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Ennedi : The Lost Kingdom


“One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing, yet through the silence something throbs and gleams…” - Saint-Exupéry


Ennedi inspires every kind of art – really it does. From painting to sculpture to photography, from poetry to literature to dance, it really does. If you are one of the lucky ones to have had the great good fortune to have gazed upon its soaring sandstone cathedrals, its hidden grottos, its green gueltas and camel caravans, its mysterious and forbidding rock mazes and surreal cityscapes, its majestic dunes and fairy circles, its shifting sands, you will be marked forever. The pure beauty of the Sahara will touch you in strange ways, and like it or not, it will make some type of artist out of you.












As for me, the Sahara tried to bring out the poet in me, but wise rapporteur that I am, I decided not to reinvent the wheel, and instead quote you one of my favorite poems by the great Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley – it never fails to send a shiver down my spine:




I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”


Some crazy beautiful landscapes as you approach and leave Ennedi…259003851_073-TheWall-9.jpg.db8f741b1688c1057e38c411d586ccb2.jpg









072-Mushroom rock-3.jpg


097-The Wall-15.jpg




Edited by Sangeeta
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It has been my good fortune of late to travel with @DaveWNH  and all the beautiful photographs in this report are his. Thank you, Dave, for patiently putting up with my endless requests for this view or that angle. I am becoming increasingly more spoilt and lazy, the more I travel with you. I must say, having lovely photographs (for which I had to do absolutely nothing!) has definitely inspired me and made it much easier to write these last few reports.


“In the tribe of Tuareg, men instead of women cover their faces with a blue veil. The tourists who come there call them the ‘Blue Men of the Sahara’.― Waheed Ibne Musa, Johnny Fracture




A big thank you also to my very talented niece, @Mallika Sahaya, who volunteered to write a small piece of fiction for me after hearing me carry on endlessly about Ennedi, its Stone Age paintings and its surreal beauty. In addition to her a day job on Madison Avenue, Mallika is also an aspiring author, and I hope her whimsical little story brings this landscape alive for you.


“It was dusk,” she continued. “The setting sun stained the desert the red of fresh blood, a sorrowful beauty. The temperature felt like early winter. I’d expected a scorching sun, but instead found a swathe of poetic desolation.”Taiwanese author Sanmao in her 1976 essay collection, “Stories of the Sahara”


For this report, I will let Dave and Mallika tell the story of the Lost Kingdom of Ennedi through their words and images.


1-IMG_0721.JPG.dbc9b076747e3b0ab4d7bac491d7e289.JPG wri


And lastly, yours truly, who will step in a bit later and write about logistics and facilities – the boring but important stuff! 


Edited by Sangeeta
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Exquisite landscapes from an ethereal scene. 

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A Tale As Old As Time:





A scorching heat blazed through the stark landscape, leaving a red hot residue in its fiery wake. In the shadow of a cavernous sandstone grotto, a group of tourists stood clustered around their Tubu guide.




 “The gorges and valleys and tassilis of the Ennedi Plateau have been shaped and sheared by millenia of wind and tectonic shifts and climate change. They are nature’s doing. But the real stories, the ones that tell us how our ancestors lived…they can only be found through these,” said the guide, gesturing almost reverently at the miniature engravings on the rock walls.









“Is that a cow?” came a disbelieving voice from behind.




The guide turned to find little Bobby looking over with squinty eyes, and a perplexed expression on his face. Only the girl standing beside him caught the hint of mischief in the cheeky curve of his mouth. She rolled her eyes.


“Yes, young man,” said the guide seriously. “Don’t forget, this was thousands of years ago, when there was pasture aplenty in this area, and cows were adapted to this climate. In fact, from the sheer magnitude of animal engravings, we can tell that these were done during the Pastoral Period of the Stone Age, and this was a pastoral community.” He turned back to the engravings and continued, “now if you all look here…”




“You are such a philistine,” said Mira, once the group had started walking to the next site.


“A what?” scowled Bobby.


“A philistine. Someone who hates art,” said Mira, looking smug at the accurate use of her newly enhanced vocabulary.


