Geography of Djibouti

Geography of Djibouti

Continent Africa
Region Horn of Africa
Area Ranked 147th
  Total 23,200 km2 (9,000 sq mi)
Coastline 403 km (250 mi)
Borders 528 km (328 mi)
 Ethiopia: 343 km (213 mi)
 Eritrea: 125 km (78 mi)
 Somalia: 60 km (37 mi)
Highest point Mousa Ali
2,028 m (6,654 ft)
Lowest point Lac Assal
−155 m (−509 ft)
Largest lake Lake Abbe

Djibouti is a country in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. To the east is its coastline on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Rainfall is sparse, and most of the territory has a semi-arid to arid environment. Lake Assal is a saline lake which lies 155 m (509 ft) below sea level, making it the lowest point on land in Africa and the third-lowest point on Earth after the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. Djibouti's major settlements include the capital Djibouti City, the port towns of Tadjoura and Obock, and the southern cities of Ali Sabieh and Dikhil. It is the 147st largest country in the world by land area, covering a total of 23,200 km2, of which 23,180 km2 is land and 20 km2 is water.[1]


Djibouti shares 125 kilometres (78 mi) of border with Eritrea, 343 kilometres (213 mi) with Ethiopia, and 60 kilometres (37 mi) with Somalia (total 528 km or 328 mi). It has a strategic location on the Horn of Africa and the Bab el Mandeb, along a route through the Red Sea and Suez Canal. Djibouti's coastline serves as a commercial gateway between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn region's interior. The country is also the terminus of rail traffic into Ethiopia.

Physiographic regions

Djibouti can be divided into four physiographic regions

  1. The Northern Mountains
  2. Danakil Depression
  3. Grand Bara
  4. The Southern Mountains


A great arc of mountains, consisting of the Mousa Ali, Goda Mountains, and Arrei Mountains surrounds Djibouti.

Djibouti has eight mountain ranges with peaks of over 1,000 m (3,281 ft).[2]

  • The Mousa Ali range is considered the country's highest mountain range, with the tallest peak on the border with Ethiopia and Eritrea. It has an elevation of 2,028 m.[2]
  • The Goda Mountains lie northwest of the Gulf of Tadjoura in Tadjoura Region. They rise to 1,750 m (5,740 ft) above sea level and are the nation's largest heavily vegetated area.
  • Garbi is a mountain in the west of Tadjourah Region. It has an elevation of 1680 metres (5,512 ft).
  • The Arrei Mountains are in the southern Ali Sabieh Region. The mountain range has an elevation of 1,301 metres (4,268 ft) above sea level, and is situated near the border with Ethiopia.
  • The Mabla Mountains are located in Obock Region. At 1780 m (5850 ft) above sea level, the mountains are situated behind the coastal plain where the Red Sea meets the Gulf of Aden, on the northern side of the Gulf of Tadjoura.
  • The Dagouein Mountain sit at an elevation of 1,124 m (3,688 ft) above sea level.
  • Hemed is a mountain in the western part of the Arta Region in south-central Djibouti. The summit is 1,103 metres (3,619 ft) above sea level.
  • The Boura Mountains' highest peak has an elevation of 1037 m (3,402 ft. The ecology of this landform is semi-desert. The altitude and size of the range affects its weather, with precipitation levels varying greatly and climatic conditions consisting of distinct zones.

Grand Bara

The Grand Bara Desert covers parts of South Djibouti in Arta Region, Ali Sabieh Region and Dikhil Region. The majority of the Grand Bara Desert lies at a relatively low elevation, below 1,700 feet (560 m). Home of the popular Grand Bara footrace.


Most of Djibouti has been described as part of the Ethiopian xeric grasslands and shrublands ecoregion. The exception is a strip along the Red Sea coast, which is part of the Eritrean coastal desert; it is noted as an important migration route for birds of prey.[3]

Djibouti Regions

The area of the regions of Djibouti is set out in the table below.

Rank Name Area
1 Dikhil Region 7,200 km²
2 Tadjourah Region 7,100 km²
3 Obock Region 4,700 km²
4 Ali Sabieh Region 2,200 km²
5 Arta Region 1,800 km²
6 Djibouti Region 200 km²


There is not much seasonal variation in Djibouti's climate. Hot conditions prevail year-round along with winter rainfall. Mean daily maximum temperatures range from 32 to 41 °C (90 to 106 °F), except at high elevations. In Djibouti city, for instance, afternoon highs in April typically range from 28 °C (82 °F) to 34 °C (93 °F) in April. Nationally, mean daily minima generally vary between sites from about 15 to 30 °C (59 to 86 °F). The greatest range in climate occurs in eastern Djibouti, where temperatures sometimes surpass 41 °C (106 °F) in July on the littoral plains and fall below freezing point during December in the highlands. In this region, relative humidity ranges from about 40% in the mid-afternoon to 85% at night, changing somewhat according to the season.

