Tassili n'Ajjer, Illizi, Algeria
GPS: 25.814582846813, 8.1347838390238
Tassili n’Ajjer, the “Plateau of rivers” in the Berber language, is a vast rocky area of 138,000 km² in the heart of the Sahara. This natural site is the largest protected area in the country. It is located in the south-east of Algeria, not far from Libya’s and Niger’s borders, in the wilayas (administrative area) of Illizi and Tamanghasset. Since 1972, the Tassili n’Ajjer Cultural Park has protected a mountain range in the central Sahara rising to an average altitude of 1,500 metres. It is composed of two geomorphological features of interest: a sandstone plateau and a mountainous volcanic ridge.
Historically inhabited by the nomadic Tuareg people, the Tassili n’Ajjer Cultural Park is particularly rich from a geological point of view. Its arid and mountainous environment offers a very diverse range of landscapes: rocky plateaus and tabular massifs of the Tassili, fairy chimneys and eroded rock arches, deep gorges and wide valleys, green wadis and refreshing oases. It is hard to imagine today that this desert area, one of the most arid in the world, was once a grassy savannah and fertile agricultural land for its inhabitants. Before the desertification of the Sahara began only a few thousand years ago, Tassili n’Ajjer was teeming with large wild animals and lush vegetation. Nowadays, the wildlife species that have managed to survive in this area of the Algerian Sahara are considered endangered, such as the Barbary sheep, the dorcas gazelle, the Sahara cheetah and the screwhorn antelope.
In addition to its natural beauty, Tassili n’Ajjer conceals an impressive collection of 15,000 engravings and rock paintings which are very well-preserved thanks to the dry environment of the region. These date from the Neolithic period (corresponding to the last ice age) and depict scenes of hunting, dancing or religious rites. The oldest ones are dated to around 10,000 years ago. A real plunge into the history of Humankind and the Earth, the open-air museum of Tassili n’Ajjer is not only an archaeological jewel but also a Ramsar site due to the importance of its wetlands. Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1982, the Tassili Cultural Park is the first Saharan biosphere reserve in the world.