Stomping Grounds: Djibouti City

Where to go for free Wifi and watermelon juice on the Gulf of Tadjoura

By / October 2013

Marwo and Mohammed opened the M and M Café in 2012 across from Djibouti’s old train station. The café’s signature color is burnt orange, from the fading paint outside to the cushions lining two couches in front of a wide window. A flat-screen television hangs high on the wall and alternates between French music videos, English CNN broadcasts, and Djiboutian advertisements. This is where, due to the time change, I sipped fresh iced watermelon juice while hearing that the US government had shut down.

Signs printed on computer paper advertising Wifi are scotch-taped to faux wood paneling. Decals of coffee cups, hamburgers, no smoking signs, and words like Authentic and City and Pause Café are pasted, haphazardly, throughout the café. Designed to stick to glass, the edges curl in the humidity. Orange glass jars hold votive candles and cast circles of light the color of the setting sun across glass-topped tables.

Two floor fans face the customers who arrived first and claimed them. One blows my blond ponytail into tangled frizz. The employees here greet regulars with cheek kisses, exchange telephone numbers, memorize favorite drinks. They bring complimentary water, sometimes with an ice cube or two, alongside pain au chocolate and croissants.

Once one of the staff approached me with a 5,000 franc bill ($28.25). “Your friend dropped this last week,” she said. “The American woman with long, hennaed hair. I don’t know her phone number.” I did. The next time I saw her, I returned the money.

People come to M and M for cold Cokes in the morning, frothy cappuccino served in glasses too hot to touch, fresh omelets, and wedges of baguettes with pads of melting butter. The juices are overly sweet. Chocolate syrup cakes the bottom of mugs of mocha. Sometimes I forget to ask for no sugar in my juice, less chocolate and more coffee grounds in my mocha. But I don’t really come for the drinks. I come for the free Wifi and the fan on my neck, the cheek kisses, the integrity, the community.


Rachel Pieh Jones, a regular contributor to EthnoTraveler, is a writer in Djibouti.


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