At Madame Zahra's restaurant, "No matter the origin of the dishes, as long as it's good!"

Djibouti City - Every day around noon, in a narrow alley in District 2 of the downtown area of the Djiboutian capital, men and women of all ages gather in front of a small stall. As they approach the bright green storefront, passersby can be heard whispering, "I hope there's some rice left!"

This stall is Madame Zahra's home, which also serves as a restaurant. For nearly 15 years, she has been preparing a variety of dishes that delights the neighborhood. Madame Zahra works with her ten children to successfully manage her small business. Madame Zahra's restaurant is always full, enabling her to host three generations, but it took her a lot of strength and courage to reach this point.

A person sitting on a bench with a colander and a pot of food</p>
<p>Description automatically generated 

Zahra cooking in the kitchen of her restaurant. Photo : IOM Djibouti 2024 / Laëtitia Romain 

Born in the region of Harar in Ethiopia, Zahra Mohamed migrated to Djibouti in 1981, driven by the hope of a better life for herself and her family. She traveled alone, without resources or relatives, and recalls: "People were very welcoming, offering me food and assisting with my rent. However, I had to work to send money to my family." Starting with small jobs as a domestic worker, she moved from house to house.

Thousands of people migrate between Ethiopia and Djibouti, and according to the Research and Data Hub (RDH) of IOM, the number of women and girls traveling along the Eastern Route doubled between 2021 and 2022 (from 53,200 to 106,700). Women and girls accounted for 32% of all individuals moving along the Eastern Route in 2022, in search of better job opportunities.

It was in Djibouti that, two years after her arrival, young Zahra met her husband. A young man also from Ethiopia who had migrated from the Dire Dawa region. Together, they built a new life in Djibouti, raising their children in the small house in district 2 that then served as a tailor shop for Zahra's husband.