56 – A city of many facades
Thu 21st Jan, Horseed Hotel, Djibouti City
The best laid plans come to nought sometimes. We started off the day with the intention of taking a dhow across the bay to Tadjoura. As im writing this, we are still in Djibouti City. For the purpose of this entry, the conversion of DJF to SGD is around 125 DJF to 1 SGD.
In the morning, we first got breakfast (fuul and bread and honey for 700 DJF) at a street restaurant before making our way down to the banks and Ethiopian embassy. I didn’t need the latter since I have multiple entries, but Chris figured he’d better sort out his reentry asap.
Waited for a bit, till i got bored and went off to get some Internet time. (300 DJF/ hour). Then we got back to the hotel, and rushed down to the L’escale, which is the set off point for boats carrying Qat across the bay north. Chris wanted to get aboard the slower dhows (which take 3 hours) but there were only the fast speedboats (45 minutes, 2000 DJF) which were pricey. I was ok with just sitting around in the city, to be honest, so in the end we foregoed the idea. The rushing down to the harbour though, left us completely drenched in sweat. The afternoon sun here is brutal.
We had lunch next, at one of the many streetside restaurants. These were considerably cheaper than what lonely planet gives. The author who wrote this section must have really lived well here, for he recommends only the posher eateries where the expat and loaded tourist community who goes on package tours would hang out. Lunch then was by other countries’ standards, very pricey, but affordable (1000 DJF for a meal of what seems like Briyani Rice with chicken and acar and a fruit cocktail for dessert). Entirely worth it if you ask me. The other thing to note is that from lunch to around 3, the qat trucks arrive from Ethiopia, and all the shops close for a couple of hours. And everywhere on the street, the qat eaters get stoned.
I am not well. I must have caught something along the way. Right after the late lunch, we made our way back to the room. My runny nose that i’ve been carrying over the past couple days is getting worse. And now this is compounded by a phlegmy cough. I do hope it is nothing serious. In the late afternoon i decided to sleep it off.
Woke up for dinner feeling considerably better, though i have no voice now. Sigh. We went out nearby to another streetside restaurant. I do not think everyone here speaks fluent French, the restaurant owners do Arabic better. In Djibouti, there would be a host of immigrant workers coming into the city to make a living. Then you have the expats who come in and work here. And when we say expats, it is not only the westerners. We did see the French foreign legion rumbling around town in their jeeps, as well as the occasional American GIs. And we also saw plump western women in tank tops walking huge dogs in the hot afternoon sun. But there were also the the Indian money changers, Africans from elsewhere and Arabs from across the sea. Case in point, there was a group of 5 or 6 expat Arab kids aged around 5 to 12 at the next table. They knew they were the bosses, eating dinner and frequently calling out to the restaurant staff by name and asking for this and that. It was pretty difficult to tell where each one was from though. Elsewhere, facial features would tell from which tribe or people they belong. Here it is a smogasboard (sp?) of people.
Then you have the poorer folk, a stark contrast to the rest of the city. They are everywhere, begging for change (where change is this case can be coins of up to 4SGD value!). Opposite from us, hunched beside a parked pickup, is a father and son duo squatting down and eating from the floor. They beg, not only from the tourists, but also from the locals.
Tomorrow morning, we decided we will leave with one of the many battered 4WDs going to Hargeisa, Somaliland. That trip will take all of 20 hours, and i hope i’m well enough to be up to it