A city-state with a desert hinterland, Djibouti lies in northeast Africa on the Red Sea. Once known as the French Territory of the Afars and Issas, independence came in 1977.
Geography: Mainly low-lying desert and semi-desert, with a volcanic mountain range in the north.
Climate: Almost no rain, though the monsoon is very humid. The 109°F (45°C) heat of summer is unbearable.
People and Society: The main ethnic groups are the Issas in the south, and the nomadic Afars in the north. Tensions between them developed into a guerrilla war in 1991–1994. Smaller tribal groups make up the rest of the population, and the rural peoples are mostly nomadic. Wealth is concentrated in Djibouti city. France exerts considerable influence in Djibouti, supporting it financially and maintaining a naval base and a military garrison.
The Economy: Djibouti’s major assets are its ports in a key Red Sea location.
Insight: Chewing the leaves of the mildly narcotic qat shrub is an age-old social ritual in Djibouti.
Official Name: Republic of Djibouti
Date of Formation: 1977
Total Area: 8494 sq. miles (22,000 sq. km)
Density: 97 people per sq. mile
Languages: Somali, Afar, French*, Arabic*
Religions: Muslim (mainly Sunni) 94%, Christian 6%
Ethnic Mix: Issa 60%, Afar 35%, other 5%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: Djibouti franc = 100 centimes