The salt workers of the Danakil Depression

Salt worker unloading salt blocks in Berahile, Danakil Depression, EthiopiaSalt worker unloading salt blocks in Berahile, Danakil Depression, Ethiopia | S00201 | buy

 

Location: Ethiopia
Date: 16 June 2013
Photographer: Christina Feldt

We are in one of the cruelest and hottest inhabited places on Earth, not far from the Eritrean border: the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia. Few corners of the globe can match this wilderness of volcanoes and temperatures frequently saying hello to 60ºC. This area is home to the Afar people who crisscross the deserts with their livestock, living and surviving in one of the harshest environments on Earth. It is a place from which close to 100% of the salt production in Ethiopia comes. Teams of Afar and Tigrayans from the Ethiopian highlands gather daily to mine the salt and transport it by camel and donkey to a small town called Berahile. Then big trucks bring the salt to storage places in Mekele from where it is transported and sold to all parts of Ethiopia.

The salt miners work under very tough conditions, in which temperatures hardly drop below 50º. Many of them walk up to 2 hours to the salt falt and can take off burned flaps off skin after their work. Around 2,000 camels and 1,000 donkeys come to the salt flat every day to transport the salt tiles to Berahile, about 75 km away. This transport takes up to three days and a strict organization is behind the camel and donkey loading. Each camel can carry 30 salt tiles at 4 kg and walk up to 25 km a day. A man who has around 18 camels can earn up to 45€ with his camel transport in one week, after paying all the costs and wages.

It’s a question of time how long the salt caravans will continue transporting the salt from the salt flats to Berahile. When there is peace with Eritrea, there might be trucks coming to transport the salt tiles to the next cities and the camels might become useless. The Danakil Depression is a place where time has stopped. Like a journey to another world and time. A place where people acquire their resources and small treasures from a hostile and cruel nature. People who have developed their identity and culture out of this struggle. The salt workers of the Danakil Depression.

 

Salt worker transporting salt blocks with his camels and donkeys in the Danakil Depression, EthiopiaSalt worker transporting salt blocks with his camels and donkeys in the Danakil Depression, Ethiopia | S00202 | buy

 

Tiles of salt getting stacked, tied and prepared for transportTiles of salt getting stacked, tied and prepared for transport | S00203 | buy

 

Tiles of salt getting stacked, tied and prepared for transportTiles of salt getting stacked, tied and prepared for transport | S00204 | buy

 

Salt worker loading salt blocks on his camel, getting ready for the 3-day walk to the town of BerahileSalt worker loading salt blocks on his camel, getting ready for the 3-day walk to the town of Berahile | S00206 | buy

 

Salt caravan crossing the stone desert in the Danakil Depression, Ethiopia, on the way to BerahileSalt caravan crossing the stone desert in the Danakil Depression, Ethiopia, on the way to Berahile | S00207 | buy

 

Afar lady passing by the salt caravans in the stone desert of the Danakil Depression, EthiopiaAfar lady passing by the salt caravans in the stone desert of the Danakil Depression, Ethiopia | S00211 | buy

 

A salt caravan on its way to BerahileA salt caravan on its way to Berahile. This walk takes up to 3 days and temperatures hardly drop below 50º | S00212 | buy

 

Salt blocksSalt blocks | S002014 | buy

 

Salt worker loading salt blocks on his camelSalt worker loading salt blocks on his camel | S00215 | buy

 

Salt worker arriving in the town of Berahile after a long walk through the stone desert of the Danakil Depression, EthiopiaSalt worker arriving in the town of Berahile after a long walk through the stone desert of the Danakil Depression | S00216 | buy

 
[click to view the complete set of images]
 

One Response

  1. […] Feldt takes us to the cruellest and hottest inhabited place on Earth, the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, where teams of Afar and Tigrayans people gather daily to mine the salt and transport […]

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