As the cabin door was opened and we were allowed to leave the aircraft, once again a turbo prop, the first thing that hit me when I walked through the opening to a new country was the moist heat.
Even though it was late afternoon, beginning of the evening, the last streams of daylight still provided heat. The sea provided the humidity. Walking over the airstrip towards the entrance of the terminal building I finally felt happy. Happy to feel that I was close to the sea, happy to feel that I was in a new country.
I didn’t get any visa in advance as I had the information that nordic citizen don’t need a visa but can easily obtain it at the airport.
Most of that is true just not the “easy” part.
I filled in the immigration form and corrected myself into the que which said “no visa” and waited for my turn. As I came up to the immigration officer that was sitting in the plastic box he flipped through my passport and then looked at me, flipped through it again and said “-No visa?”
When I get opportunities like this I wanna answer smart, but when dealing with officials I have learnt that sometimes it is better to shut up, in this case as I was standing in the No Visa que.
Another man came and took my passport, asked me what Customer Service means which was what I had filled in under the line occupation on the immigration form. Oh boy here we go again, I had the same problem in Morocco last winter. I’m not sure if the wording customer service is not existing in arabic countries? I’m sure it must do but apparently it is not valid as an occupation.
I answered Telecom and he pointed me to a row of plastic bucket seats further away commanding me to go there and sit. He disappeared with my passport, something I have a slight problem with, and more and more people, travellers, gathered around me as they were appointed to stay there since they didn’t have any visa.
A third guy appeared, a thin tall guy but with a dead face and opened a small door it said “visa affairs” on. He pointed at me and waved to follow him into the office. In the office I asked for the 60 USD for the visa, I thought it was 30 but apparently it is 60, and the money changed hands and I was awarded by a visa in my passport and an immigration stamp.
This whole procedure took about 40 minutes and someone had already lifted off my bag from the conveyor so I just picked it up and entered the country through the terminals exit doors.
Trying to find a ATM in the arrival hall it was obvious that no such thing was available there. A guy, probably a coordinator, approached me when I stepped out and looked lost as I was looking for any sign of an ATM outside, and asked me “-Taxi?”
Replied that I was looking for a bank and he replied “-No problem, taxi take you to bank” and I climbed into the green and white Toyota from the early 90s. All taxis are colored green and white in this country.
As he drove off and into the city I immediately felt so much better, how I had missed the arabic chaos of minaret calls, people driving cars like they stole them, people everywhere and shouting when they are talking, I felt like home almost.
We stopped at a ATM after a whiles driving and I withdraw money and we headed further off to the hotel where I was spending the night. Now Djibouti is definitely not the cheapest Africa country to visit and I did spend as much money in three days as I did in a week in Ethiopia.
This mainly because of the military presence of the Americans, French and other nations.
The hotel which name was Horseed, even though I misread it the first time I read the name, was located of one of the main streets and was the cheapest option in town, 35 USD for a night which provides you with a room, bed, roof fan, a copy of the Quran and a small prayer matt, oh and also a pair of used flip-flops in plastic.
Shower, toilet and other business was done in the hallway in a shared space that is common in Arabic countries. Looking into the shared space I was happy to find a french toilet and not the regular squat hole in the floor which is more common in arabic countries.
I headed out into the nightly chaos as I was looking for an internet cafe to spend a few hours at.
Yet again I found bliss in finding out that Djibouti is equipped with 100MB internet connections and I felt like everything was normal again being able to surf as I wanted. The small things in life.
As the minaret was calling to evening prayer I decided it was time to head back and call it a night being tired after a long days travel and little sleep.
On the way back I also decided to try to find something to eat and ended up outside a small outdoor serving where the food was prepared on oil barrel lids placed over a fire. I looked a while and quickly gained attention as the only white walking around in the African quarters, which the area is named as, and I decided to go for one of their huge baguette filled with meat.
