Dallol and other extraordinary attractions of Afar
Dallol, the other planet
This place used to be part of the Red Sea and has kilometers of salt deposits. In some places, the salt deposits are about 5 km thick. Below the salt lake is a substantial source of volcanic heat which causes hot water to rise through layers of salt and anhydrite deposits. Minerals get dissolved and are deposited, near the springs, and form vertical shapes in yellow color.
The area is extremely dry with annual rainfall average about 4 to 7 inches. Temperature ranges from 25 degree Celsius in monsoons to 48 degree Celsius in the dry season.
Dallol Depression is situated 431 km North of Semera. An alternative 205 km route from Mekelle via Berhale can also lead to the scenic view at Dalol. It’s necessary for visitors to get a tour operators vehicle and be equipped with food and drinks. Accommodation is available at Hamed’ela, 25 km from Dalol. You need to use your own wheels.
A smoking mountain
Erta Ale means “Smoking Mountain” in the local Afar language and its southernmost pit is known locally as “the gateway to hell”. Erta Ale is 613 meters high, with one or sometimes two active lava lakes at the summit which occasionally overflow on the south side of the volcano. It is notable for being the longest existing lava lake, present since the early years of the twentieth century (1906). Volcanoes with lava lakes are rare: there are only four in the world.
Erta Ale is a very remote and rarely visited shield volcano. It’s Ethiopia’s most active volcano and it has been in a state of continuous eruption since 1967. Daytime temperatures are usually above 40 degrees Celcius and the base of the volcano actually lies below sea level and its summit rises up to 613 Meters.
Two different routes can lead visitors to the spectacular volcanic mountain Erta Ale. One is a 311 km drive from Semera to Asbari on a 305 km drive of which 85 km is over a gravel highway. Just walk for some 7.5 km afterwards and yay! You are there!
If your excursion commences from Mekelle, a 325 km drive through towns like Akula Kimeagula, Berhale, Hamedeela, Kurswad and Askomi Bahri followed by a 7.5 km walk will take you to the crater full of molten rock.
Public transportation is unavailable so visitors should use a tour operator’s vehicle to get to Erta Ale. Banking and telecom services are available at Semera and Berhale. Visitors should carry sufficient food and water which they can freight with their other baggage on camels from kirswad town onwards.
The magical hands of Afar women build the portable house, “Ari”, from palm fronds and matting. The interior’s moderate room temperature amid the burning hot climate outside is the result of Afar women’s magical hands.
The Afar people have different kinds of traditional dances for various ceremonies like weddings, rituals and holidays. The dances are performed together as well as in specific age and sex groups.
Half a dozen men hold their “Gilles” in their right hands and lift their legs up to their behind in an intricate choreography to dance Hora. It is usually performed at times of war, weddings, and Eid.
It takes two Sede’a!
This dancing style is mainly performed by both adult and young girls with the opposite sex.
Tirtira is the dance of triumphant warriors who just came back or are marching towards a battlefield.
Lale can bring about a hot holiday vibe, with chanting accompanied by clapping and hopping of Afar men.
When women partake in the holiday dance, the rhythm changes into a keke.
During weddings and Eid holiday, women line up in two rows holding their Grilles and sing in chorus while moving around.
Sultan Alimirah Hanfrey Palace
The 15th spiritual and tribal leader, Sultan Alimirah Hanfrey, used to dwell in this contemporary design palace since 1938 till his demise in 2003. It is located to the east of Asaita near Awash River.
Other ancient palaces include Adelegob and Gergori. They are 22 and 45 km far from Asaita town respectively. Sultan Mohammed Hanfre (Elalta) built Adelegob palace in 1860’s and the latter, gird with multiple fences, was built by Sultan Yayo Mohammed in 1927. The Imam Selman Palace, named after the Imam who built it in the 1670’s, has been demolished during a war in 1773. Trees have grown on its debris 25 km from Asaita.
Source: Afar National Regional State, Culture and Tourism Bureau, Tourist Guide, Third Edition 2014