“Oh yeah? Well you’re a fool. What’s so special about cow drawings? Even I could make them.”


“Children!” Bobby’s mother looked sharply at her son as she overheard the last bit of their conversation. “Can you please behave? You two haven’t stopped fighting this entire trip. Remember when they used to be best friends, Rads?” she said to her companion, Mira’s mother.


“I really can’t,” came the reproving reply. “Mira, please apologize.”


“I’m sorry,” said Mira, a little sulkily.


“Me too,” said Bobby. “I’m sorry you’re a fool.”




“Okay, okay! I’m sorry,” he said loudly. As soon as the mothers’ turned their heads, he stuck his tongue out at her.







Later in the evening, the group sat around a bonfire beneath a lofty arch - apparently the Arch of Aloba was one of the highest natural arches in the world - the desert wind blanketing them in its cool embrace. Bobby stiltedly walked over, and took the seat beside Mira. She took no notice.


“My mom says I should apologize properly,” he finally said.


She continued looking down. “Fine.”


“You’re so irritating! You started it, why would you even…hey, what’re you doing,” he trailed off, noticing the ground at her feet for the first time. There was an assortment of pebbles, leaves, and what looked like tiny bits of cactus decay, arranged in a weird pattern.


“Look at these strange looking stones I found. Look, they look almost as if someone has tried to sharpen them. Look at this one. And this, and this…I’m trying to find meaning in these stones, but most of all, in the paintings we saw,” she said absently. “Mr. Oumar said it’s like trying to solve a mystery.”




Bobby glanced up sharply. “Really?”


“Yeah. I just wish I could see them again,” she said, frustrated.


Bobby smiled slowly, a devious glint in his eye. “I think we can.”





A little after midnight, the two children snuck quietly out of their tents, and met at the foot of the arch. They started heading in the direction of the caves, the starlit skies naturally illuminating their uneven path. Mira let out a nervous giggle. “I feel like The Secret Seven. They would go on midnight investigations just like this.” 


Bobby grinned. “Maybe we’ll solve a mystery nobody could ever solve.”


“Yes!” said Mira, excitedly. “It’ll be our secret. We’d be the only people in the world to understand the cave art!”


Bobby snorted. “No way. I want to be in the newspapers.”



As they approached their destination — a dark, looming structure in the dim light, Mira stopped and cast an apprehensive look forward. The cave, with its textured sandstone walls touching the skies, looked very different at night; the entrance was completely opaque, and its silhouette made a strange outline against the inky background. It looked like a lair. A witch’s lair.




A faint twittering sound suddenly pierced the silence. Bobby, who’d come to a standstill beside Mira, started in his place. “What was that?” whispered Mira.


“Ba – uhm – bats I think,” he replied, clearing his throat. “Should we go?” he said bravely.


“I – I just remembered we don’t have a torch. We won’t be able to see anything, so...”


“You’re right,” he said quickly. “It’ll be a waste. Let’s come another day.”


They turned, and started walking back briskly, slowing down only when the tents came into sight. Mira flopped down on a boulder, her shoulders drooped with dejection as she leaned against the rock wall behind her. “I really wish we could have seen the paintings again.”


Bobby folded himself beside her. “Why do you care so much about the paintings,” he asked curiously, the novelty of the investigation starting to wear off alongside the adrenalin.


“I don’t know…it’s hard to explain. Like, these people once lived, you know? Just like us. And we don’t know anything about them. It’s like their lives are erased…Bobby?” 


But Bobby wasn’t listening, his gaze focused on the spot behind her. “What’s that?”



She turned and found that the rock wall she’d been using as a backrest had something etched on it. “Is that…oh my god, is that a painting?”




‘Looks like it!” he said, scooting closer. “It’s of people, this time, thank god. What’re they doing?” The painting had two elegant stick figures, each carrying what appeared to be a long stick.


“I know – it’s men at war,” said Bobby in awe. “Look, they have spears.”


Mira rolled her eyes. “This is so typical. Of course you’d think they’re both men.”


“They’re the same height!”


“So? I think one of them is a female warrior, protecting her tribe.”


“They’ve both just returned from war, killing all their cow-stealing enemies,” said Bobby animatedly.


