Day in the life: driver Ali Hussein
I know how to do many things. I can drive. I can also clean and wash and work as translator and guide. I speak seven languages: Somali, Arabic, French, English, Greek, German and Amharic. I learnt all while I worked as a seaman for 25 years. My father was one, too, and he was taking me to work with him so that’s how I became a seaman. When I was young, my father would bring back food from his work. Different kinds, Greek food, English food, seafood.
I grew up in a large family with my 12 siblings. Me, too, I have a large family. I have one wife and 10 children.
In Djibouti, we are all one. One big family. Djiboutians, Ethiopians, Somalians, even the Yemeni fleeing the crisis in their country. We help each other. You know, Al-Shabaab is fucking crazy. They just kill people for nothing. Why do you kill your fellow Muslims just like that? They make things hard for everyone.
I drive now. We don’t make much money so I do other things. For one ride, I charge you only 1,000 francs ($5-$6) because you’re my black brother. Not much to the hotel you’re going. Everywhere in Djibouti is not far. But we don’t make too much money. Everything costs too much in Djibouti because we grow nothing and import everything.
Prostitution has increased a lot. Fifteen to 20 years ago, all the hookers you see at night were only Ethiopians and they did it to help their families back home. After a few years, they used to go back to their country with their money and start a new life. Now there are Djiboutians also. They don’t struggle like Ethiopians because they have their family here, but they like easy money.
Even the cashiers in club or waiters in some restaurants are hookers. I know a girl who is French and also Djiboutian and her mother was a hooker, too, so she got pregnant on duty.
They all speak English now with all these Americans. Before they charge like 2,000 DJF, now they take maybe 5,000 DJF. The owners of clubs pay a bunch of hookers to fill the clubs and distract the customers to make them drink more. Every month they pay each girl around 30,000 DJF if they are good.
I don’t drink. I don’t touch the fine girls. I just carry them around, from club to club, from one man’s house to their house. Back and forth. You can get them cheap if you want. They like black man blood but they charge white man plenty money. The white man pay plenty for sex, I tell you.
My enjoyment is khat. I chew khat. Everyone in Djibouti chews khat, even our president chews khat. We taxi drivers take breaks to chew khat. Our brothers in Ethiopia use our ports to import the fertiliser and grow khat then export it to us and we put it in our mouths and chew for hours. It is our snack. I chew it and it helps me drive.
This article first appeared in the July/August 2018 print edition of The Africa Report magazine