DANAKIL DEPRESSION – Afar region of Ethiopia

SALT PRODUCTION in the Danakil

The Danakil experience is not to be missed. Been fascinated since I saw an article in National geographic long long time ago. This is for me the one reason to go to Ethiopia. We were (Uncle P and I) very worried no to be able to make this trip. We had some info trough the grapevine about a poor bastard being shot dead climbing a volcano. This area is heavy disputed and there is always a chance that they will close it down for further visits from tourist. But to our luck, they just send in more soldiers and it was possible. And just to make one thing clear, you are not going to be roaming free.  Armed Escort is the name of the game.. You are a valuable asset and keeping you alive and kicking is feeding the ever starving tourist Industry.

The people of the desert is as tough as their environment. They move house in the hot period  living in these makeshift huts 10 month of the year.

The area is absolutely fascinating. Located in the north of the Afar Triangle, a geological depression formed by tectonic plates that are slowly ripping the earth apart, the Danakil Depression is very low in altitude (about 100 meters below sea level), dry (rain is extremely rare) and hot – so hot that it’s famous for being the hottest place on earth in terms of year round average temperatures. it’s also one of the most geologically active: the depression is essentially a molten, acidic, and bubbling expanse of land unlike anything else you’ve ever going to see.

But for me, the fascination lays in the salt mines of Dallol. The land was once a part of the red sea. And now there is only big deposits of salt left. The locals are mining this salt in unbearable heat under inhuman conditions.

Transporting the salt on camels and donkeys to the nearest city to sell it for very little profit. Not a profession for the weak hearted.

The salt production of Danakil is the most interesting I seen for ages. It is incredible it is still existing. One would think that with modern technology, the old way would disappear fast like everywhere else in the world. But till now, the Afar people is cutting their livelihood out of the salt brick by brick. A top of the line production facility only worked for 5 years. Beaten by the relentless heat and dust.  Been a great privilege to see this.

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