Djibouti, The People of Djibouti
The population of Djibouti was 472,810 in 2002, yielding a population density of 20 persons per sq km (53 per sq mi).The population is 83 percent (2000) urban. The capital, principal port, and only sizable city is Djibouti, located on the southern side of the mouth of the Gulf of Tadjoura.
Roughly 60 percent of Djiboutians are ethnic Somali, the predominant group in the south, and about 30 percent are Afar, the main group in the north. Arab, French, and other minorities make up the remaining population. Of the Somali, more than half belong to the dominant Issa clan. Djibouti’s official languages are French and Arabic, but Somali is the most widely spoken language in the south, including the capital. The Afar language prevails in the north. Almost all Djiboutians are Sunni Muslims.
Education is free and, theoretically, compulsory for six years of primary schooling starting at age 6, but in 1998, the latest year for which figures are available, only 38.8 percent of primary school-aged children attended school. Only 15.9 percent of the teenage population attended secondary school. In 2001 only 84.9 percent of Djibouti’s adult population was literate. Djibouti has no colleges or universities.
Historically, most Afar and Somali lived a nomadic life in patriarchal societies organized into clans. They herded sheep, goats, and camels. Until recent years, the Afar and Somali languages lacked written forms. These two nomadic peoples consequently developed rich rural traditions of folk music, dance, and oral literature. Somali are renowned for their poetry. These rural traditions survive today, although most Djiboutians now live in the capital city.