Africa

In pictures: Is Djibouti’s rich cultural mix under threat?

Baguette seller in Djibouti Image copyright JAMES JEFFREY

Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, has a vision of becoming the "African Dubai". But journalist James Jeffrey says the growing modern city centre may destroy its mix of Somali, Ethiopian, French and Arab influences:

Image copyright JAMES JEFFREY
Image caption Since gaining independence from France in 1977, Djibouti has steadily carved out a regional role through its strategic and commercial relevance at the junction of Africa, the Middle East and Indian Ocean—bolstered by its increasing network of ports.
Image copyright JAMES JEFFREY
Image caption The arid nation on the Red Sea used to be more associated with French legionnaires. This cemetery on the western outskirts of the fishing town Obock contains the graves of French soldiers who died there in the 1880s.
Image copyright JAMES JEFFREY
Image caption Today, the new ports and airports rising from the sands are transforming the capital, Djibouti city, amid $12bn (£8bn) of Chinese investment. The country also hosts military bases from the US and France - and China will also have one soon.
Image copyright JAMES JEFFREY
Image caption Five-star hotels and a modern-looking city centre opposite the original port are a far cry from the nomadic roots of most of Djibouti's population.
Image copyright JAMES JEFFREY
Image caption Despite the construction, there still exists a palpable French colonial legacy, fused with a mix of Somali, Ethiopian and Arab influences - as these buildings show.
Image copyright JAMES JEFFREY
Image caption In the so-called "African quarter" of the capital, the oppressive midday heat does not deter a woman from smoking her bubbling shisha tobacco pipe.
Image copyright JAMES JEFFREY
Image caption Even in the "European quarter", the mishmash of cultures give the city a singularly Horn-of-Africa feel, encompassing cafes brewing coffee in the Ethiopian style, Yemeni restaurants serving specialty fish and haggling at open-air markets in rapid-fire Somali as onlookers sip sweet tea.
Image copyright JAMES JEFFREY
Image caption Djibouti's character comes from its position at the crossroads of Africa and the Middle East. This man has come to Obock as a refugee from Yemen. At its narrowest point, only 40km (25 miles) of water separates Djibouti and Yemen.
Image copyright JAMES JEFFREY
Image caption With its mosques and white-washed houses, Tadjoura - a small town across the water from the capital - has a particular Arabian feel and exemplifies the country's Middle Eastern ties.
Image copyright JAMES JEFFREY
Image caption Here residents of Tadjoura play a traditional Afar game on the sand. Djibouti's population consists mainly of ethnic Somalis and Afars of Ethiopian origin.
Image copyright JAMES JEFFREY
Image caption Djibouti's bid for modernity is not welcomed by everyone. "I worry about how this may change our customs - the traditional clothing, food and decorations that symbolise our identity," a 30-year-old woman says.
Image copyright JAMES JEFFREY
Image caption But for the average Djiboutian, like this woman making juice on the street in the capital, everyday life for now remains unaffected by dreams of an African Dubai.

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