Djibouti is out of this world! It’s a claim no travel writer should ever make, but it really is as if a great chunk of Mars has been carved out and jigsawed on to the Horn of Africa. Seated on the Afar Triple Junction – the meeting point for three of the Earth’s tectonic plates, which are pulling slowly away from one another – Djibouti is a jostle of black volcanic rock, flat plains haunted by dust-devils and a brilliant-blue coastline, bulging out into the Gulf of Aden. These are the raw lands that 20-year-old Wilfred Thesiger travelled through in the 1930s and later featured in his Danakil Diaries travelogue.
Until recently, travellers have been slow to follow in his footsteps. Images of the civil war that broke out in the region during the 1990s linger – as do concerns about pirates in the Gulf. But these impressions are outdated. Aside from the occasional pickpocket, Djibouti is safe and unassociated with the problems that persist in neighbouring Somalia and Eritrea, its coastal towns insulated from marauders by the Gulf of Tadjoura.