Djibouti

Official name: Republic of Djibouti

Area: 22,000 square kilometers (8,494 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Moussa Ali (2,028 meters/6,654 feet)

Lowest point on land: Lac Assal (155 meters/509 feet below sea level)

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 3 P.M. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 213 kilometers (132 miles) from northeast to southwest; 155 kilometers (96 miles) from southeast to northwest

Land boundaries: 508 kilometers (316 miles) total boundary length; Eritrea 113 kilometers (70 miles); Somalia 58 kilometers (36 miles); Ethiopia 337 kilometers (209 miles)

Coastline: 314 kilometers (195 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)

1 LOCATION AND SIZE

Located on the coast of the Horn of Africa, Djibouti is one of the continent's smallest countries. With an area of 22,000 square kilometers (8,494 square miles), it is about the same size as El Salvador, and only about one-sixth as large as England. Because of its location at the southern entryway to the Red Sea, however, the country has a strategic importance that is out of proportion to its small size.

2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES

Djibouti claims no territories or dependencies.

3 CLIMATE

The climate is dry and torrid (very hot). The hot, dry hamsin wind increases the already-blistering summer temperatures, which can rise as high as 45°C (113°F). Rainfall is infrequent, averaging less than 13 centimeters (5 inches) annually.

S EASON M ONTHS A VERAGE HIGH TEMPERATURE : °C ELSIUS (°F AHRENHEIT
Summer May to September 37°C (99°F)
Winter October to April 31°C (87°F)

4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS

Djibouti can be divided into three major geographic regions: a coastal plain, mountains behind the plain, and a plateau behind the mountains.

5 OCEANS AND SEAS

Djibouti lies just south of the entryway to the Red Sea.

Seacoast and Undersea Features

Djibouti's coast is fringed by picturesque coral reefs.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Djibouti's eastern shore forms most of the west bank of the Strait of Mandab (Bab al Mandab), which connects the Gulf of Aden to the south and the Red Sea to the north. The coastline is deeply indented south of Cape Bir to form the Gulf of Tadjoura, which is 45 kilometers (28 miles) wide at its entrance and penetrates 58 kilometers (36 miles) inland, bisecting the eastern part of the country.

Islands and Archipelagos

There are no islands associated with Djibouti.

Coastal Features

An important deepwater port at the capital city of Djibouti receives ships sailing from the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Much of the coastline consists of white, sandy beaches.

6 INLAND LAKES

The desert terrain of Djibouti is broken in places by salt lakes. The largest of these is Lac Assal; at 155 meters (509 feet) below sea level, it is the lowest point in Africa and the second-lowest elevation in the world. It is also the world's saltiest body of water, with a concentration surpassing even that of the Dead Sea. Its water reaches temperatures of up to 57°C (135°F) in the summer.

7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS

There are no permanent inland watercourses and very little groundwater of any kind.

8 DESERTS

About 90 percent of Djibouti's terrain is flat, barren desert land made up of volcanic rock. Vegetation, which is minimal, includes scrub and palm trees.

9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN

Most of Djibouti's fertile, irrigated coastal plain lies at elevations below 200 meters (650 feet).

DID YOU KNOW?

The intense summertime heat in Djibouti once led travelers to call it "the Hell of Africa" and inspired the Somali proverb: "Before crossing this country, even the jackal writes his will."

10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES

Rugged mountain peaks of volcanic origin in the northern part of the country reach average heights of 1,000 meters (3,300 feet). These include Moussa Ali, the country's highest summit, in the northeastern corner of the country, and the Mabla Mountains north of the Gulf of Tadjoura.

11 CANYONS AND CAVES

There are no significant caves or canyons in Djibouti.

12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS

Djibouti's plateau regions rise from 300 to 1,500 meters (1,000 to 5,000 feet).

13 MAN-MADE FEATURES

There are no man-made features affecting the geography of Djibouti.

14 FURTHER READING

Books

Gordon, Frances Linzee. Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 2000.

Saint Viran, Robert. Djibouti, Pawn of the Horn of Africa . Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1981.

Periodicals

"Tiny Djibouti's Port Is Thriving as Neighbors' Problems Continue." The Wall Street Journal, Oct 16, 2000.

Web Sites

Mbendi profile. http://www.mbendi.co.za/land/af/dj/p0005.htm (accessed June 27, 2003).

University of Pennsylvania African Studies Web site. http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/Country_Specific/Djibouti.html (accessed March 12, 2003).

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