Sunday, April 15, 2012
If Assaita is the end of the world, what must we call Dichioto? Seldom have I seen a more desolate town, consisting of two rows of corrugated-iron buildings – walls and roof, and almost no other building materials used – lining the main Djibouti road. In fact, most of the buildings, a selection of sleazy bars and restaurants, and the occasional very basic hotel, are hardly visible, because truck after truck is parked, on both sides. Yet, some people have taken the trouble to paint their sheds in bright colours, or with flowers, to make it look a little more attractive. They failed, but I do appreciate the effort.
(1, 2) the landscape in the northern Afar region: basalts and more basalts
(3) the police have listed the help of local artists to boost their numbers...
(4, 5, 6) Dichioto is built off corrugated iron houses, nothing else; some take the trouble to paint them, others don't. In most cases it makes no difference, because the view is usually blocked by parked trucks on both sides of the road
Past Dichioto is the so-called Eli Dar salt lake, a flat expanse in between stacks of black lava flows. Well, salt lake it isn’t, in fact there are salt works as far as the eye can see. Water is being pumped from 10 meter deep canals, which seem to refill overnight from surface seepage, into shallow square basins, of perhaps 50x50 meters. This is then being evaporated – no lack of natural heat here! - to leave a flat of loose salt, which is scooped into colourful bags for transport. The potential, in this hottest of hot regions, is enormous, and there are indeed hundreds, if not thousands, of basins, but most are empty, not being used. I am not sure why, lack of water, or lack of man power, or just lack of incentive. Further away, in the Danakil area, salt is being mined in huge blocks, from real salt lakes, which may be difficult to compete against?
(7) the salt works, neat little rectangular basins, and (8, 9) the harvest, packed in colourful bags - the only colour in a vast grey environment
(10, 11) donkey carts and camels remain the preferred means of transport, even though water - fresh water - is not easy to find. camels, however, can tolerate a certain amount of salt in the water
(12) mud cracks, makes for a pretty picture
(13) the ground is often so hard that people cannot be burried, instead rock graves are built on top of the dead body