U.S. service members and base personnel attended a Djiboutian crafts bazaar featuring cultural art and craftwork from local vendors and artisans Nov. 19, 2022, at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
Proceeds from the bazaar go directly to the local artists, and the goal was to support the local economy through this partnership-building effort. The estimated earnings garnered approximately $72,000, an increase of $18,000 from the bazaar in May of this year.
“We are helping support the community and the next generation of Djiboutians,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jonathon Jennings, a volunteer at the event. “Today was an awesome day – we had a lot of people coming through the bazaar, and there was a lot of positivity and energy that created a carnival-like atmosphere.
“People really get to experience the culture and it allows us to understand a different way of life but also allows us to take a little bit of that home and send it back to our loved ones,” Jennings added.
Camp Lemonnier has hosted the bazaar semi-annually for more than 15 years. It provides base personnel an opportunity to buy gifts for themselves, family and friends.
“By doing it in November, service members can get gifts for family and friends and help share the story of Djibouti to those back in America,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Mark Moreno, command chaplain at Camp Lemonnier and one of the event organizers.
The bazaar, and other events like this throughout the year, provides service members an opportunity to connect and form meaningful relationships with local Djiboutians.
“By coming onto base, both Djiboutians and the Amercians can interact, laugh, and explore,” Moreno said. “Seeing the goods and artistic expression transcends language and provides a powerful experience. The benefits include service members being able to see more of the people and culture of Djibouti, as well as spending thousands of francs that directly go into the pockets of local vendors and artisans.”
Helping the local economy is a goal of the U.S. government, and Americans have been doing that at Camp Lemonnier for more than 20 years. The U.S. Embassy in Djibouti, Djibouti Minister of Tourism and Crafts, Djibouti Chamber of Commerce and women’s artist guild have been working closely to emphasize equity and inclusion in event participation.
This year’s bazaar included a diverse group of vendors and artisans from the different regions and ethnic groups of Djibouti. The event had 19 vendors with 10 assistants who made the event a memorable experience for all.
“I have been a part of the bazaar since 2007,” said Willo Mahamoud, a Djiboutian vendor.
She said her experience has helped her understand what products consumers are interested in, and she likes working with service members because they are good people and great customers.
This was Djiboutian vendor Mahdi Youssouf Moussa’s first time participating in the bazaar. He said it was a beneficial experience since his shop isn’t located in a high-traffic area, and he was thankful for the opportunity to be able to partake in this event.
“I would love to come back in the future,” said Mahdi.
The next Djbioutian crafts bazaar is slated for spring of 2023, and Moreno said he hopes the next event is even better than this one.