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

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image copyrightJAMES 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 copyrightJAMES JEFFREY
image captionSince 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 copyrightJAMES JEFFREY
image captionThe 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 copyrightJAMES JEFFREY
image captionToday, 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 copyrightJAMES JEFFREY
image captionFive-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 copyrightJAMES JEFFREY
image captionDespite 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 copyrightJAMES JEFFREY
image captionIn 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 copyrightJAMES JEFFREY
image captionEven 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 copyrightJAMES JEFFREY
image captionDjibouti'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 copyrightJAMES JEFFREY
image captionWith 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 copyrightJAMES JEFFREY
image captionHere 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 copyrightJAMES JEFFREY
image captionDjibouti'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 copyrightJAMES JEFFREY
image captionBut 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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