Where the Tuaregs Roam and the Camel is King – Acacus Part 2

“Tonito! Sabah al Khier!” (Tonito! Good Morning) was how I was woken up on our second day.

Day 2: Exploring the Acacus

I emerged from the tent to find the sun peaking above the rock formations and at the same time illuminating the formations in an orange brown hue and once again the stunning beauty of the Sahara left me speechless. I really can’t get enough of this stunning landscape!

The sun peaking over the Rocks

We all got up and prepared our breakfast and coffee and packed our things away and set off for another day of exploring the rock formations and the rock art.

More driving through the flat rocky desert to get to another part of the Acacus. Though this time Othman had a Bob Dylan CD to soften the monotony of the route. Once again we the Acacus this time towards the South. There was something different about the sand and that’s when Othman said something about moya (water) and mashalla (God is Good) at which point I realized it rained here recently. Soon it was obvious by the pools of water everywhere.

The other surprising thing was to see goats grazing and watermelon-like fruits growing in certain places. Othman then went on to explain that the goats belong to the Tuareg who live in region and that they plant the fruits for sustenance. As Othman was explaining this, out of nowhere, two dogs appeared and frantically chased the car and as we looked back we could see a Tuareg in the distance calling the dogs back. I had read that many Tuareg still live off the desert but found it hard to believe until I saw the dogs, fruit and the Tuareg herder.

Watermelon-like fruit in the Sahara

Our first stop was Afozedzhar, a mammoth natural arch. The naturally formed arch is impressive and leaves you thinking creative (and destructive) powers of nature. Here there was more proof of the rainfall by way of big pool in front of the arch.

Afozedzhar Arch

Back into the car and off to find some rock art. As we were driving around the wadi I spotted what looked like shelters in the distance, to which Othman confirmed that these were Tuareg dwellings. Othman then drove towards the dwellings. I couldn’t believe my luck, we were going to meet actual Tuaregs who lived in the desert. We were greeted by Ahmed, a young Tuareg and his younger brothers Faqi and Mohamed. Othman was speaking to Ahmed about the rain (kept hearing the word moya) and Abdulatti started chatting to the young ones. He asked them if he could take photos, and they to my surprise (and relief) said no. It was encouraging to see that these Tuareg weren’t there as a tourist gimmick and weren’t interested in having their photos taken.

Tuareg houses in the distance

Othman went on to buy a goat skin from the Tuareg family, I’m still not sure what was the purpose of the goat skin but later on that day he did fill and empty it with water, which I found disconcerting as I was not looking forward drinking water from the head of a water-filled goat skin.

After Othman’s purchase, we were off into the Wadi’s looking for the rock art and soon we found our prize. We found a cordoned off section by the rocks and there our first piece of rock drawings, the hunting scene. These 1200 year old drawings are a UNESCO world heritage site and are scattered all over the region. Unfortunately many of these drawings have been vandalized, but a good number still remain in good condition.

The Hunting Scene

We then headed towards naturally formed cave in the mountain side which was well shaded. Here we decided to take a break and have lunch. It was surprising to me that in September, in the summer, the weather was bearable and in the shade, actually quite cool.

Rest time over and back to the road for more odd rock formations and more rock art. After visiting the wedding scene rock drawings, Tin Halega Natural Arch, Tan Loubbou Arch and other rock formations with no name. At some  stage I started to wonder whether the sun was affecting me as I kept seeing Homer Simpson, elephant feet, birds beeks etc. in the rock formations.

The Wedding Scene

Tin Halega

The sun was setting and once again we looked for a place to camp. Othman, once again outdid himself and found us a very nice and secluded camping spot surrounded by the jagged rocks. Again the process of preparing camp fires, food, tents and shisha was repeated.

Camp for the last night

That evening Othman was clearly in an English learning mood as we started an impromptu English/ Arabic lesson. The desert sands of the Sahara was our desk; The rocky plinths and the shimmering stars of the milky way, the walls and roof to our classroom; All the while Tinariwen’s mesmerizing desert blues played in the background.

Dinner was topped off by another watermelon. Have I mentioned I love watermelons?!

After eating, we had our final shisha of the trip and then went to sleep in our tents for the last time.

The magical shisha of the Acacus

Day 3: Return to Sebha

The next day we got up with another beautiful sunrise. We had our breakfast and packed up our things for the last time. The plan was to head back to towards Sebha while stopping at one of the permanent desert camps to have lunch and a shower.

On the way back we passed the Adhad, the finger rock formation, to which Othman pointed and said what sounded like “dildo!”. Abdulatti and I looked at each other and burst out laughing! Othman sheepishly laughed and then said the word again which was actually “dedo” (the word for finger in Italian. He did have me and Abdullati worried for a couple of seconds as we were in the middle of nowhere, with a bloke saying “dildo!”.

The traffic heading in the opposite direction was not what we expected

After a long seven hours we were back in Sebha and waiting to catch our flight back to Tripoli.

**This article has been republished on the Look Out Libya website as part of their Libyan Travel Adventures series (click here for article)**

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