Lighthouses of Djibouti

Djibouti is a small nation at the head of the Gulf of Aden in northeastern Africa. It was formerly a French colony, known at various times as French Somaliland, French Somali Coast, and Territory of the Afars and Issas. It became independent in 1977. The country has maintained close ties with France and has established close ties with the U.S., making it possible for western tourists to visit the area.

The great lighthouse of Ra's Bir is the one fairly well known Djiboutian light. Very little is known about the others, so photos and visitor reports are badly needed. Special thanks to Jean-François Rodriguez-Nadal for contributing the two photos on this page.

The French word for a lighthouse, phare, is often reserved for the larger coastal lighthouses; a smaller light or harbor light is called a feu (literally "fire," but here meaning "light"). Aids to navigation in Djibouti are operated and maintained by the port authority, the Port of Djibouti. The port is operated under lease by Dubai Ports International. DPI is developing Djibouti as the major port of entry and export for northeastern Africa.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. Admiralty numbers are from volume D of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. U.S. NGA List numbers are from Publication 112.

General Sources
Phares d'Afrique
Photos posted by Alain Guyomard and Robert Carceller as part of their Phares du Monde web site.
World of Lighthouses - Djibouti
Photos by various photographers available from Lightphotos.net.
Afrikanischen Leuchttürme auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard images posted by Klaus Huelse.
Lighthouses of Africa
Historic postcard images posted by Michel Forand.

Ra's Bir Light
Ra's Bir Light, Obock, November 2011
photo copyright Jean-François Rodriguez-Nadal
used by permission

Obock Region Lighthouses
Ra's Bir (1)
1889. Inactive as a lighthouse since 1952. 2-story square stone tower. In 2002-03, French contractors helped Djibouti install radars atop the old lighthouse to monitor ship traffic in the Bab el Mendab strait. Étienne Henry has a photo of the two lighthouses, and a distant view is available. Located on Ra's Bir, a desolate cape at the northern entrance to the Gulf of Tadjoura. Accessible by boat or by 4WD from Obock, but permission of the military is probably required to visit the site. Site and tower closed. ARLHS DJI-008.
Ra's Bir (2)
1952 (station established 1889). Active; focal plane 74 m (243 ft); two white flashes every 10 s. 50 m (164 ft) round concrete tower with lantern, gallery, and four supporting buttresses. The top of the tower has a broad horizontal band painted dark red; it often appears black in photos. Lantern painted white. Keeper's house and other buildings enclosed by a stone wall. The old lighthouse, now a radar station, stands in front of the lighthouse. Jean-François Rodriguez-Nadal's photo is at the top of the page, another photo by Étienne Henry is available, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. One of Africa's great lighthouses, this light marks the southern end of the strait of Bab-el-Mendab connecting the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Located on Ra's Bir, a desolate cape at the northern entrance to the Gulf of Tadjoura. Accessible by boat or by 4WD from Obock, but permission of the military is probably required to visit the site. Site and tower closed. ARLHS DJI-001; Admiralty D7272; NGA 30952.
Obock Range Front
Date unknown. Reactivated(?); focal plane 30 m (98 ft); one quick white flash every 1 s. This light is described by NGA as a "black and white checkered tower on fort." No photo available, but a Bing satellite view shows the tower within the abandoned French fort. According to the 2007-08 Admiralty Light List, the front light is now on an 8 m (26 ft) "black and white checkered tower on mosque"--but the location given is the same as that of the historic lighthouse. The rear light, 700 m (0.4 mi) to the north, is described as a 7 m (23 ft) tower painted with black and white horizontal bands; another Bing satellite view probably shows this station. Located about 1.8 km (1.1 mi) north of the waterfront of Obock, on the north side of the Gulf of Tadjoura 13 km (8 mi) southwest of Ra's Bir. Site status unknown. Admiralty D7274; NGA 30956.

Gulf of Tadjoura Lighthouses
Île Moucha (Mashah Island) (2?)
Date unknown (station established 1899). Active; focal plane 20 m (66 ft); three red flashes every 12 s. 17 m (56 ft) square cylindrical skeletal tower with gallery. An October 2012 photo is available, and Bing has a satellite view. The original light was on a white square tower; it also had a red light. Located at the northeastern point of the island in the Gulf of Tadjoura, about 20 km (12.5 mi) east northeast of Djibouti. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. ARLHS DJI-004; Admiralty D7275; NGA 30968.
Île Maskali (2?)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 24 m (79 ft); two white flashes every 6 s. 20 m (66 ft) mast with lantern. Keeper's house and other station buildings. A distant view is available, the light is seen at the far end of the island in an aerial photo and at the near end in another, and Bing has a satellite view suggesting that the light is now on a tall mast. Located at the west end of an island about 5 km (3 mi) west of Île Moucha and 19 km (12 mi) north of Djibouti. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. ARLHS DJI-006; Admiralty D7276; NGA 30972.

Djibouti City Lighthouses
* Passe Ouest (Jetée du Gouvernement) (2)
2012(?). Active(?); focal plane 13 m (43 ft); characteristic unknown. 10 m (33 ft) octagonal cylindrical concrete tower, painted white with blue trim. Abass Chirdon has a closeup photo taken in January 2013, and Bing has a satellite view. The original lighthouse here was a skeletal tower carrying a leading light (white, red or green depending on direction, occulting twice every 6 s). This light is still listed by NGA, but the Admiralty announced its removal in 2011. The present tower appears to carry a light, but not a leading light. Located in a traffic roundabout in the Rue de Venice, on the Djibouti waterfront. Site open, tower closed. ex-Admiralty D7287; NGA 31028.
* Ambouli (Djibouti Entrance Range Front) (?)
Date unknown (station established 1894). Active; focal plane 20 m (66 ft); quick-flashing white light intensified on the range line. This light was formerly described by NGA as a "black square tower between white walls." However, Bing's satellite view does not show any obvious tower in the approximate location listed for the light. Currently NGA describes the light as "white chevrons on panel, red top," suggesting that the old lighthouse has been replaced by a modern beacon. More information is needed! Located about 4 km (2.5 mi) southwest of the Djibouti waterfront in a neighborhood adjoining the usually-dry Ambouli River. Site apparently open, tower status unknown. ARLHS DJI-002; Admiralty D7280; NGA 30988.
* Fort Ayabele (Djibouti Entrance Range Rear)
1894. Active; focal plane 32 m (105 ft); quick-flashing white light intensified on the range line. Approx. 18 m (59 ft) square masonry building with a lantern centered on the roof. Lighthouse painted white with an orange vertical stripe on the range line; lantern painted green. Jean-François Rodriguez-Nadal's photo is at right, Forand has a historic postcard view, and Bing has a satellite view. Hardly anything remains of Fort Ayabele except a low wall and this tall tower, built on one corner of the former fort. The 1894 date comes from a London Gazette announcement published in August of that year. Located beside the main highway leading southwestward out of the capital, about 1 km (0.6 mi) south of the front range and 7 km (4.5 mi) south southwest of the harbor. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS DJI-003; Admiralty D7280.1; NGA 30992.

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

Fort Ayabele Light
Fort Ayabele Light, Djibouti, November 2011
photo copyright Jean-François Rodriguez-Nadal
used by permission

Adjoining pages: North: Eritrea | East: Somaliland

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Posted June 20, 2005. Checked and revised August 2, 2014. Lighthouses: 8. Site copyright 2014 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.