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The strange lunar landscape around the gulf of Lac Ghoubet, Tadjoura

Part of Djibouti's appeal is its lack of tourists. Dawn over a desolate lake full of flamingos on the wing is unforgettable. The black lava fields, weird natural chimneys blowing steam and the burning, endless plains are deserted. Diving and snorkelling around Red Sea coral reefs is fabulous.

The country is a boisterous blend of colonial French and modern Arabic. What it lacks in major attractions it makes up for in buzz, and travellers are often regarded as curios and treated to traditional African hospitality. However, its lack of visitors is due to its tendency towards strife.

The injuries of the civil war have only recently begun to heal, and none of the continuing strife beyond the country's borders makes that process easier. The population has been inflated by tens of thousands of refugees from Somalia and Ethiopia, and the disaffected along Djibouti's national boundaries threaten at least to relieve travellers of their cameras, at most to reignite the war. The French military withdrawal has taken much-needed cash out of the country, and Moody's are not about to give the economy an 'AAA' rating anytime soon.

Facts for the traveller
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Off the beaten track
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