Jan 252012

The whole purpose of this trip had been to visit a close friend who was working in the region…since we seem to always be his only visitors on these sorts of trips. Somehow, I’m not sure he believed we’d show up in Djibouti…but after Kuwait he also shouldn’t have been surprised! After a great night of showing us around, we had a relatively early morning ahead of us. But first, a shot from the beginning of the last night in Djibouti:

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Jan 242012

So…Djibouti immigration. Turns out 99% of our fellow passengers were in transit to the Daallo Airlines flight to Dubai (I suspect on another plane, since I don’t think the IL-18 has that kind of range) so they were shunted off, and maybe 10 of us went into the immigration queue. Where they took our passports, told us to have a seat, and we waited…for 30 minutes or so.

Eventually, we were ushered into a small office, where for a charge of $60 each, we got a collection of stamps, stickers, and glue in the passports that passed for an official “visa” to enter Djibouti. We had heard $55 in advance, but with exchange rate changes were not about to argue over such a small amount. Before the trip, for some reason, I suspected Djibouti Airport would be much much bigger. It’s not. it’s essentially one giant room with a few different areas…this place is tiny!

Got outside, and the Sheraton shuttle was of course not there as we’d asked for. Taxi was cheap, and soon we were off to the Sheraton…where they had absolutely no record of our points reservation, and were completely clueless how to deal with it. Check-in took nearly two hours, when you count the time to figure out what to do, get us to a room, get us a stocked minibar, and have everything sorted. Oh, yes, about the minibar. Due to local “sensibilities” they leave it empty. However, for platinum guests, they are happy to deliver a more-than-adequate FREE minibar:

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Jan 232012

What, you’ve never heard of Daallo Airlines? Shame on you – one of the finest outfits in the business. I mean, you even have the luxury of calling a 1-800 number in the US to book with them, where you get transfered approximately 114 times to different people, have to fax photocopies of your credit cards to another 14 people, and then email them as well just so they’re sure they can read them. Surprisingly…after all this…you actually do get a confirmation number…and when you check in at the airport things are flawless. Welcome to 1990 I guess? But…it all worked. Then, we got to the airport.

Honestly, the airport in Hargeisa was perfectly fine, and perfectly functional. Check-in was perfect, and we were informed that today we would have the luxury of travel on a relic – an Ilyushin IL-18D – a relic of an aircraft that is a bit of a legend from Soviet days. This plane was such a relic, I’m still trying to get details on its origins! Enough of that, however. Check-in was so good that our bags were tagged with proper electronic baggage tags, we got proper electronic boarding passes….and then off to passport control and security – which were honest, efficient, and only collected the fees posted on the wall. I was beginning to get a bit shocked at how anti-climactic this was!

Daallo Airlines Flight 159
Hargeisa, Somalia to Djibouti City, Djibouti
Depart: 10:00, Arrive 10:45 – later adjusted via e-mail to Depart 14:00, Depart 14:45 – flight time 45 minutes
Aircraft: Ilyushin IL-18D, Registration UP-I1801, Manufactured who knows when!
Seats: TBD, Printed as 18A and 18B

So, into the waiting hall where they were selling newspapers and food. THe usual sodas, crisps, etc, and then it was 14:00…and no plane. We found there were some plastic chairs out on the tarmac, so we went out there to have a sit and wait for our plane. Not much to see, but more interesting than inside!

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Jan 082012

…but then again, I’m not right in the head. I was probably dropped as a child, or something similar, but something clearly isn’t quite right up there.

You might remember the last two years where I spent New Years Eve…yes, Iraq and then Iran/Afghanistan. I was taught in High School that things always seem to happen in threes…some sort of natural law thing. I had a good friend working in Djibouti, and that got my head to spinning…what’s perhaps the only place worse than Iraq and Afghanistan in the mind of most? Could I…I mean, Somalia is only about 20km from the capital of Djibouti!

Of course, when planning, that wouldn’t be enough. That would just be two new countries. I had to add more…and they couldn’t be boring. So, the final trip came out looking like a place of 8 years that normal people don’t spend new years:

1. Djibouti
2. Somalia
3. Ethiopia
4. Rwanda
5. Burundi
6. Kenya
7. Egypt
8. Yemen

Now, I admit normally a couple of these are a little tame. But Egypt’s been more than a little exciting lately, and Kenya is all a-twitter about Al Shabaab reprisals. So that made things a little more exciting. Things got more exciting when Yemen pulled my transit visa…boo hiss! Must find another way from Addis to Cairo. A normal person would have booked the direct flight even though it was at 3am. Nope, that wouldn’t do.

So Yemen was replaced with the world’s newest country: South Sudan!

Sit back, buckle up (well, unless you’re on the one of my flights that didn’t have seat belts, and prepare for a very very wild ride!