The Ennedi Desert in Chad: Forgotten wonders from the dead heart of Africa

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Regarded as the top second failed state of the world, Chad may be considered an unwise destination, looking forward to better times to be explored. Nevertheless, we couldn't wait to bite the dust in this arid land.

According to Lonely Planet, Chad is Africa for the hardcore. It's also another example of disastrous decolonization that is dragging the country from bad to worse.

However, this huge piece of the continent has recently had its first property inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage: the Lakes of Ounianga have been included on the bulky list of the official top wonders of the world.

Arch of Bishekele

They make up a part of the immense Ennedi Plateau, in the southeast of the Sahara. In turn, this place is home to many uncommon sandstone rock formations, looming over the desert-like giant sculptures, after millennia of being subjected to draconian erosion.

The image on the top belongs to an expedition in 2011 that traveled to the remote Ennedi Desert. They became the first climbers in the world to ascent to the most emblematic stacks and arches that lay before them.

Prestigious professional climber, photographer, and an Academy Award-winning film director for Free Solo Jimmy Chin permitted us to use this awesome shot back in the year 2012 when we first published this post.

Ennedi Chad
The lyre-shaped Arch of Bishekele seems destined to be the new icon of this climber's paradise. Well, maybe it's a bit early to expect hordes of Spiderman-like tourists making it all the way here.

This image and many to come are here thanks to the special guest contribution of Jacques Taberlet: Merci beaucoup!

Chad Climbing
Ennedi region has an extension similar to Utah or Great Britain.

When heading off to the desert, you have to plan your movements and your supplies extremely well if you want to get out of it alive and make it back to civilization along with the pictures from your adventures.
Image by Jacques Taberlet

Towers of Ennedi
To get an idea of the scale of these towers, look at the people on the bottom right. The Sahara suffered an abrupt climate change around 5,000 to 10,000 years ago, when it turned dry and barren as we know it today.

Since then, the soil has been experiencing harsh erosion which has led to the gaunt aspect of these landscapes.
Image by Jacques Taberlet

There are many archaeological sites with rock paintings depicting animals more characteristic of the savannah, like gazelles and giraffes, which proves that the Sahara was once fertile land.
Image by Jacques Taberlet

Aloba laces
The Aloba laces can be found going east from the biggest town in Ennedi, Fada, totally away from the beaten paths.
Image by Jacques Taberlet

Aloba Arch
Aloba Arch is one of the biggest natural arches in the world, with an approximate height of 120 meters (394 feet).
Image by Jacques Taberlet

Backbone Dinosaur
Materela Range emerges like the backbone of a huge dinosaur half-buried in the sand.
Image by Guido Aldi

Elephant Rock Africa
Fantastic image of a monstrous elephant rock, a massive natural sculpture.
Image by Laurent Lepecheur

Massif of Ennedi
This shady spot doesn't look very safe. I bet The Coyote has a little surprise while waiting for The Road Runner to come by.
Image by Jacques Taberlet

Labyrinth Africa
In the distance, you can see the Labyrinth of Oyo.
Image by Jacques Taberlet

African Labyrinth
Getting lost in one of these Labyrinths can't be very funny.
Image by Jacques Taberlet

Massive monoliths
Can you find the little woman at the bottom of these massive monoliths?
Image by Ursulazrich

Lakes of Ounianga
In this sea of sand, the 18 interconnected Lakes of Ounianga are a precious and beautiful resource that just has become part of the official UNESCO's World Heritage.
Image by Jacques Taberlet

Ounianga Unesco
This is an image from 1998, where we can appreciate the characteristically different shades of the water, the greens, and blues separated by a single strip of yellow sand.
Image by Jacques Taberlet

Ounianga Serir
Going east, after about 25 miles of nothingness, you will find the main group of Lakes of Ounianga.
Image by Jacques Taberlet

Freddy Krueger Vs Wolverine
The Lakes of Ounianga Serir, Freddy Krueger or Wolverine style as you prefer, from the International Space Station in 2009.
Image by NASA

African Beauty
Here we have a beautiful aerial picture from an indeterminate place in Ennedi's Sahara. Any idea whereabouts this can be?
Image by Laurent

Finally, if you have 12 spare minutes, don't miss the chance to watch this fascinating video about the daring gang of climbers who helped to shed more light on this land, once fallen out of time.
Video from Camp 4 Collective

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  1. What an amazing collection of rock formations! However, there are a few places far removed from Chad that have similar rock arches and rock mushrooms that bear a striking resemblance. Google: 1) "Bisti Badlands 2) Arches Natl Park Utah 3) Mushroom Rocks State Park 4) Mushroom Rocks Thailand and 4) The Fisher Towers Moab Utah.
    My personal belief is that these sites and the world's largest land
    bridges as listed in "The Tour of the Big 14" are located in areas that
    have an established or suspected but yet unproved link to ancient
    Buddhism. There is a uniformity to these so called eroded features.
    Ancient Buddhists had incredible rock carving skills as seen at the
    Ellora Caves, India and the Giant Buddhas (now destroyed) Afghanistan. Arches have religious significance in all Vedic religions
    including Buddhism. This type of arch is called Torana (gateway arch)
    by the religions who use them. In North America the Navajo tribe to this day considers the ground underneath Rainbow Bridge Arch (one of Big 14) to be sacred and resents the walking across it by tourists who come to visit the site. That belief connects the Native Americans who
    share that belief with devotees of ancient Vedic religions worldwide.
    In my opinion Aloba Arch Chad (another of the Big 14) is connected to
    the 13 others of the Big 14 and thousands of other similar rocks worldwide by Buddhism. I say Buddhism because it was the only one of the Vedic religions of India that starting with the reign of King Ashoka
    India built thousands of stupas (temples) and sent missionaries as far
    as they could go to spread and teach Buddhism to foreign cultures. I
    believe that history will ultimately reveal that these missionaries traveled much further than modern scholars thought possible. The
    evidence is available today to prove that if we realize what we're looking at.

  2. When looking at these spectacular formations so many questions come to mind. If these highly unusual rock formations are natural then why are they clustered in such a relatively small area? How is it possible that random erosion created the Arch of Boshekele with the huge carved out middle on this narrowest of rock widths? Why are so
    many of these formations eroded in what appears to be the shape of elephants common not only in Africa but India as well. Why are there
    mushroom shaped rocks in Chad that are shaped incredibly like the hoodoos in the Bisti Badlands? "Bent Hoodoo by Ned" "Snake Dancers Rock Walpi Village" and "Isan Home to Ancient Dvaravati Ruins" show mushroom rocks so similar to those in Chad. Could these amazing rock formations in Africa be the ruins of an ancient Buddhist civilization in the heart of Africa based on the similarities between the rock formations here as well as the others around the world that are either known or suspected as ancient Buddhist cultures?

  3. I do admire their climbing skill but I have to say they are pretty selfish and don't respect nature at all.
    At 7:08 you can see they are damaging those natural wonder when climbing. That's heart breaking....

  4. Those who are protecting their land and requesting compensation for the invasion/ exploitation of their space are called outlaws by the foreign invaders. Only in Africa!


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