I received my order and as I walked off the guy, the one who spoke some English as French is the predominant European language spoken in Djibouti, waved goodbye and also put in “-See you soon!” and smiled.
Back at the room I ate my delicious sandwich, he had prepared it very well I must admit, and wrote some blog post until my eyes decided to close the shop for the day.
I woke up early the following day after a 9 hour sleep, probably the longest I slept on this trip, and I continued to write the blog post before transferring it all to my USB stick and went to get a shower.
Why was i surprised that the shower didn’t work? As there was a big bucket with water and a scoop, I just used the scoop to pour water over myself and wash off the dirt and shampoo.
It was refreshing and I noticed there were some small blood stains on the sheets where I had slept. The fleas had feasted on my tired legs while I was a sleep and my legs were having small red spots here and there, just like my arms had when I was in Africa last time.
Off to have some breakfast at the hotel my broken french and their bad english resulted in me eating an omelette with some old baguette and a sprite and as I was done I decided to try to get some postcards and stamps to have it done for this country.
I walked out with the camera around my neck and explored the city in the heat that had already appeared even though it was only 9 in the morning, the man at the hotel had said that the check out was at 11 which gave me a little time to see some stuff.
I quickly managed to find myself as the city is very small and I found my way to the post office or La Poste as they say in Djibouti. I asked for postcards but they didn’t have any so I headed back out just to remember that if you find stamps but it. No matter if you have cards or not, if you find stamps, buy it because you might very well end up in the situation that you have cards but you can not find any stamps at all, that has happened well to many times to me before.
I asked for the stamps and the woman told me that 70 franc stamps was all I needed no matter where I was sending the cards so I bought six of them for the cards I was gonna send.
She even gave me the name of a shop in the town where you could buy postcards, talk about customer service, and I steered my feet towards the direction and found it very easily, yet again, this is not a big town.
After the postcard shopping I wandered around a little bit in the city and saw the coffeiur signs, scratching my unshaved face I decided that I should get a shave again as the last one was more than a week ago.
I passed a few placed which were filled with people until I came to a place that was half empty and the people running it looked Indian but I guessed they were Pakistanis.
And wow, all I can say, wow. The best shave I have ever had in any country. The carefulness and the tenderness this little guy showed, he even shaved twice to get it really smooth, is something i have never experienced before. This included also a facial and scalp massage by this little man and all he asked for after the 45 minutes royal treatment was three euros. Three Euros!
I would quit shaving myself and have this done every week if the prices were the same in the western countries, thinking of it I’m not even sure if it possible to get in the Europe?
I paid and gave the little guy a euros tip even though the langauge differences gave me a mustache after the shave, but it is not a big deal I can cut that later.
Looking at my watch it was time to check out and I head to the hotel, pay and ask if I could leave my backpack with them for a few hours, no that was impossible.
So I gear up my 18 kilo and head out in the +31 celsius warmth heading towards the Internet cafe to cool down for a while as I was meeting my host later in the afternoon after his work. I sat down in the cafe, posted my blogs and read my mails and suddenly as the clock was 13:00 the owner started slowly put on plastic covers on the computers and I remembered that this had happened in Western Sahara as well.
He was closing for the afternoon. Now Djibouti as a country more or less stops to function from 13:00-14:00 and for about two hours, the city is dead. Funny enough this is happening at the same time as the fresh delivery of the drug chat is coming from Ethiopia. Any relations? Nah, don’t think so. Neither do I think it is related as suddenly the streets are packed with small stands selling chat, side by side they sit with a cover over the chat to keep the plants moist and energetic.
I had to gear up again and started a new hike, this time I decided to walk the estimated six kilometers up to the hotel where we would meet, and so I did.
Stopped after some kilometers to have something small to eat at a place called Cafe Le Gare or something like that, it was close to the train station and therefore the name. I walked in and it was cold, I was not used to the +24 degrees air conditioned temperature now that I had been walking through the warm streets of Djibouti.
