Sandstone pinnacles in the Sahara desert
February 17-18th, 2018
The sides of Ennedi mountains in Chad are subject to an heavy erosion acting on sandstone, a particularly soft rock. This process over millions of years has produced one of the most beautiful landscape of whole Sahara desert, dominated by huge pinnacles and oddly shaped boulders.
" is an Arabic word used to indicate rock formations of sandstone deeply eroded by atmospheric agents, which over millennium have got bizarre shapes, so odd that sometimes it is difficult to believe that they are created by nature. Rocks shaped like giant hourglasses
, natural arches
all around: this is the landscape of Ennedi
, among one of the most beautiful that visitors can see in whole Sahara desert
The sunrise and sunset are the best times to walk through the sandstone formations
, as the long shadows enhance the odd shape of the rocks.
Walking below a splendid natural arch of sandstone
in the Sahara desert..
Is there a better place than this in the world to sleep in a tent?
The pinnacles of sandstone
, together with other oddly shaped rocks
, are mainly found along the edges of Ennedi mountains, because the sides of the massif are more exposed to erosion
compared to the inner parts. The major atmospheric agents responsible for such erosion are wind and water acting over thousands and thousands of years.
Because of its softness and lack of vegetation or soil protecting it, the sandstone is easily eroded
and shaped so oddly, that it's almost unbelievable they they are made only by nature.
Closely observing a sandstone formation, it is clearly evident that layers of compact rock are interspersed with layers of softer conglomerated pebbles.
This suggests that during the period dating back to pebble layer, such material was accumulated by running rivers or heavy floods. This was therefore a wetter period, versus a drier period represented by more compact layers of pure sand, probably accumulated just by wind.
Curiously, observing the current soil where I'm walking over, we can see that the composition is similar to that of the wetter period we have just seen "printed" in the vertical wall of sandstone.
Instead, these sandstone formations arising from beautiful orange dunes, have the peculiarity of showing the typical "elephant skin" surface and lot of layers. More sandstone formations in the Sahara desert can be found also in Algeria, in a location called Tassili n'Ajjer
where expeditions are offered as well to who like extreme landscapes.
A nice sample of elephant skin surface
, over a sandstone formation.
Taking a picture through a natural window.
A window over the Sahara desert.
These looks to be the remains of an ancient iron smelter
where weapons and other tools were forged by iron-smith. The black fragments scattered on the ground are residuals resulting from the work.
The journey through Sahara desert continues in a landscape that changes within a few kilometers, where beautiful palm trees take advantage of some water available in an apparently dry river bed.
Just a few kilometers later, the desert changes furthermore, showing compact rocks and dry river beds with a lot of gravel.
A beautiful panorama over a dry river bed
The Sahara Desert seen from the top of a hill, where there is also a beautiful natural window among the sandstone.
We finally get to another location, where we find more pinnacles of sandstone
and other oddly shaped rocks
The surface of the rock is particularly interesting: this seems almost a tortoise shell which is breaking up.
We come across pieces of sandstone scattered everywhere, like if a giant had thrown them all around to play.
Oddly shaped sandstone formations, looking like foils or broken pipes. Some look like a gutter section. Although these formations are more typical of a volcanic environment, there is no trace of solidified lava here. All is "just" sandstone sandstone worked in some strange way by atmospheric agents over many thousands of years.
Strange inclusions in the sandstone.
More pictures of sandstone shaped like pipes.
The sand and sandstone landscape in the warm light of the sunset.