Ennedi plateau in Chad: the best of the Sahara desert
February 15th, 2018
Ennedi is a Saharan region of Chad and is home to the homonymous mountains and plateau, consisting mainly of sandstone formations like great rock cathedrals, pinnacles, canyons and caves, where visitors will enjoy incredible landscapes among the best of the Sahara desert.
is located in north-eastern Chad, just over 3 days drive from the capital N'Djamena along a dirty track. Ennedi is a word used to indicate both a region of Chad
, a mountain massif
and a plateau
Sometimes it happens that the aquifer is quite close to the surface of the ground, or that the river's beds contain some more extra water thanks to particularly favorable rainy season. In these cases the vegetation may create a small local ecosystem which is much richer from that on the barren land just a very short distance away.
Here we can see shrubs belonging to the family of Compositaceae, which are relative of daisies.
Also the desert pumpkin (Citrullus colocinthis) takes advantage of the favorable conditions along river beds, with specimens showing green leaves, flowers and fruits.
These pumpkins are usually consumed only in case of severe famine, as they are toxic, although such toxicity can be greatly reduced cooking them for long time.
Instead the dromedaries
find an ideal environment in river beds, since there is lot of edible vegetation and some shade offered by trees and larger shrubs.
Moving away and getting closer to the Ennedi, the landscape quickly becomes more barren, but still not without life, as small trees and shrubs can be found scattered just everywhere. In the distance, the beautiful sandstone mountains of Ennedi massif
begin to appear, as we will soon see, they host some of the most beautiful and picturesque places of Chad
and of the entire Sahara Desert
Hills and mountains of Ennedi
are made of sandstone, a sedimentary rock having a composition of sand-sized mineral particles and small rock fragments, depending on the events that have led to their accumulation during the past eras (floods, droughts, prevailing winds, climatic changes, etc. ). Since the vegetation in the desert is very sparse, these rocks are continuously modeled by water and wind, and they are left totally exposed because there isn't a real "soil" covering them: a true paradise for geologists.
Due to its structure and its composition, the sandstone is a rather "delicate" rock, strongly subject to erosion by water and wind, which can create these strange holes.
The sandstone is often rich in small caves
, an excellent natural refuge used by the prehistoric peoples who lived in the Sahara
, when the climate was very different from now and much more favorable to life, with lot of water, forests and animals. The presence of prehistoric people and their activity is testified by beautiful rock paintings, petroglyphs and stone artifacts that can still be found among caves throughout the Sahara desert.
As we will see later more in-depth, the rock paintings
, dating back up to the Stone Age
(indicatively up to 9000 years ago) show wildlife now disappeared from the Sahara, such as buffaloes, elephants, giraffes, gazelles, often surrounded by stylized human shapes.
Among the sandstone, natural arches are a frequent sight.
The particular surface of the sandstone
, where the combined action of water and wind over millennia, produces curious patterns.
The Ennedi is a region of Chad
much more alive than the rest of Sahara desert and, from time to time, it is not difficult to come across large herds of dromedaries
brought to pasture by the Tubu people
, an ethnic group living in northern Chad and in other Saharan regions.
are known to have a unique paw plant that works as a real fingerprint. The herdsmen know how to recognize their dromedaries precisely, observing the imprint they leave on the sand.
The traffic of thousands of ants
instead leaves on the sand a continuous trail, which clearly marks the very long path where they travel.
A dung beetle
, very common in North Africa.
The White-crowned wheatear
) is a passerine bird widespread in Africa and in the Sahara desert of Chad. The male is distinguished from the female, because, unlike the latter, has the upper part of the head completely white.
These other birds, sized like a sparrow, have instead the color of the plumage very similar to that of the sandstone, with which they blend very well.
As said, Ennedi is a living desert
and therefore it is not rare to find trees and shrubs in bloom. This is possible because the Ennedi region, due to the morphology of its homonymous mountain massif, receives slightly more precipitations than the rest of Sahara desert.
As the Ennedi
is also a vast plateau, the maximum erosion of the sandstone occurs along the edges of the mountain massif that constitutes its core. We visit an outlying area, where there are large cathedrals of rock, pinnacles and other oddly shaped rocks, created by such higher erosion.
A great place to park the car and take a spectacular hike.
, pinnacles with bizarre shapes, sand dunes
: the southern edge of the Ennedi massif
is a real paradise where visitors can hike among an incredible landscape, some of the most beautiful in whole Sahara desert.
The beautiful sandstone formations of the Ennedi, illuminated by the warm light of the setting sun.
In addition cave paintings, visitors in the Ennedi will find also numerous petroglyphs
of different sizes and subject. These traces of human life are often very old and with the erosion over thousands of years, they have lost some of the original evidence, however, they are still very beautiful.
A beautiful conglomerate
, a sedimentary rock composed of pebbles probably carried by an ancient flood, cemented together by sand acting as a glue.
Definitely a picturesque location to spend the night.