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Djibouti: Lac Assal

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Lac Assal | Djibouti | Africa

[Visited: October 2006]

Normally, thinking of a lake would make you think of a peaceful, friendly place, small waves lapping the shore of a quiet environment, and a place with a moderate climate. Not so Lac Assal. Before setting out there, everyone warns you of the prohibitive climate, while common sense tells you that a dip in the lake will not be on the programme. Lac Assal is situated more than 150 metres below sea level, making it the lowest point on the African continent. Moreover, it is also one of the hottest points. The lake consists of very saline water; it is saltier than the Dead Sea making it virtually impossible to enter.

Picture of Lac Assal (Djibouti): Lac Assal: a salty, white lake seen from the shore

On the way from Djibouti ville, you pass the Bay of Ghoubbet, a very deep lagune with a small opening to the sea, surrounded by myths about large monsters living in it. Indeed, the name of the bay in Afar, the local language, means Gulf of the Demons. Shortly after leaving the bay behind, you start a descent that will take you right to the shore of Lac Assal. As you go down, you can feel the temperature outside soar; perhaps more impressively are the crash barriers literally eaten away by the salty earth. When you finally step into this landscape, the forbidding white lake reflects on your eyes and makes you grab your sunglasses.

Picture of Lac Assal (Djibouti): Below sea level: Lac Assal is the lowest point of Africa

The salt in the lake gets compressed near the shore, and in some areas, it is possible to walk on the lake. More interestingly, the Afar nomads living in these areas have put this salt to commercial use for centuries, trading it as a highly sought after commodity in the highlands of Ethiopia. This is one of the starting points of the camel trains carrying the salt from this deep, desolate point to the fertile green lands of the East African highlands. Walking the shore, you come across crystallized things like small branches and dead birds. This, and the entire atmosphere of Lac Assal, convince you that you are in a unique place.

Picture of Lac Assal (Djibouti): Lac Assal: small island right off the shore
Picture of Lac Assal (Djibouti): Lac Assal in the background is surrounded by volcanic landscape
Picture of Lac Assal (Djibouti): Lac Assal with mountains in the background
Picture of Lac Assal (Djibouti): Lac Assal: white surface of a salty lake
Picture of Lac Assal (Djibouti): Looks like snow, but in fact it is a merciless white environment: Lac Assal
Picture of Lac Assal (Djibouti): Crystallized branches on the shores of Lac Assal
Picture of Lac Assal (Djibouti): Salty remains of a bird on the shores of Lac Assal
Picture of Lac Assal (Djibouti): Lac Assal: water and solid salt surrounded by mountains
Picture of Lac Assal (Djibouti): Shore of Lac Assal is defined by salt
Picture of Lac Assal (Djibouti): Lac Assal: close-up of the surface of this salty lake
Picture of Lac Assal (Djibouti): Lac Assal: partly covered by salt
Picture of Lac Assal (Djibouti): Lac Assal: small bay in the extremely saline lake
Picture of Lac Assal (Djibouti): Following the coastline of Lac Assal

Around the World in 80 Clicks

Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Lac Assal (Djibouti). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Lac Assal.
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