“Fortunately, the French were building a harbour in Djibouti, where the Red Sea meets the Indian Ocean. That harbour became the last port of call for all the ships that needed to refuel and refresh supplies before entering their last stretch to Bombay and the rest of Asia—or when they returned to Europe full of Asian spices and exotic items. Djibouti became a very active harbour that made a rich country out of French Somaliland, and the Ethiopians made a deal with the French who built a railroad between Djibouti and Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. The company that built the railroad was called Le Chemin de Fer Franco-Ethiopien (CFE), and its headquarters were established in Dire Dawa, a small town located midway between Djibouti and Addis Ababa. Because of the railroad, little Dire Dawa became the most important town in Ethiopia, second only to her capital. The colonies were a new phenomenon that presented the possibility of good fortune for many European families who could not make ends meet in their own country. They were easily seduced by these “promised lands” that offered them so much hope. At the turn-of-the-century, many adventurous people did not hesitate to jump at the opportunity. One country that became an attractive target, even though it was not a European colony, was Ethiopia.”

 

 “Born in the land of Sheba”, Jean-Paul Vignon first recounts his early beginnings in Ethiopia, where he is born to a French count who is making a living from a mica mine, and an Italian mother, before spending his early years in Beirut and WWII France on a lavender farm. Vignon then relates his long voyage to Hollywood, and a successful career in song and film. Early chapters are titled ‘Djibouti’ and ‘Dire Dawa’, later ones are called ‘Sinatra’ and ‘Bette Midler’. As the French would say: “L’Ethiopie mène à tout, à condition d’en sortir.”