Frames by Frank

Danakil Depression


A land full of charm and mystery: rich and geologically diverse, it is inhabited by the world’s most inhospitable people – or so they say.

The charm of a restless land

The Danakil Depression, or “Afar Region”, is the lowest point in the whole of Africa, sitting 155 m below sea level. Most people would see it as a corner of hell on earth.

Dominated by very high temperatures, salt lakes and lava flows, it is certainly one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. Only a very peculiar and tenacious population has been able to adapt to these conditions: the Afar who, famous for their firm resistance to colonial penetration, have inspired the tales of explorers up to the 20th century.

A frightening corner of the Earth but also amazingly interesting for the most daring and curious travellers. The blinding white salt plains, the bright colours of the dallol, and the night glow coming from the volcano Erta Ale are indelible memories for any nature-loving traveller.


The cautious hospitality of the Afar

The Afar are the nomadic ethnic group that inhabits the Danakil Depression and counts for roughly 4% of the Ethiopian population. 
Known for being indomitable warriors, brave and fearless, the reputation of the Afar still lives on in the minds of modern travellers, and rightly so. Above all, it echoes their strenuous resistance to every colonial attempt of the last century.
As a group, they speak Afar, from the Cushitic language family. As a result of the pressure of Arab merchants in the tenth century, their religion is Islam (Sunni Muslims).
The Afar are divided into clans and their society is based today on four hereditary sultanates. They are still almost all nomads and move their “packed-down” huts on their camels.
They are dedicated to shepherding and the salt trade, and many of them are still armed with rifles and curved swords as a result of the heated rivalry with neighbouring clans, especially from Eritrea.
A rather curious custom still practised by the Afar is to sharpen their front teeth, a practice that in the past served to inspire fear in the opponent.

A multi-faceted country, rich with variety and contradictions, where the eruptive force of the Danakil Depression burns and leaves a mark on the traveller’s soul.

~by Frank