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  • Bienvenue dans l'enfer

    'Welcome to hell' - Graffiti outside the main bus station at Ali Sabieh, Djibouti. Ali Sabieh is a remote, outer province desert town on the corner of Somalia and Ethiopia. It has limited electricity, few fresh vegetables, high temperatures, and a history of banditry in the hills surrounding. It is also Djibouti's second largest city.

  • The elements

    Little grows in the dry desert soil of Ali Sabieh, and the winds are often high.

  • Scarification

    Camels thrive in the harsh conditions, and can be found in packs of nearly 50 wandering the dry riverbeds on the outskirts of town.

  • Transport

    Just off the primary highway from Djibouti City to Ethiopia and Somalia, Ali Sabieh is an outpost town, catering to the occasional transport truck rolling through the desert.

  • Ethio-Djibouti Railway

    The stunning Ethio-Djibouti railway links Addis Ababa with the Red Sea at the port of Djibouti City. Long disused, whole sections have fallen into disrepair while others remain damaged from the Ogaden War between Ethiopia and Somalia in the late 1970s. According to the BBC, some sections of the track are over 100 years old, originally built by the French for Emperor Menelik in the early 1900s, and the sections that are still in operation average 'one derailment a week'.

  • Disuse

    Like an 850 kilometer museum, the railway traces the evolution of transport through Djibouti to the Red Sea. Transit through this desert now happens in trucks, along dusty dirt and sand tracks.

  • Many, many years.

    Living only a few meters from the tracks with their familes, these two men told me they haven't seen a train pass by 'in many, many years'.

  • The last train

  • Desert Grave

    A gravesite deep in the desert faces Mecca.

  • Midday

  • Love

    Graffiti on a wall just outside the Ali Sabieh town center.

  • Towers

    Youth in Ali Sabieh are well connected to the world through cell phone towers. This guy only asked for a photo after he had showed me how he could get local music videos and Western porn on his cell phone in seconds.

  • Fatima and her sister

  • Home

  • Khat

    Chewing Khat is a daily ritual in Djibouti, a practice that dates back thousands of years. The stimulant is illegal in many countries (including Djibouti), must be consumed fresh, and is transported in from Ethiopia.

  • Football

  • Kiss me

    Public transport between Djibouti City and the outer territories is done on loudly colored public buses.

  • Portrait

  • Business closed

  • Desert highway

  • Change, we want change

  • The doctor & the student

    The only doctor in Ali Sabieh, at left, and his friend the college student, back home for the weekend.

  • Pigeon

  • Danger zone

    Precariously balanced between Somalia and Eritrea, and strategically aligned with Ethiopia, Djibouti is potentially on the edge of geopolitical precipice. Adding to the regional mix are internal rebellions, guerilla movements, freedom fighters, and killers. Djibouti therefore departs thousands of Somali and other refugees in clandestine smuggling boats to Yemen. Those that remain in Djibouti - along with Ethiopians, Eritreans, and others - are required to live in the confines of Ali Addeh refugee camp - about 20 km from the Somali border.

  • Intervention

    Djiboutian and Ethiopian military intervention against al Shabaab in Somalia has left both countries with hostile neighbors, as tensions have risen with Ethiopia's break-away state, Eritrea. Eritrea, absorbed by Ethiopia through a UN resolution, fought a long and bloody war for autonomy before gaining independence in 1993. Ethiopia has accused Eritrea of funding al Shabaab in a proxy war in Somalia, leaving borders tense. Ethiopian tanks and Djiboutian air forces dotted the road to Somalia.

  • Wild

  • Roam

  • Desert flats

  • Inhabitants

    Djibouti City

  • Lunch

  • The port of Djibouti

    The port of Djibouti is one of Africa's oldest and most strategic ports. Its proximity to major shipping lanes and the middle east, as well as its relationships with a number of foreign navies, make the port the lifeblood of the Djiboutian economy.

  • Moon

  • Labor

    Construction of endless rows of identical housing along wide boulevards demonstrates Djiboutian confidence that its own small population will continue to be augmented by foreign military and industrial postings.

  • Strategic Operations

    A good portion of the 1st floor rooms at the Sheraton Djibouti City are rented as informal operations rooms by foreign military staff residing in the rooms above.

  • Isolation

    There is a notable gender imbalance among Western expatriates in Djibouti City, and men outnumber women about ten to one at the Sheraton Djibouti City.

  • Pride

    Requesting a photograph, two deaf shopkeepers pose for the camera.

  • Francais

  • Coastline

  • Love can damage your heart

    Graffiti in a downtown Djibouti City alleyway.

  • Ethiopian restaurant, downtown Djibouti City

  • Djibouti City

  • Community classroom

  • Amharic/Francais

    French and Ethiopian influence collide in a Djibouti City restaurant.

  • Thatch

  • Architecture

    Ali Sabieh

  • Night heat

  • Borderlands


  • Volatility/Extinction

    A long-dead volcano rises from the northern Ethiopian desert just across the Djibouti border.