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Thursday, June 2, 2011

COUNTRY #179: Djibouti

Welcome, country #179:


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The French Territory of the Afars and the Issas became Djibouti in 1977. Hassan Gouled APTIDON installed an authoritarian one-party state and proceeded to serve as president until 1999. Unrest among the Afars minority during the 1990s led to a civil war that ended in 2001 following the conclusion of a peace accord between Afar rebels and the Issa-dominated government. In 1999, Djibouti's first multi-party presidential elections resulted in the election of Ismail Omar GUELLEH; he was re-elected to a second term in 2005. Djibouti occupies a strategic geographic location at the mouth of the Red Sea and serves as an important transshipment location for goods entering and leaving the east African highlands. The present leadership favors close ties to France, which maintains a significant military presence in the country, but also has strong ties with the US. Djibouti hosts the only US military base in sub-Saharan Africa and is a front-line state in the global war on terrorism.

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Djibouti is one of the few French colonies relatively stable and progressive.  Except for 10,000 or so Europeans, the population of 725,000 follow the Islamic religion.  A poor country (#137 of 192 in GNP/capita), it ranks 147 out of 169 in the UN Human Development Index.  It is about the size of Massachusetts.

As Yemen is only 20 miles east across the Red Sea, there is a relationship  linkage.  It is east of Ethiopa, south of Eritrea and north of Somalia.

Why would you want to visit this country?  There are several five star hotels in Djibouti City, an American military base camp,  the Afar Depression (minus 500 feet) is the lowest point of the African continent and Lake Asai is 34% salt.  Seawater is one tenth this concentration.

Additional details can be read in Countries and Their Culture.


Dinner tonight was with Sharon and Dan Takahashi (my brother) at Texas de Brazil, a churrascaria restaurant.  The chain began in 1998 in Texas by Salim Aswari (left...hmm..doesn't sound too Brazilian) and there are now 18 of them across the country, three in Las Vegas.  We went to the one in Town Square near the airport.   This is a cowboy (gaucho) meal, where you absolutely must come hungry.

The international (even sushi) salad bar was good, service excellent and meats terrific.  I forgot how many different kinds, but there were at least six different types of beef, carried and cut at your table by passadors.  We had the traditional Brazilian drink, caipirinha, a rum concoction.  My amazement was to see so many people in this large establishment at 5:30PM, for it costs around $50/person.  My dinner at the California Hotel would have been free.

The Dow Jones Industrials fell a further 42 to 12,249, and most major markets were also down, especially in Europe.  Gold dropped $8/toz to $1534 and oil is stable at $101/barrel (NYMEX) and $115/barrel (Brent Spot).

There is a minor disturbance north of Cancun in the Gulf of Mexico, which reminds me that hurricane season started yesterday, and the wild guess is that the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico might see above average action.  In the Western Pacific, Category 5 Typhoon Songda managed to steer a course that never made major landfall.

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