The Afars, descendants of 3rd century settlers, and the Issas from Somalia, are the country's two main ethnic groups.
Founded in 1285, the Ifat Sultanate was a prominent medieval kingdom with established bases in both northern Somalia and Djibouti. Ifat ruled the region until Emperor Amda Seyon I of Ethiopia defeated them in 1332.
In the mid-1800s, the French purchased a part of northeast Africa, naming it French Somaliland. In 1967, the area was renamed the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas, with Djibouti remaining its capital.
In 1945 Djibouti was transformed into a French overseas territory, but local ethnic fighting, land disputes with Ethiopia and Somalia and cries for "Freedom" continued.
After three referendums and widespread vote rigging, France finally recognized Djibouti's independence in 1977, and Hassan Gouled Aptidon was named the nation's first president.
In 1999, Aptidon resigned at the age of 83, and Ismail Omar Guelleh succeeded his five-term presidency.
Guelleh was re-elected a second term in 2005, and a third in 2011.
As a significant regional port, Djibouti's modern economy revolves (almost totally) around the shipping and refueling industries, as the country has limited natural resources and is (through little fault of its own) economically underdeveloped.
Plagued by a multitude of difficulties, including thousands of refugees from the Ethiopian civil wars, large tracts of unusable desert land, and a 50% unemployment rate, Djibouti struggles on, relying on sheer determination and foreign assistance.