamoudi Mosque was built in 1906 by Haji Hamoudi. It is among the older standing masjids in the capital. Its size and prominent location have made it a local landmark. The Saoudi Mosque (Mosquée Saoudi) on Boulevard Bounhour is another of the city's main masjids.


The presidential palace in Djibouti City.

The presidential palace is the official residence and principal workplace of the President of Djibouti. It overlooks the Gulf of Tadjoura, with access to both the harbour and airport.


Djibouti City has several public parks, the largest of which is Lagarde Park. It is a popular destination for family gatherings, picnics and sightseeing.


A Saba Islamic Bank branch in Djibouti City.

As the capital of and largest settlement in Djibouti, most local businesses have their headquarters in Djibouti City. Djibouti Telecom, the largest telecommunications company in the country, is based here. During its existence, Djibouti Airlines also had its head office in the city.[16] Djibouti city is the financial hub to many entrepreneurial industries ranging from construction, retail, import and export, Internet cafes, and companies that process remittances from relatives abroad who send money.

Port operations from the vicinity of Djibouti City are the chief economic activity of Djibouti. The city's port is the terminus for Ethiopian oil transport and export. Increase in railway infrastructure pending a contract agreement in 2012 will further enable Ethiopian and Eritrean oil to reach the capital.


Siesta Beach at sunrise.

Tourism in Djibouti is centered in the Djibouti region. City landmarks include historic buildings, two important public squares, and the Hall of the People. Many private companies offer organized tours of these sites. Known as the "Pearl of the Gulf of Tadjoura", the city's sandy beaches are also popular tourist attractions.

The Hotel Acacias on Avenue F. d'Esperey.

Khor Ambado lies on the outskirts of Djibouti city, around fifteen kilometers from the city center. A popular local attraction, this beach has a number of restaurant establishments overlooking the sea. Doraleh is another beach situated about ten miles from the capital, on a paved road that winds through the dunes of volcanic rocks. With its main restaurant, Doraleh is a favorite hangout on Fridays leading up to the weekend. Other prominent beaches in the city include Siesta Beach and Heron Beach.

The two small Maskali and Moucha islands are situated an hour's drive from Djibouti City. They feature madreporic mangroves, with a rich seabed and colorful algae. Various fish species can also be found in the local coral gardens, including groupers, jacks and barracuda.

Another notable city landmark is La Place du 27 Juin, a street named after Djibouti's independence day. The Place Mahamoud-Harbi (formerly Place Rimbaud) was similarly named in honor of a prominent local figure, erstwhile Vice President of the Government Council Mahmoud Harbi.


Djibouti city has over 40 hotels. Most are situated within the capital area or along the Djibouti Palace Kempinski's beachfront. Among the more prominent hotel establishments and guest houses are the Hotel La Siesta, the Sheraton Djibouti Hotel located on the waterfront, the Kempinsky Hotel, the Hotel Bellevue, the Hotel Casino Impérial, and the Hotel Acacias on Avenue F. d'Esperey.



A Toyota car dealership in Djibouti City.

Djibouti City is a major transportation hub, served by a comprehensive public transport network. Roads leading out of the city connect it to other national localities and to Somalia and Ethiopia. Public transportation is provided through buses stationed at the Djibouti City Bus Service Enterprise. The city at large serves as a point of intersection for the main roads and highways linking different parts of the country. It is one of the most accessible urban areas in the country, where one can find public and private transportation 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. A significant number of the city's residents use the local informal minibuses and taxis, which include a fleet of 400 green-and-white taxis. The main bus hub in Djibouti City is the Central Bus Station, located at the crossing of Rue de Bender.


An Ilyushin Il-18 aircraft and ferrying bus on the Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport runway.

The local Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport offers flights to numerous global destinations. As of 2012, the largest services using the airport include Yemenia, Air France, Flydubai, Ethiopian Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Kenya Airways and Qatar Airways. It is the largest airport in Djibouti and serves as a major gateway for travellers to the Horn of Africa and the world. Located approximately 6 kilometres (5 mi) from the city centre, the airport was opened in 1948. Originally a modest-sized facility, the airport grew considerably in size in the post-independence period after numerous successive renovation projects. Outbound international travel from the Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport accounts for the majority of all air passengers traveling to and from Djibouti. Due to its strategic location, the facility acts as a civil aviation hub for the rest of the country. This makes for a large number of departures and arrivals, and it is not unusual for flights to be delayed in the holding pattern before landing. Djibouti city is improving its international connections, and numerous non-stop flights provided by various airlines connect the area with other global destinations. Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport currently ranks as the 829th busiest airport on the continent.


