Djibouti is easy to miss. This little country is squeezed in between Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Red Sea. It’s stable, neutral, and quiet, which keeps it out of the news and our minds. While the few visitors who arrive are French, and they’re trying to keep it a secret. But Djibouti shouldn’t be missed.
Specifically, it’s Tadjoura that shouldn’t be missed. The capital of the Tadjourah Region is the oldest town in the country. It was built in the 12th century, and it was home to a thriving port, as well as a slave and ivory market, until the French arrived in the late 19th century. The city’s importance decreased with the arrival of the Franco-Ethiopian Railway in 1901. The port was only recently modernized for large shipping vessels.
You arrive on a ferry from Djibouti City, the hectic capital. The green Goda Mountains, home to the country’s only national park, stand in the background. Whitewashed brick buildings line the waterfront. Tall minarets peek above the low buildings—the small town has seven mosques. While wooden fishing boats bob in the Gulf of Tadjoura. Tadjoura looks like a picturesque little Arabian village.
Since it’s hot—it’s always hot here—your first stop is the beach. Plage des Sables Blancs is a tranquil beach just east of town. It has pure, white sand and sloping dunes. The bright blue water is shallow and calm. There are no crowds. You go swimming and then snorkeling with whale sharks. You return to town when the temperature slightly dips. You walk along the waterfront and by the mosques. You buy a woven basket at the Association des Femmes de Tadjoura. Then you eat grilled fish at Corto Maltese overlooking the water.
A small breeze is starting to blow off the water. The call to prayer is echoing through town. You may not be among the faithful, but you’re still thankful you didn’t miss Tadjoura.