Djibouti has either a hot semi-arid climate (BSh) or a hot desert climate (BWh), although temperatures are much moderated at the high elevations. On the eastern seaboard, annual rainfall is less than 5 inches (131 mm); in the central highlands, it is about 8 to 11 inches (200 to 300 mm). Although the coastal regions are hot and humid throughout the year, the hinterland is typically hot and dry. The climate conditions are highly variable within the country and vary locally by altitude. Summers are very humid along the coast but dry in the highlands. Heat waves are frequent. Annual precipitation amounts vary greatly from one year to another. In general, rain falls more frequently and extensively in the mountains. Sudden and brutal storms are also known to occur. Wadis turn for a few hours into raging torrents tearing everything in their path, and their course is regularized. Rainwater serves as an additional water supply for livestock and plants alongside seasonal watercourses. The highlands have temperate climate throughout out the year. The climate of most lowland zones is arid and semiarid.

The climate of the interior shows notable differences from the coastline. Especially when one rises, the temperature is pleasant: it is so in Arta, Randa and Day (where temperatures of 10 ° have been recorded).

Climate charts of different locations in Djibouti

Average daily maximum and minimum temperatures for selected cities in Djibouti
Municipality January April July October
Djibouti City 29 °C (84.2 °F)/ 22 °C (71.6 °F) 25 °C (77.0 °F)/ 32 °C (89.6 °F) 31 °C (87.8 °F)/ 42 °C (107.6 °F) 26 °C (78.8 °F)/ 33 °C (91.4 °F)
Arta 15 °C (59.0 °F)/ 24 °C (75.2 °F) 20 °C (68.0 °F)/ 29 °C (84.2 °F) 26 °C (78.8 °F)/ 37 °C (98.6 °F) 20 °C (68.0 °F)/ 30 °C (86.0 °F)
Randa 13 °C (55.4 °F)/ 23 °C (73.4 °F) 18 °C (64.4 °F)/ 28 °C (82.4 °F) 23 °C (73.4 °F)/ 34 °C (93.2 °F) 18 °C (64.4 °F)/ 28 °C (82.4 °F)
Dikhil 19 °C (66.2 °F)/ 29 °C (84.2 °F) 24 °C (75.2 °F)/ 33 °C (91.4 °F) 26 °C (78.8 °F)/ 38 °C (100.4 °F) 23 °C (73.4 °F)/ 33 °C (91.4 °F)
Ali Sabieh 15.8 °C (60.4 °F)/ 26 °C (78.8 °F) 22 °C (71.6 °F)/ 30 °C (86.0 °F) 25 °C (77.0 °F)/ 36 °C (96.8 °F) 21 °C (69.8 °F)/ 28 °C (82.4 °F)
Tadjoura 22 °C (71.6 °F)/ 29 °C (84.2 °F) 26 °C (78.8 °F)/ 33 °C (91.4 °F) 31 °C (87.8 °F)/ 41 °C (105.8 °F) 26 °C (78.8 °F)/ 34 °C (93.2 °F)
Airolaf 10 °C (50.0 °F)/ 22 °C (71.6 °F) 15 °C (59.0 °F)/ 26 °C (78.8 °F) 19 °C (66.2 °F)/ 31 °C (87.8 °F) 15 °C (59.0 °F)/ 26 °C (78.8 °F)
Guelile 15 °C (59.0 °F)/ 26 °C (78.8 °F) 21 °C (69.8 °F)/ 29 °C (84.2 °F) 24 °C (75.2 °F)/ 36 °C (96.8 °F) 20 °C (68.0 °F)/ 29 °C (84.2 °F)
Obock 22 °C (71.6 °F)/ 28 °C (82.4 °F) 26 °C (78.8 °F)/ 32 °C (89.6 °F) 30 °C (86.0 °F)/ 41 °C (105.8 °F) 26 °C (78.8 °F)/ 33 °C (91.4 °F)
Ali Adde 16.4 °C (61.5 °F)/ 26.9 °C (80.4 °F) 22 °C (71.6 °F)/ 30 °C (86.0 °F) 26 °C (78.8 °F)/ 38 °C (100.4 °F) 21 °C (69.8 °F)/ 28 °C (82.4 °F)
Holhol 16.5 °C (61.7 °F)/ 26.9 °C (80.4 °F) 23 °C (73.4 °F)/ 31 °C (87.8 °F) 27 °C (80.6 °F)/ 39 °C (102.2 °F) 22 °C (71.6 °F)/ 30 °C (86.0 °F)
Dorra 20 °C (68.0 °F)/ 28 °C (82.4 °F) 24 °C (75.2 °F)/ 32 °C (89.6 °F) 28 °C (82.4 °F)/ 39 °C (102.2 °F) 24 °C (75.2 °F)/ 33 °C (91.4 °F)
As Eyla 19 °C (66.2 °F)/ 30 °C (86.0 °F) 24 °C (75.2 °F)/ 34 °C (93.2 °F) 27 °C (80.6 °F)/ 39 °C (102.2 °F) 24 °C (75.2 °F)/ 34 °C (93.2 °F)

