Guelta of Archei : a Sahara desert oasis

February 17th, 2018 

Guelta of Archei is one of the most beautiful place in the Sahara desert and is an excellent location if you would like to enjoy a real oasis in a desert, among spectacular canyons, sand dunes and herds of dromedaries coming to the oasis to drink.

Ennedi desert
The Guelta of Archei is located in a picturesque canyon among the Ennedi mountains in Chad and is one of the most beautiful places of whole Sahara desert, where a surreal landscape is the setting for herds of dromedaries coming to the oasis to drink. Here we are far away from any beaten path, about 4 days travel from N'Djamena (the capital of Chad) by 4x4 (the only way to get here). But let's start from the beginning of the story...
Ennedi Chad
Rocky desert

The canyon that houses the Guelta of Archei oasis can be observed either from the top of a mountain, either from below walking inside the canyon itself. Let's start by exploring it from the top along an easy path that, in about an hour from the nearest place where the 4x4 cars can be parked, leads to a beautiful lookout point along the side of the canyon. The landscape that visitors will cross on foot to get there is just lovely, among large sandstone boulders and gentle sand dunes.

But exactly, what is a guelta? A guelta is a pocket of water collected from a drainage basin, creating a kind of oasis. Depending on the morphology of the drainage basin (valleys, canyons, natural channels) and climate factors, a guelta can be just seasonal or persists year-round.

Desert of Chad
The enchanting landscape that visitors usually cross to get to a lookout point over the Guelta of Archei.
Guelta in the Sahara desert
Once visitors finally get to the look-out point over Guelta of Archei, a beautiful view opens onto crumbling rocks shaped by millions of years of erosion, while at the bottom of the canyon some vegetation shows strong greens thanks to the water of the oasis. These places are home the very rare Saharan crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus), which has now disappeared from almost the entire Sahara (however today we are not so lucky to spot them).
Archei guelta
We search for some kind of natural balcony looking onto Archei canyon, to sit down, enjoy the peaceful place and wait for some dromedaries coming to drink.
Dromedaries Oasis with dromedaries
Oasis with camels Archei in Chad
Guelta of Archei Dromedary
And soon, although it's not a guaranteed show, dozens of dromedaries get to Archei oasis, brought here by their herdsmen to let them drink.
Guelta of Archei dromedaries Guelta of Archei camels
The dromedaries will wander in the Guelta of Archei, looking for a quiet place to finally stand and drink lot of water. The scene seen from above is truly magnificent and is one of the most exciting experiences that tourists can have in whole Sahara desert.
Drinking camels Drinking dromedaries
Drinking camel Drinking dromedary
How much water a dromedary can drink? A dromedary can drink well over 100 liters (22 gallons) of water in about 10 minutes, letting them to survive in the desert for more than one month during winter or for a couple of weeks during summer.
When the dromedaries are finally full of water, they come out of the Archei canyon and return to their herdsman.
Rocky Sahara desert Landscape in Chad
Chadian desert

After the "dromedary show", we walk the one hour trail back to the "parking lot", enjoying the landscape along the path even more.
Archei Archei oasis
Oasis in a canyon Guelta of Sahara desert
Sahara desert Guelta Guelta in Chad
Sahara desert camels Camels in Sahara desert
Dromedary herd Child herding dromedaries
Dromedaries in the desert Dromedaries in Chad
We then do a short hike even in the bottom of Archei canyon, getting up to the shores of the oasis. Once again, the guelta offers one of the most beautiful scenes of whole Sahara Desert, with hundreds of dromedaries led by their owners, drinking the water from the oasis.
Canyon in Chad
A panorama photo showing the Guelta of Archei, including canyon, oasis and dromedaries.
Dung of dromedary
Due to the large traffic of camels, the sandy bottom of the canyon is full of their droppings. Luckily, they don't remain attached to the shoes as they are very dry (curiously, they almost look like stones).
Acacia albida Flowers of Acacia albida
After a whole morning hiking around, it's now time for a well deserved picnic lunch in the desert, under this big tree of Acacia albida in bloom.
Cave in the Sahara desert Stalagmites of guano
After the lunch, we take the opportunity to visit a nearby cave, where the stalagmites are not formed by the accumulation of minerals brought by water as usual, but less poetically, by the droppings of bats and other birds.
Cave paintings in Archei
Rock art in Archei
Obviously the cave housed ancient populations who left on the walls a large amount of rock paintings, some still in excellent condition.
Rock looking like the Monument Valley
We leave the location of Archei along a track that winds through beautiful sandstone formations. This rock seems to be twinned with the most famous one of Monument Valley in the United States.
Pinnacles of rock
The rocky pinnacles that characterize the peripheral mountains of the Ennedi massif.
Rock with holes
The Mask
Ennedi desert Sahara
Chad Chadian Sahara desert
The beautiful Ennedi landscape: a succession of sand, mountains with bizarre shapes and sandstone pinnacles.
Herd of dromedaries Line of dromedaries
From time to time, we meet herds of dromedaries brought to pasture or to drink at some distant oasis...
Tubu family well as Tubu families who find shelter in very simple huts, isolated in the middle of nowhere.

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