Lake Assal is a saline lake which lies 155 m (509 ft) below sea level in the Afar Triangle, making it the lowest point on land in Africa and the third-lowest point on Earth after the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea.Lake Assal (Djibouti) Lake Assal (Arabic: بحيرة عسل‎ Buḥayrah ʿAsal, literally ‘honey lake’) is a crater lake in central-western Djibouti. It is located at the western end of Gulf of Tadjoura in the Tadjoura Region, touching Dikhil Region, at the top of the Great Rift Valley, some 120 km (75 mi) west of Djibouti city.

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The lake’s geological history was studied by French geologists who compared it with the geology of Danakil lakes. According to this study, the lake originally contained freshwater overlying the 15 m (49 ft) mantle of tufas, marls and calcretes. At an elevation of 100 m (330 ft) “Melanoides tubeculatus (Melania tuberculata)Corbicula consobrina and Coelatura teretiuscula” were reported “resting on the basalts”. At the present bed level, the formations of marls with Ervilius purpura and cerithium sp., are indicative of gradual transformation over the centuries to saline water lake; the reason could be on account of lagoon or marine intrusion.

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The viscous waters of Lake Assal in Djibouti (a small-ish country on the horn of Africa nestled between Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia) are the second most saline in the world, and it’s shores have long been the shimmering destination of the salt trade. Most Assal salt is scraped or dug from the shore, loaded on camels, and transported inland. But virtually unknown to the outside world, a very different, very rare salt can be found. Wade into the waters, bend over, scoop the salt that has accumulated there, and behold. Spheres.

Salt crystals, in strict and inevitable accordance with the fundamentals of chemistry, form with “face-centered cubic symmetry” as sodium ions and chloride ions bond. This results in a perfect cube. But combine the continuous action of wind-blown waves, currents, heat, and perhaps a touch of pressure in through a super saturated brine that contains ample amounts of magnesium chloride and other minerals, and something altogether different happens. Crystals form, clump on to other crystals, get glued together with magnesium and other salts, roll around, and slowly snowball and whittle and polish themselves into spheres. Nature does this all by itself, with no consultation or assistance from humans.

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Aras harvests the salt at the shore of Lac Assal in Djibouti

Located in the hot desert, the lake experiences summer temperatures as high as 52 °C (126 °F) from May to September. Winter temperatures are not low at 34 °C (93 °F) from October to April with the coastal area experiencing rains. Strong, dry, hot winds are part of the environment. The monthly temperature variation is reported to be 6 °C, (10.8 °F). During the summer season, the dry hot winds blow in two directions namely, the Sabo winds from the south-west and the Khamsin winds from the north-west. Winds during October and April blow from the east, resulting in sporadic rains. Incidence of rainfall varies widely with January, April, May, and October recording rains. June to August are dry months. The mean annual rainfall in 1993 and 1997 was reported as 773 mm (30.4 in) and 381 mm (15.0 in), respectively. The lowest rainfall of 23 mm (0.91 in) was recorded in 1996.

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The lake precincts are inhabited by Afar people who extract salt from the lake for trading for their living. The Economic Development of Lake Assal has assessed the population of the Assal region as a whole at 20,000. Now, a settlement of 2000 people has been established near the lake.

 

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Afar man.

Lac Assal is probably the number one tourist attraction in Djibouti. It is situated around 40 km from the capital

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Tourist being transported in a Camel Caravan.

 

 

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Written by James Gathitu

I am a writer, performer, creative entrepreneur, and adventurer! My journey has been crazy and has led me at this very moment to you.

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