Got the menu and the prices were not the cheapest comparing to the sandwich I had eaten the evening before anyhow I was now here and I decided to treat myself to a real delicious meal. The filet mignon was a real taste to my buds after 11 days in Ethiopia, don’t get me wrong Ethiopian food is awesome but after 11 days and limited selection this was heaven.
The potato gratin just melted on my tongue and the vegetable mix was a joy to down into my belly. After the food I was asked if I wanted dessert and the chocolate mousse sounded like an excellent idea. Now Djibouti have been a French colony so the food have strong influences of the French kitchen. What I got in was as filling as the filet mignon had been and I didn’t manage to eat it all and asked for the bill.
Already told you it is not a cheap country and my small lunch set me back 24 euros. Quite expensive but tremendously good and I thought I was worth it.
I walked the rest of the way and reached the hotel where we were to meet and waited. The clock had struck three in the afternoon and there was still two hours left until I would meet my host.
Not knowing if my host got my last message as the last communication had happened a few days earlier, I walked up to the reception of the hotel, and this hotel is a real bang. I’m talking five star hotel with a beautiful garden, high ceiling and decorated with amazing furniture and all different types of people walking around.
At the reception a guy with a very american accent greeted me and I asked if I could make a phone call which he after some consideration agreed too with a smile, he reminded me a lot of Matt Damon so that will be his name in the rest of this post.
The phone rang but no one picked up and i was almost, because of the poshness of the place, to ask if it was ok to sit and wait in their huge lounge but Matt just fired away a Colgate smile and said “- Naturally you are welcome to sit and wait” which surprised me but at the same time really made me like Matt. He seemed like an alright guy.
During my sitting time I was doing one of my favourite things, watching people.
And there were a lot of people passing in and out through the doors. There was the French pilots that was easily recognized by their olive-green flight overall and big French flag on their sleeve. There was the group of Spanish soldiers also recognized by their khaki desert uniform and spanish flag on their left chest pocket.
Time went by and I waited until Matt was at the reception again before walking up asking if it was maybe possible to try to call again which he agreed to, I like Matt.
This time the call was pushed away which left me a bit puzzled as the clock was 16:45 and I didn’t know where we would meet, inside the hotel compound or outside?
Asked if they had a mailbox so I could post my cards and they said I could leave it with them and they would mail them but I needed more stamps.
I was puzzled.
The lady at the post office said I only needed the 70 franc stamps which i also explained to the guy who replied “-This is Africa and in this country everyone says whatever they like”
He talked me into go to their store and buy the right amount of stamps to be able to have them successfully delivered to their right recipients. A 70 franc stamp was not enough but I needed to have two 75 franc stamps summing up the total stamps to 150 franc.
The curse of buying postcards is the stamps. sometimes you buy the cards and write them and when you get the stamps you find out that they are so big or so many that you have no place to put them without censoring something you wrote and this is why I usually put on the stamps before writing which was the case this time.
But now I had a new problem as the 75 franc stamps were bigger and I needed two of them on every card. It took a few minutes to figure out how to place the stamps with the least damage to the text but if any of you who read this received a postcard that was strange here you have the reason.
As I was licking stamps and trying to figure out its placements another guy came into the small store and started to talk to the lady behind the registered and then he looked at me as if he wanted to come up and talk to the lady but I was standing in the way so I just moved myself and the postcards to the side leaving more space so he could go up to the lady and talk to her.
“- Clabbe?” he said and I looked at him. It was my host who had come to the hotel and started looking for me as no one in the reception had seen anyone as he had described me. Now my questions is, how could they have missed the guy with two backpacks sitting in their chairs for almost two hours straight?
He and his wife, Celine, took me to their home which was close by.
Fredelic was working for the French airforce and had been stationed in Djibouti for the next two years. We spent the evening talking and they took me to a nearby restaurant to eat some local food. It was delicious and inexpensive.
And then we headed back and went to bed as we were to be up early in the morning to go to swim with the whale sharks.
The top reason for my visit to Djibouti.