235 km from Djibouti, 62 km from Tadjourah. Obock is an outpost on the Red Sea, a town on the edge of the country that is trying to rebuild itself. For Djiboutians, Obock remains little more than a collection of alleyways, decrepit houses, a forgotten place. For foreigners, its name evokes adventurers, writers' tales and some old colonial nostalgia. They arrive here guided by dreams born from their readings. It is therefore as much in his imagination as in the streets of the city that one will fall under Obock's spell.
History. Obock has never competed with Tadjourah, the port of traffic and trade. His moment of glory was rather brief. The French gained a foothold there in 1862, after the local Sultan Afar sold them land. The town then became the capital of the Obock colony and dependencies. After a few more years and a few more inhabitants (2,000 in total), up to twenty-two French commercial companies set up shop there, following the example of the first "investor", Denis de Rivoyre. They are called the Compagnie franco-éthiopienne, the Compagnie impériale, the Factoreries françaises or the Société française d'Obock. The city has become cosmopolitan and is on the verge of becoming a French Hong Kong... Weapons are the main goods to circulate here, in transit, before being transported to the armies of the negus. Finally, the penitentiary in the region served, according to Monfreid (who mentions it a few decades later), as "a branch of the New Caledonian penitentiary where there was no more room", where "the climate was also killing the guards thanks to the national Pernod".
However, at the end of the 19th century, the colonizers preferred to develop the almost nothing that was then Djibouti, closer to Aden and Zeila, better situated to become THE Red Sea port. The reasons for this abandonment are simple: Obock is too isolated (because it is surrounded by mountains), its port is not viable for large-scale development, water resources are low. The late 19th century historian Henri Brunschwig described Obock as "a useless territory".
Nevertheless, the port continues to serve a few interests, military during the First World War and especially commercial interests (arms, drugs and other trafficking). Monfreid is one of those "users" of Obock. An adventurer but also a writer, he left many testimonies about this period. Through the tales of adventurous writers passing through, the name Obock has acquired something a little mythical that may have attracted you, too, to this sleepy town.
Obock became a district capital in 1965. Although isolated, the city participates in the birth of the Republic of Djibouti. Great figures of independence were born there or made themselves known, such as Ali Oudoum, whose portrait you will see on the 1,000 FDJ notes.
Until 2001 and the signing of a peace treaty, the region was not recommended for tourists because of regional unrest.
Now you will be able to explore the city and its region without any fear. A ferry connects the city to Djibouti. The once unattractive runway that served the city was replaced in 2011 by a beautiful ribbon of asphalt. The city is slowly taking off again. Obock is located "at the end" of the Mablas Mountains, where the wadis begin to see the end of their journey. Two of them are worth mentioning: the Oboki, which gave its official name to the city, and the Hayou, the name sometimes given by the inhabitants to their city. It has a very marked "Red Sea" atmosphere, but also beautiful beaches in the surrounding area, remarkable diving sites and many other natural assets.
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