Boats in front of a container terminal at the Port of Djibouti.

The Port of Djibouti is one of the largest and busiest seaports in the Horn region. As of 2013, the container terminal at the port handles the bulk of the nation's trade. About 70% of the seaport's activity consists of imports to and exports from neighboring Ethiopia, which depends on the harbour as its main maritime outlet. The port also serves as an international refueling center and transshipment hub.[8] In 2012, the Djiboutian government in collaboration with DP World started construction on the Doraleh Container Terminal,[17] a third major seaport intended to further develop the national transit capacity.[8] A $396 million project, it has the capacity to accommodate 1.5 million twenty foot container units annually.[17]


Built between 1894 and 1915 during the colonial period, the Ethio-Djibouti Railways connected the city with Addis Ababa. Although the railway is no longer operational, there are plans for the construction of a new modern rail line in the near future. Long-distance rail lines connect Djibouti City with other major urban areas in the southern part of the nation, as well as with cities in neighboring Ethiopia.


Entrance to the ISSS Faculty of Medicine in Djibouti City.

Long a national centre of education, Djibouti City is home to many elementary and high schools. Public primary and secondary schools in the capital are run by the Ministry of Education. The University of Djibouti, established in 1977, is based here. Additionally, the Institut Supérieur des Sciences et de la Santé (ISSS) has its main campus in the city.

Sister cities

Country City
 Italy Emblem of Italy.svg Rimini
 Maldives Coat of arms of Maldives.svg Malé
 United States Great Seal of the United States (obverse).svg Key West
 Malta Coat of arms of Malta.svg Victoria
 Egypt Coat of arms of Egypt (Official).svg Suez
 Saudi Arabia Coat of arms of Saudi Arabia.svg Jizan
 Sudan Emblem of Sudan.svg Port Sudan
 Yemen Emblem of Yemen.svg Aden
 Slovenia Coat of arms of Slovenia.svg Izola
 United States Great Seal of the United States (obverse).svg Kailua-Kona
 Mexico Coat of arms of Mexico.svg La Paz
 Spain Escudo de España (mazonado).svg Algeciras
 Sudan Emblem of Sudan.svg Khartoum
 Nicaragua Coat of arms of Nicaragua.svg Granada

Notable residents

Dileita Mohamed Dileita, Prime Minister of Djibouti and former UMP representative in the District of Djibouti.


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  2. Hugh Chisholm (ed.) The Encyclopædia Britannica 11th ed., Vol. 25, p. 383. 1911.
  3. A Political Chronology of Africa, (Taylor & Francis), p.132.
  4. World Book, Inc, The World Book Encyclopedia, Volume 1, (World Book: 2007)
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Jibuti" [i.e., Djibouti] in the Encyclopædia Britannica 11th ed., Vol. 15. 1911.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Abyssinia" in the Encyclopædia Britannica 11th ed., Vol. 1. 1911.
  7. "Zaila" [i.e., Zeila] in the Encyclopædia Britannica 11th ed., Vol. 28. 1911.
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  9. KNMI Climate explorer, Precipitation totals 1901 - 2000
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  13. [1] -
  14. Kevin Anglin, Becca Blond and Jean-Bernard Carillet, Africa on a Shoestring (London: Lonely Planet, 2004), p. 698.
  15. "Regional Somali Language Academy Launched in Djibouti". COMESA Regional Investment Agency. Retrieved 28 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Contact Us." Djibouti Airlines. 1 June 2006. Retrieved on 20 February 2011. "REPUBLIC OF DJIBOUTI DJIBOUTI AIRLINES HEAD OFFICE-PLACE LAGARDE."
  17. 17.0 17.1 Bansal, Ridhima. "Current Development Projects and Future Opportunities in Djibouti". Association of African Entrepreneurs. Retrieved 26 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links