“And now, they’re going settle down and rule their kingdom,” finished Mira. They sat in silence for a minute, letting the fantasy play out in their heads.  






“I think we just solved the mystery.”










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5000 B.C.


The setting sun cast it’s dying rays across the plateaued terrain, creating a dazzling patchwork of light and shadow. In a hidden corner of the sandstone maze, a little girl stood with her front facing the carved rock.  


“Twenty-eight…twenty-nine…THIRTY, here I come!” She turned abruptly, and started running through the winding passages of the labyrinth. “I’ll catch you soon enough,” she threatened gleefully.








Ten minutes later, and her comrade was nowhere to be found. “Ekene, I know you’re there!” she called out again, though in a somewhat more subdued tone of voice.


Still ten minutes later, and she was legitimately worried. What if he’d lost his footing and broken his neck? What if a wild cat had eaten him up? What if he’d gotten lost and…she looked around, taking in the craggy outcrops that did not seem so familiar anymore. In fact, they looked the same. Everywhere. Unbidden, the elders’ warnings about treading too far into the maze came to mind.






“BOO,” came a voice, straight in her ear. She jumped, and turned to find Ekene bent over double with laughter. “You should have seen your face, Abaiké,” he cackled. “‘I’ll catch you soon enough,’” he continued, mimicking her higher pitch of voice.


Abaiké stood astounded for a second, and then burst into tears. “You horrible boy!”


The last of Ekene’s guffaws died away, and he sheepishly shuffled his feet through the sand. “Hey, don’t cry,” he said gruffly. 


“N-nobody will find our remains,” she wailed. “Elders will tell cautionary tales of us at story time. We’ll b-be the lost children that disappeared. FOREVER!”


Ekene rolled his eyes. “Oh don’t be so dramatic, Abs. We’re barely a mile away from where we started.” His face brightened. “In fact, I know something that’ll cheer you up. Come on.” He grabbed her hand, and started walking through the maze.













Before long, they came upon a clearing that opened up to a vast expanse of sand and sky. A few paces ahead was a small arch, dotted with Acacia trees on either side. Ekene stopped right below the arch, and tugged Abaiké down to lay flat on his back.


“Now look up,” he said. The desert sunset had washed the entire landscape in its pink pearlescent rays. The moon was a faint white crescent, even as the sun lingered in its kaleidoscopic descent. Slowly but surely, a tapestry of stars began to twinkle through a purple canvas.  


Abaiké sighed, content. “Ekene?”




“Do you think we ever really die? …We’ll at least come back as ghosts, right?”


“I-I don’t know, Abs. I think we live, we work hard, get old…and then we’re done.”


“It makes me sad. One day, there’ll be nothing left of us but this this,” she said, holding up a fistful of sand that was filtering through her grubby fingers. On impulse, she sat up, grabbed a stray pebble, and started grinding it against the side of the arch.


“What are you doing,” frowned Ekene.


“Wait and see.” A little while later, she sat back and viewed her work admiringly. “Thousands of years later, they’ll look at this and know we were here.”



Ekene peered closer, and scowled. “Why are you as tall as me?”



Abaiké smirked. “I am as tall as you, silly. Now come on,” she said standing up, and dusting the sand off her garb. “Let’s go – they’ll be wondering where we went.”


Ekene rose with a snort. “Why don’t you try leading us home…oh wait, don’t – we’ll die before we’re halfway there.”


Abaiké laughed, doing a little twirl of her body. “No. We’ll live forever.”









Edited by Sangeeta
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Oh @Sangeeta - the wonderful narrative and the superb haunting photos have me totally hooked.


More please!

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Matias Cox



It is a fantastic trip. I wonder what this landscape was like a few millennia ago, at the time of the "Green Sahara". The dynamics of human and animal life. Around all this magnificent rock formation, there was lush greenery, perennial rivers and abundant wildlife. "Without fear of making a mistake, the landscape at this time was the most beautiful in Africa."


A trip that would certainly move me ... mixed dream, imaginative contemplation, serenity in the face of such beauty, historical and archaeological appreciation, recognition of how much life has already flowed here; and many, many smiles :D.

