January 11, 2012

0096 DJIBOUTI - A lake ten times more salty than sea

First I have to say that unfortunately I don't received this postcard from Djibouti, but from Germany, from Silke, who, as he said in the message, recently traveled to this country from the Horn of Africa, nestled between Eritrea, Ethiopia şi Somalia. With a population of approximately 906,000 inhabitants, of whom 567,000 (62%) live in the capital, Djibouti has an economy based on service activities connected with the country's strategic location and status as a free trade zone, and on the salt reserves, as it was 1,000 ago. The Somali and Afar ethnic groups was the first populations on Africa who embraced Islam, due to its links with Arabian Peninsula. The French influence which was felt in the area since the 19th century, when the country was called French Somaliland or Obock, remained so strong that in 1958 the population decided by referendum to remain with France, and not to join the Somali Republic.

After the declaration of independence in 1977, when it changed the name from Afars and Issas to Republic of Djibouti, the country experienced a civil war (1991-2001) between the government and a predominantly Afar rebel group, the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD), and fought against Eritrea (1996 and 2008) for the Ras Doumeira peninsula, which both countries claim to be under their sovereignty.

Regarding the postcard, if wasn't wrote on it what represent, I hadn't realized. Assal is a crater lake in central-eastern Djibouti, at the western end of Gulf of Tadjoura, at the top of the Great Rift Valley. It lies 155m below sea level (the lowest point on Africa and the third lowest depression on Earth, after the Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee). There is no outflow from the lake and, due to high evaporation, the salinity level of its waters is ten times that of the sea, making it the most saline in the world after Don Juan Pond (Antarctica). If at this we add that temperatures can rise in summer above 52°C and in winter doesn't drop below 34°C, we can see that the region isn't favorable to life. As a result the vegetation in the lake area consists only of low, thorny bushes, and in the lake water are no apparent signs of life.

Assal is formed by two parts: a large white expanse of salt (the world's largest salt reserve) on the west/northwest side, resulting from evaporation of the waters in the past, and a highly saline water body. The salt from this area is distinguished by the shape of the crystals from the salt from any other part of the world. Normally, sodium chloride crystallizes in the cubic system, but here the continuous action of wind-blown waves, currents, heat, and pressure of super saturated brine have as result spherical crystals, with the size from the caviar to the softball ball. Salt extraction by the Afar nomad tribes of camel drivers and Somalis from Lake Assal's salt bank established the ancient caravan routes.

The Government of Djibouti has initiated a proposal with UNESCO to declare the Lake Assal zone and the Ardoukoba volcano as a World Heritage Site.

About the stamp, illustrating St. Peter's Cathedral of Regensburg, I write here.

sender: Silke / rasibo (walltype)


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