Rocco Roundels and the Djibouti Connection

One of the latest mug designs offered at Rocco’Shop is Rocco's Djibouti Mug, which features the country's flag in a roundel design.

A roundel is a circular symbol often used as a type of national insignia. The roundel is used in heraldy (“The practice of designing, displaying, describing and recording coats of arms and heraldic badges” – Wikipedia) and its origins are considered to go back as far as predynastic Egypt.

Bodl Canon.Misc.378 roll159B frame28

Shields of Magister Militum Praesentalis II. Page from the Notitia Dignitatum, a medieval copy of a Late Roman register of military commands Bodleian Library shelfmark MS. Canon. Misc. 378.


In the 20th century, the French Air Service originated the roundel on their military aircraft during the First World War. Countries such as the UK and USA soon adapted the roundel followed by a number of other countries after the war.

L-R: France, Great Britain, Italy, USA

Beyond its military usage, the UK’s RAF roundel also became a symbol for the Mod counter-culture in 1960s Britain.

The Who: Drummer Keith Moon sporting RAF roundel


I’ve always liked the roundel. It’s simple three-tier design, compact and colorful. Initially on Rocco’Shop I had been recreating the original WWI-era roundels. But I soon started to create original roundels based not only on countries, but cities and other themes as well.

The Djibouti connection

The country of Djibouti has always fascinated me. A tiny country nestled on the horn of Africa surrounded by its neighbors Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Having always been an amateur vexillogist (flag geek) I first learned of Djibouti while watching on television the opening ceremonies of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. It was during the presentation of athletes, when the small contingent of Djiboutian athletes passed by. Their flag was a beautiful blue, green and white with a vibrant red star. I had never seen nor heard of Djibouti until that moment. I wanted to learn more.

In short, Djibouti has a population of roughly 810,000. French and Arabic are its two official languages and their currency is the Djiboutian franc (DJF). Djibouti is a major shipping port in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea and it is also home to the only permanent US military base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier.

Djibouti is a multi-ethnic country, its culture interwoven with the Afars (Ethiopia), the Issas (Somalia) and the French along with Arabs, other Ethiopians and other Europeans. Due to its multi-ethnicity, Djibouti’s art and music are diverse as well with traditional Ethiopian, Somali and Arabic influences.

Popular Djiboutian singer, Awale Adan


Djibouti gained independence from France on June 27, 1977. Their motto is Unité, Égalité, Paix (Unity, Equality, Peace). And the colors of their flag are explained in the Djiboutian national anthem:

Arise with strength! For we have raised our flag,

The flag which has cost us dear

With extremes of thirst and pain.

Our flag, whose colours are the everlasting green of the earth,

The blue of the sky, and white, the colour of peace;

And in the centre the red star of blood.

Oh flag of ours, what a glorious sight!


I must agree. The flag is a glorious site. And it inspired a roundel incorporating its colors as well as the country’s two official languages.


After having created the roundel and adding it to the collection, I posted it on Rocco’s Facebook page. Choosing a demographic of Djibouti and other French and Arabic speaking countries, I then boosted the post, which is a service Facebook offers to ensure more eyes see the post beyond the followers and friends of one’s page.



I didn’t expect much in the way of a response. I didn’t expect to sell much, if any. I had merely created the roundel as I was inspired by the look and colors of the Djiboutian flag. I haven’t had much success with Facebook boosts anyway as many of the clicks my previous posts had received appeared to come as a result of click farms.

It was a big surprise, then, when I discovered that the roundel had gone “small v” viral within Djibouti. In the three days the post ran almost 8,500 people had seen it. Out of that number 277 people interacted with the link. (ie. liked the link, clicked the link, liked the page, shared the post). 

98.9% of those who interacted with it were from Djibouti. Aside from this rare and encouraging response via the boosted post, the Facebook and Pinterest shares on the product page of the Djibouti roundel were also pleasantly surprising.

No sales generated, mind you. But there was interest. The roundel had generated interest and likes and shares. The most I’ve seen since I opened Rocco’Shop on Shopify a few months ago.

And it motivates me. It motivates me to create more, to generate more interest, more likes, more shares and eventually more sales.

Merci bien, Djibouti. bisoux.

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