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Chott El Djerid (Tunisia)

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      07.03.2013 20:40
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      An interesting phenomena in the Sahara desert.

      Chott el Jerid.

      Chott el Jerid is a massive Salt Lake in the centre and South East area of Tunisia. We passed this massive salt lake on route from Douz to Tozeur. The salt lake of Chott El Jerid has been formed over centuries from water that trickles down from the surrounding mountains forming a shallow lake that stretches for miles. When I say Lake It certainly is not very deep and in fact may be only several inches deep in places when it is full. The lake stretches for 12 miles in one direction to over 160 miles long and is the largest salt lake in the Sahara.

      It is possible to use a boat during the winter months to cross the lake when it is full however for most of the year the lake is dry due to the excessive heat of around 50C which causes the water to evaporate leaving clean pure white salt on the ground of the lake bed. There is a tarmac road that runs right through the centre of the lake which for most parts of the year is dry.

      We pulled into a viewing area where there was a small café and shops selling knick-knacks and stones that form in the Sahara desert under the sands. Theses stones can be seen all over Tunisia and are formed by crystallisation of water and sand. There are some toilets here too although no one was brave enough to use them being right in the middle of nowhere but in keeping with Tunisian tradition the doors were painted blue.

      It is said that it is possible to see a mirage although when we were there we did not see any. Another term for Mirage is Fata Morgana which I had never heard of before. The mirage is caused by different levels of atmospheric temperatures where warmer air is just above a cooler level of air which causes light refraction resulting in the mirage effect.

      We walked on the dry bed lake for a short distance from the road. It is advisable not to walk too far away from the road because the salt bed can be quite brittle and fragile which may hide deeper holes underneath. I found the reflection of the white salt quite blinding. There were just a couple of areas that still had a bit of water there which had been dug out to show that there was water there.

      I understand that some people go early in the morning to watch the sun rise with glorious changes of colour ranging from pink to red to orange to blazing sun rising over the flats. I have visited a similar salt lake at Bad water in Death Valley where there was a considerable amount of salt. We did taste some of the grains of salt and surprise surprise it tasted incredibly salty.

      It was certainly a worthy sight to see the salt lake although I would not necessarily have made a special journey to see it, it was just something we passed en route between different locations but I did find it fascinating never the less.

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