Monday, December 28, 2009

Crocodiles and jellyfish in the Sahara

A guelta in the Algerian Sahara
Algeria isn't the easiest country to do business in - in fact, it's the most difficult destination that we operate in - but it is the most diverse and above all, the most beautiful and the most unspoilt.

Footprints in the desert
Algeria's mountainous Tassili region, bordering Libya to the east and Niger to the south, is distinguished by its towering dunes of sand, its sheer-sided canyons and its beguiling "forests of rock". The Tassili - "plateau of the rivers" in Arabic - is an open-air treasure-trove of more than 15,000 rock carvings and cave paintings that depict pre-historic crocodiles and cattle, giraffes and jellyfish.

Starting from the white-washed oasis town of Djanet, we recently navigated the Tassili's intoxicating landscape of palm-groves, wadis and dunes by camel, on foot and by jeep. Our tour (and, remember, Culturissima wasn't in the Sahara here on holiday - this was business!) - spent three nights under the Saharan stars as we tracked down the region's gueltas, the desert water-holes that sustain the Tassili's Tuareg nomads.

On the horizon
We also sought out the tarout, the endemic Saharan cypress trees that are over 2,000 years old... but we didn't encounter one of the Sahara's most extra-ordinary living creatures - crocodylus niloticus, an indigenous dwarf crocodile! Maybe next time!

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