Mourdi depression and Demi oasis in the Sahara

February 19th, 2018 

The Mourdi depression lies in northern Chad and features vast expanses of sand dunes interspersed by dry river beds, oases and barren mountains, in a landscape typical of Sahara Desert when we imagine a deserted environment. We visit Demi Oasis and its mine of sodium carbonate.

Chad Sahara desert
Today we leave behind the sandstone formations of Ennedi massif, that have accompanied us in the last days, to move north to Mourdi depression where lot of beautiful landscapes await us. We say goodbye to the last oddly shaped rocks and to Ennedi region.
Sahara desert petroglyph Petroglyph in Sahara desert
Before leaving, we come across some petroglyph which, accordingly to the sharp edges of the figures, should be relatively recent.
Mourdi Depression of mourdi
Once out from Ennedi mountains, the landscape changes radically within just a few kilometers. In fact, we can observe the first sand dunes of the Mourdi depression, actually called "depression" not because it is below sea level (as the real meaning of the word would say), but just because it is at a lower altitude compared to the vast surrounding Saharan regions.
Mourdi depression Mourdi (Chad)
Pebble desert
Chad Well in the desert
Initially, low sand dunes alternate with vast stretches of pebbles, while a well dug in an ancient river bed, offers an opportunity to fill up our bottles.
Orange sand Orange dunes
The sand dunes becomes progressively more and more orange, while the midday sun cancels all the shadows, creating a landscape without contrasts, almost intangible.
Died tree in the desert
The sand is so orange, that all the landscape, as well as the sky, show a cast of that color.
Soil with lot of minerals Mineral landscape
Orange landscape Desert in Chad
In the vicinity of a group of rocky hills, with strongly eroded sides, we find a purely mineral landscape, with very strong colors due to the particular composition of the soil. Such minerals were probably collected and used in the past by primitive communities, to make the dye used for rock art.
Soil with ocher mineral
In particular, the yellowish cast is probably due to ocher, excellent to make a strong dye of that color.
Soil of the desert
The beautiful soil of orange sand mixed with dark pebbles.
Skeleton in the desert
The desert does not forgive...
Sahara landscape Barren landscape
Very dry landscape
Lonely tree in the desert
Other photos of the wonderful landscape that flows from the window, while driving further north into the Mourdi depression.
Demi in the Sahara desert Demi oasis
Demi village (Chad)

And suddenly, in the middle of nowhere... an oasis! Demi is an oasis where the superficial aquifer allows the palms to grow vigorously, letting a small human settlement to develop as well. This small village is inhabited more or less permanently year-round, because it works also as a logistic base for the various dromedary caravans that cross the Sahara desert. Last but not least, as we will see later, the Demi oasis is known for its mine of sodium carbonate, which is collected and delivered to other regions.
Mine of sodium carbonate Sodium carbonate in nature
Sodium carbonate Salt waiting to be loaded on dromedaries
As said, the soil of Demi oasis is rich in sodium carbonate, a salt used mainly to integrate the diet of farm animals, as it is very healthy for them, especially in a dry environment. Sodium carbonate is extracted by creating grooves in the soil with a normal hoe, until the miner will not find a profitable vein of the mineral, which consists of crystals of a particularly elongated shape. The crystals are then collected by hand, piled up and stored under mats, waiting for the dromedaries to arrive and transport them to the south, where they will be sold or exchanged with millet and sorghum.
Sahara desert in Chad
After crossing a last barren mountain range, we suddenly find ourselves surrounded by a dramatic landscape dominated by an endless expanse of sand dunes. This is probably the most typical landscape that we imagine when thinking to a "desert".
Sandy desert Sand dune
The desert we dream Sand dunes
Dunes Chad
Typical desert Sahara
Chain of sand dunes
And this is where we will spend the next night under our tents: a wonderful Saharan landscape dominated by endless sand dunes. The grooves on the sand can be used as a compass, since, being formed by the prevailing winds that always blow from the east, they are oriented along the north-south axis. The best times to walk on sand dunes are sunrise and sunset, when the beams of the sun create long shadows that enhance the shapes of the dunes and the patterns on the sand.
Expedition to Sahara desert
A really fantastic place where to put up the camp for the coming night.

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