The truly temperate weather as we arrived in Djibouti surprised us. Last time, in April 2014, the weather averaged 90 degrees F and 90% humidity. Today, it’s 82 degrees with 66 percent humidity “making it feel like” 88. Well, comparatively it is wonderful. Paris was cold, and Djibouti is not sweltering hot.
The international military presence at the airport seemed heightened compared to our last visit and taxis now congregate in a parking lot farther away from the actual terminal. Djibouti’s airport is very small, and there are no gates. Speaking of parking lots, the planes pull up from the runway and more or less just park in front of the airport.
We found a taxi without incident and I found it funny how instantly I relaxed as the heat built in the green-and-white cab, only the front window open and the air conditioning running as much as it could. The airport has various roadblocks that need to be circumvented to leave, weaving between them in an S-fashion.
The area near the airport has a lot of what might best be described as European-style summer villas. As you come into town, the feel of the developing world increases. Men digging trenches and constructing buildings with nothing but their own hands and manual tools. Women in colorful robes and head coverings. The blend of European-influenced shops and homes mixed in with the rag-tag stalls and living quarters of the less affluent residents. And flies. Lots of flies.
My traveling companion M had attempted to book a room at our regular hotel, but had been unable to reach them. So, we told the taxi to take us downtown to Hotel Ali Sabieh. When we were here previously, they had started construction on a new building across the street. I don’t think it’s done quite yet, but it is a big building and looks great.
The porter recognized us when our cab parked. The desk clerk is the same man it was last time, and I think he’s still wearing the same purple-and-white shirt. Our room features the same Third World rustic comfort as we’ve come to expect: a sink that pours water from the pedestal every time you use it; a toilet where the water needs to be shut off at the valve so it doesn’t overflow; a shower that’s more like standing under a hose; and my personal favorite: the curtained “window” that doesn’t have a window at all, but merely a wall.
The businesses near us seem exactly what they were almost two years ago, including the man on center square who tried to get us to hire him as a tour guide every time we walked by. He managed to catch us today and present his spiel and phone number.
We headed to the Nougaprix grocery store for water. And we slept and slept and slept. We set the alarm for a 45 minute nap and I believe reset it three times before we very reluctantly rose from our beds.
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