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.

Dry river bed
Ennedi 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.
Flowers in the Sahara desert

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.

Desert pumpkings Flower of desert pumpking
Citrullus colocinthis

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.

Dromedary in the shadow
Dromedary head

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.
Chad desert
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.
Ennedi mountains Ennedi plateau
Ennedi massif Chad Ennedi
Sahara desert Ennedi region in Chad
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.
Cave for ancient people of Sahara desert Cave inhabited by primitive men
Pittura rupestre Sahara desert cave
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.
Rock art Shapes of primitive people
Rock paintings
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.
Cave in the Sahara desert
Among the sandstone, natural arches are a frequent sight.
Rocks of sandstone Mountain of sandstone

The particular surface of the sandstone, where the combined action of water and wind over millennia, produces curious patterns.
Herd of dromedaries Dromedaries
Dromedaries in the desert Queue of dromedaries
Tubu people

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.
Footprints of dromedaries
Dromedary footprint

Dromedaries 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.
Ants in the desert
Ants highway

The traffic of thousands of ants instead leaves on the sand a continuous trail, which clearly marks the very long path where they travel.
Dung beetle
A dung beetle, very common in North Africa.
White-crowned wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga
The White-crowned wheatear (Oenanthe leucopyga) 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.
Birds of Sahara desert
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.
Ennedi saharian garden Flowers in the desert
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.
Sahara desert Enned desert
Sahara desert
Erosion in the Sahara desert Eroded sandstone in the Sahara
Rocks in the Sahara desert Chadian Sahara desert
Sahara desert in Chad

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.
Expedition to Chad
A great place to park the car and take a spectacular hike.
Rock cathedral Pinnacles of sandstone
Pinnacles of rock Rocks of sandstone
Sandstone rocks Erosion in the Sahara desert
Eroded sandstone Oddly shaped rocks
Rock cathedrals, 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.
Holed rock
Erosion of the sandstone

The beautiful sandstone formations of the Ennedi, illuminated by the warm light of the setting sun.
Petroglyphs Petroglyph in the Sahara desert
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.
Conglomerated Conglomerate rock
A beautiful conglomerate, a sedimentary rock composed of pebbles probably carried by an ancient flood, cemented together by sand acting as a glue.
Expedition to Ennedi
Definitely a picturesque location to spend the night.

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