Quick link: Christmas in the Devil’s Lair

I’m excited about this piece, my first in Outpost Magazine and another longform story, a form I love to work in (meaning longer than a few hundred words).

As my family endures mishaps, heat, and salt instead of snow on Christmas, I wrestle with whether or not we’ll make it here in Djibouti. The story took place a long time ago but the sentiments remain the same.

Check out this cool picture my mom took of me hiking at Ardoukoba Volcano near the Salt Lake (which features in the story) just last weekend. An angelic vision to counteract the demonic histories, perhaps? Highly unlikely, especially if you know me, but still a pretty funky photo, no editing involved.

Devil's Lair

When outsiders describe Djibouti, they often rely on Satanic metaphors: demons, hell, the Devil himself. In 1930, Frenchman Joseph Kessel described the gorge surrounding Lake Assal, the lowest point in Africa, as sculpted by demons; explorers named a nearby mountain the “Light of Hell”; and an island off the coast was known as Devil’s Island, home to the king of the jinn. Tales told that this devil king hid his minions, gold and honey on the island, and that he threw stones at anyone who ventured too close.

Italo Calvino wrote in Invisible Cities that travellers take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of theirs. Do travellers in Djibouti see demons to understand why they feel haunted? And what will I find down the winding roads that sliced through swirling desert sands and black lava fields?

I don’t even know what question I am asking, but I know I need to get out of Djibouti City.

Click here to read the rest: Christmas in the Devil’s Lair

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