Selected elevations of notable locations

Location Region Elevation
Mousa Ali Tadjourah 6,631 ft 2,028 m
Goda Mountains Tadjourah 5,840 ft 1,780 m
Garbi Tadjourah 5,512 ft 1,680 m
Yaguer Dikhil 4,524 ft 1,379 m
Mabla Mountains Obock 4,511 ft 1,375 m
Arrei Mountains Ali Sabieh 4,268 ft 1,301 m
Dagouein Mountain Ali Sabieh 3,688 ft 1,124 m
Hemed Arta 3,619 ft 1,103 m
Boura Mountains Ali Sabieh 3,402 ft 1,037 m
Arta Mountains Arta 2,477 ft 755 m
Lake Assal Tadjourah  – 509 ft  – 155 m

Lake Assal is the lowest point in Africa (the second lowest is the Qattara Depression in Northern Egypt).

Resources and land use

Land use: arable land: 0.1%
permanent pasture: 73.3%
forest: 0.2%
other: 26.4% (2011)

Irrigated land: 10 km2 (3.86 sq mi) (2012)

Water in Djibouti

Water is becoming a scarce resource in Djibouti due to climate change, which leads to different rainfall patterns as well as to inefficient methods of distribution within the country. Most of Djibouti’s rainfall is in the four months, but over the last 25 years, the Djibouti's Ministry of Environment estimates that rainfall has decreased overall between 5 and 20 percent. It is predicted that in future years, there will be higher temperatures, lower rainfall, and longer droughts, leading to even less access to water. In recent years, population growth has been increased rapidly with the addition of many refugees.

Natural resources

Unlike much of the Horn of Africa and Middle East which is rich in lucrative crude oil, Djibouti has limited natural resources. These include potential geothermal power, gold, clay, granite, limestone, marble, salt, diatomite, gypsum, pumice, petroleum.


Natural hazards include earthquakes, drought, and occasional cyclonic disturbances from the Indian Ocean, which bring heavy rains, and flash floods. Natural resources include geothermal energy. Inadequate supplies of potable water, limited arable land and desertification are current issues.

Djibouti is a party to international agreements on biodiversity, climate change, desertification, endangered species, Law of the Sea, ozone layer protection, ship pollution, and wetlands.


Djibouti has a coastline which measures about 403 kilometres (250 mi). Much of the coastline is accessible and quite varied in geography and habitats.


Maritime claims

  • territorial sea: 12 nautical miles (22.2 km; 13.8 mi)
  • contiguous zone: 24 nautical miles (44.4 km; 27.6 mi)
  • exclusive economic zone: 200 nautical miles (370.4 km; 230.2 mi)

Human geography

As of 2015, the population of Djibouti is 846 thousand.

For statistical purposes, the country has three areas; Djibouti City (population 529,000), Ali Sabieh (population 55,000), and Dikhil (population 54,000). Djibouti's population is diverse demographically; 60% Somali, 35% Afar, and 3% Arabs. In terms of religion, 94% Muslim, 6% Christian.

Extreme points

This is a list of the extreme points of Djibouti, the points that are farther north, south, east or west than any other location.


  1. "Djibouti". The World Factbook. CIA. April 16, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  2. 1 2 Highest Mountains in Djibouti
  3. "Eritrean coastal desert". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund.
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