Djibouti, with its arid expanses of rocks, ravines, sunken plains and salty lakes, hardly seems a prize worth fighting over. But because of its strategic location at a choke point to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, many have tried to control Djibouti (pronounced jee-BOO-tee)—including Ethiopians, Ottomans, Egyptians and the French. In the early 1990s, the two ethnic groups who inhabit the country, the Afars, related to Ethiopians, and the Somalis, of the Issa clan, fought a civil war. Peace and relative stability has now prevailed, but tourists remain a rarity. Those who do go enjoy nearly-empty beaches, superb diving and otherworldly desert scenery, but pay high prices by African standards.

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