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This place really captures my imagination!   Such a cool way to share it with a story---you're niece is quite talented and she looks like she can bake too! :D


Pairing this with Zakouma and the rare desert animals you saw ---it has a bit of everything!  More!

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Stunning landscapes, enjoying this a lot.

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Wow, another world!  The theme from Lawrence of Arabia is running through my head.  Fab photos by Dave.

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Wow @Sangeeta - poetic!!!! Can’t wait for more!!

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It's magic. To make the link with what @Safaridude said about Lawrence of Arabia, it makes me think of Wadi Rum in Jordan.

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what a magical mystical trip you are leading us on, and served up with tales of long ago matched with such lyrical images of Ennedi. Now I can see how you fell under its spell. I'm falling as well. Dave's fantastic photos capture the awe-inspiring spectacles you all must have fallen silent on.


and is that rock face whispering on the hollow winds to inspire you in post #5 in photo 7?  

Edited by Kitsafari
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@Caracal - you are always so generous with your praise! Thank you for taking the time to encourage me one more time! Much appreciated.


Ethereal is a good word for the landscape. Thank you for reading this, @AKR1 


@Matias Cox A trip that would certainly move me ... mixed dream, imaginative contemplation, serenity in the face of such beauty, historical and archaeological appreciation, recognition of how much life has already flowed here; and many, many smiles :D.

I cannot say that in any better words. Yes, you are 1000% right.


@gatoratlarge It is a perfect trifecta. You know I am eyeing you to lead one of these for us, don't you?


@Zim Girl Thank you. Just the kind of place you'll enjoy actually, so put it on your back burner somewhere, and whenever you make it to Zakouma, do the combo.


@Safaridude Funny you say that - I was just telling Dave that his photo (the one I put up here) was in that Lawrence of Arabia style too! You've got to put it on your next trip to Chad.


@madaboutcheetah Hari, when are you going to stop running off to your Botswana and East Africa trips & let me catch you for Chad?


@Bush dog Thank you for stopping in. I have not been to Jordan's Wadi Rum but after you mentioned it, I took a look, and yes, there are distinct similarities. I think I've fallen hopelessly in love with the Sahara now too (as if the rest of the continent was not enough!)


@Kitsafari I really missed you on this trip, Kit. "Rock face whispering into the hollow winds"? :D I should make you write the next installment, haha! We must do this one together at some point.


To everyone who said such nice things about her story, my niece Mallika says thank you! As do I, thank you!



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4 hours ago, Sangeeta said:

We must do this one together at some point.




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Just wow, @Sangeeta, what a place, what incredible scenery. Breathtaking! Don´t show this one to @AndMic - a return to Chad would be unavoidable then. B)

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Very cool and beautiful place, stunning photos by Dave, and your niece's story enhances the photos beautifully! 

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@Sangeeta...Thank you very much for this post.  I had no idea that this place existed.  Some of the photos resemble the U.S. Southwest.  Stunning and beautiful!

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@marg I agree that some of the rock formations do resemble some of those in the U.S. Southwest - but no people in the photos versus a lot of visitors in the U.S. national parks!

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  • 2 weeks later...

What a beautiful combination of story telling with words and photos. That took some effort but totally worth it from where I’m sitting. 

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  • 1 month later...

Such witty dialog to accompany the stunning images, and I don't just mean the chocolate cake shot.  These are other world!

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Thank you, @michael-ibk - I have plans for you and @AndMic for Dec 2021, so please don’t book yourselves into anything - you’ll love my plan, I promise!😘


@SafariChick we need a repeat!


@marg thank you for popping in. It really was a spectacularly beautiful place.


@AKR1 - thanks for adding that link. Sophy Roberts is a beautiful writer and she captures the place perfectly in that article.


@twaffle thank you, my friend. I can’t even imagine what magic you’ll make of this place with your images, it’s a must do for you.


@Atravelynn Thank you, Lynn! I’ll get off my lazy backside tomorrow and finish this TR at long last, with logistical details & the like.


Thanks to everyone for reading along and the encouraging comments - thank you!

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