Quick link: Sneaker to Sneaker in the Grand Bara Desert
I’m thrilled to be back at EthnoTraveler with this essay about a 15k race that unites a disparate nation. This was my fourth year of running but my first year of actually learning some of the history of the race.
This year in particular, perhaps because of the divisions in the broader world between cultures, nations, and religions, I was struck by the spirit of unity and camaraderie clearly evident during the race. It really was beautiful and inspirational to see people from such diverse backgrounds come together and support one another, encourage one another, serve one another. Its an honor to be allowed to participate.
Djibouti’s eclectic mix of cultures can be confusing, daunting, and inspiring. Somali, Afar, Yemeni, French, American, Dutch, Chinese, German, and so many other ethnicities and cultures intermingle here. The country is peaceful and progressive but nowhere is the camaraderie more stripped of cultural and political baggage than at the finish line of the Grand Bara 15k.
A desert 18.5 miles long and six miles wide. No trees or brush or boulders, not a sliver of shade. Dry, cracked clay packed tightly into geometric shapes and curling around the edges, up toward the relentless sun. To the east, a row of low mountains where wild ostriches roam. Running southeast, the highway to Ethiopia, currently under construction. Forever under construction. The desert winds, blistering sun, and massive transport trucks wreak havoc on the pavement and the sides of the road fall off in chunks leaving potholes large enough to swallow several goats…
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