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March 15, 2002

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When we saw Ethiopia and Djibouti next to each other on the atlas, we had no idea the countries were completely different. Djibouti is ten times more expensive; the people speak French, Somali, or Arabic; and the dominant religion is overwhelmingly Islam. It's unbearably hot and humid. Today was the first day of the Muslim New Year, so Djibouti Town was shut down. All doors and windows closed. We wandered around an empty city. We found one man who spoke English and hired him to take us to Lac Assal. He rented a cab for us but instead of driving it he sent his cousin who didn't speak English. That's how business deals work here: hire a driver who rents another car and finds a substitute for himself.
Lac Assal is a salt lake at the lowest point on the African continent, under 120 meters below sea level. Strong winds blow you over.
Formerly Rimbaud square, Djibouti Town. They changed the name because Rimbaud, the French poet, never liked Djibouti; he called this place hell on earth.