I’ve really settled into life here in Djibouti now, and I’m finding the social life here much quieter than what I’m used to back in the US. This is not wholly un-welcomed, as I to tend towards over-scheduling myself and wearing myself down, so as much as I love my lifestyle back in the US, this is a good break. I’m certainly learning how to just sit back and do nothing on the weekends sometimes! But with a little initiative and a network of similarly situated coworkers/new friends it hasn’t been too hard to find the fun! The ex-pat community here is quite active, and it seems that someone is always having people over or organizing something. There are the more family-oriented outings to local beaches; gatherings to celebrate the holidays back home (like Thanksgiving, Halloween and soon Christmas and New Year’s); various game nights (poker, trivia, etc.); group outings to snorkel or dive; or just dinner & a movie nights at people’s homes every weekend. After these, sometimes we will go out, either to one of the casinos here or to the nightclubs. These warrant some further description!!
Lets start with the casinos. For a small predominantly Muslim (something like 94% or so) country & city, there are a surprisingly high number of casinos in Djibouti. I’m told that there are something like 5 of them. I know at least 3 of the local hotels (the Kempinski, Shearton and Imperial Palace) have casinos, and I’m not sure where the other ones are. So far, I’ve only visited one (for a casino profile, click here: http://www.casinocity.com/dj/djibouti/djigrand/) , and found that it offered the usual: slot machines, blackjack, poker, and roulette. But Vegas or even Atlantic City, this was definitely not!! It was much smaller, and not nearly as over-the-top glittery and gilded. Just about what I think I would have expected, had I given it a little more thought before going. I decided, not having done much gambling recently and feeling somewhat like it wasn’t going to be “my lucky night”, to sit out the actual gambling and remain an observer for my first visit, but rest assured, next time I’ll sit down to a blackjack table – my table game of choice. I’m a poker novice, so I certainly wouldn’t play at a casino (unless there is the video variety is available – I don’t mind video poker…. it usually has lower stakes!), and roulette seems too much a game of chance for me. At least Blackjack offers some decision-making, and therefore a slight feeling of control over your own destiny in the game. Plus, the advantage of being in a 3rd world country: the table minimums aren’t too high here. From what I saw, most of the blackjack tables had a $10 minimum – those are harder to find in Atlantic City and on the Strip in Vegas (though there are more low minimum tables in Old Vegas). Not being a high-roller or regular gambler, I prefer the $10 tables to the $25, so that if I lose after several hands, I’m not out too much money. And I try to be pretty strict with myself when it comes to gambling: I’m only allowed to spend what I deem is worth it to have a fun night – no extra ATM withdrawals at the casino, no “just a little more, so I can win back my losses.” In humble recognition that the house always has the advantage, I try to limit how much I give away to them.
As for the Djiboutian nightclubs, they are interesting. They are usually well stocked with working girls (to use the more polite term), and western women who frequent these clubs with male companions (even if they are there just as friends) should expect to be on the receiving end of some dirty looks. The working girls seem to perceive the western women as preventing them from making money off of the men they are with, though I certainly hope that most of the guys I’ve gone with would be smarter than to spend their money on these women even if us girls hadn’t been out with them! The décor often has what I would consider an 80’s feel to it, and usually includes mirrors off of the dance floor, and the girls in the bars seem to have a fascination with facing the mirror while they dance, effectively dancing with their own reflections. This is interesting to watch, and certainly not typical back in the US. It’s kind of funny to watch a row of women dancing with themselves in the mirror, with the remainder of the dance floor often empty behind them. Kind of reminds me of ballet or jazz classes I took as a child, but with a much more suggestive dance-style, a more revealing dress code, and much higher average age!
One drawback to Djiboutian nightlife, both at the casino and elsewhere: unlike a lot of North America, smoking indoors has neither been banned nor become social unacceptable. There are still ashtrays at every seat in the casino, and on every table in every bar. As a long time non-smoker, accustomed to US cities where smoking indoors has become verboten, I had forgotten what it was like to come home at the end of the night with my clothing reeking of smoke, or even of rolling over and waking up in the morning to the overwhelming smell of smoke coming from my hair from the night before… that’s not something I missed, and am having trouble re-adjusting to. Plus, it really dries your contact lenses out!! In this area, I’m certainly not going to adopt an if-you-can’t-beat’em-join’em mentality, so I guess I’ll just have to grin and bear it! It’s not as bad as it seemed in Dubai where it seemed like everybody smoked, but nonetheless, it will take a bit longer for me to adjust to. Eh, what can you do, right?
Off to work now! Gotta work to earn my down-time! 🙂
Take care all!