Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Chad overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. No geographical error. Only the goal of a tourist strategy aiming new markets and ready to take up the legacy of a vacant Libya, broken to pieces now. But also the leadership of a Maghreb still too restless for all who yearn the virginity of the desert. 

The arrival in Italy of "Visiter le Chad", the national tourist office to which the Sahara country is diverting its major investments for five years now, is by no means occasional: if today there are circuits and facilities can accommodate foreign visitors on the spot, a special credit has to be recognized right to Italy and, in particular, Milan tour operator Spazi d’Avventura.

"The real breakthrough year was 1992 - recognizes Pietro Rava, tropical therapies physician and tour operator’s owner - when the political situation in Niger, where I was to work, it became untenable for foreigners: I was forced to flee to Chad, whose area of ​​Tibesti was almost enveloped by a legendary aura, and there began to explore the country privately, discovering a natural and ethnographic heritage simply unmatchable throughout the whole Sahara area. 

Just think of the variety of mammals collected in the national park Zakouma, or native species of lakes Fitri and Léré, including the rare sea cows. Or the 200 and more ethnic groups lost for the country: from Sara to "Ethiopian” Tubu, populations that preserve ancient animistic rituals despite intense evangelization and Islamization. It's true. Abroad, the image of the country continues to be associated with the bloody war with Libya in the '80s, as well as to the mass exodus of refugees from neighboring Darfur, but the internal stabilization initiated by President Idriss Déby has laid the foundations for the economic revival of the country. Discovered oil in 2003 and, seven years later, signed a final peace agreement with Sudan, the local population was finally able to take the reins of their own well-being".

For over 20 years Ravà, together with the family, mapped the inaccessible territories north of the capital N'Djamena for a total of over 500 thousand kilometres, filling a geographical gap which even the French colonists weren’t able to solve: the only updated data in his possession were attributable to climber Guido Monzino’s expeditions in Tibesti, between 1964 and 1968. Fundamental references, however, remained those produced by the German Gustav Nachtigal  even in the previous century.

"The outline of the tracks has remained unchanged since then - continues Ravà - but thanks to the support of local people, we were able to join them in circuits, along which twist today expeditions. Tibesti is not for everyone, though: this is an area still difficult to access, where the arid climate and the wide temperature range is barely mitigated by regular monsoon rains feeding the wadi. 

You must have a strong adaptability, because the trips of about 16 days are held almost entirely by sleeping in tents furniture: due to the use of off-road vehicles Svs and large stocks, Tibesti involve expenses, furthermore, not less than 3,200 euros for two weeks. No coincidence that main visitors, who are usually 50-60 years old, have already a deep knowledge of desert areas".

So many sacrifices repay generously: the lakes Ounianga, Kefir and Serir, are oases of life in the heart of the Sahara, enhanced by thermal sources plus, while inside wadi Batchikélé you can see whole gatherings of camels, since the underground streams are the real ways to lead their migrations. But it is the unpredictability of geology to leave speechless, thanks to the spectacular volcanic formations Ennedi: from Elephant Rock to the Dromedary one, or the so-called Table, passing under the 70 meter high arch Aloba - confesses David Childress in his essay "Lost Cities & Ancient Mysteries of Africa and Arabia" - "it seemed to me that the area had been explored by ancient civilizations and represent just the land of a vanished people. On the other hand the ancient Egyptians had tried to explore much of Africa, if not the entire world. They were known for having made expeditions and travel trade across the Sahara, moving from the Nile to the oasis of Kharga, up to Lake Chad".

And it is perhaps to their findings that we should still look to disclose an explanation to the many questions raised by the cave paintings scattered between the Tibesti and Ennedi, whose recent Memorandum by African Parks is intended to relaunch its Unesco candidacy strongly. But questions urge, especially on the front of Hamitic science followers: black men on the rock walls of the area are perhaps dark-skinned due to the effects of the ami-majos root? And aren’t just ancient Egyptian witnesses to attest how their explorers chewed it during the crossings, so that they could enhance their pigmentation against sun effects? On the basis of such data contemporary chemists have indeed isolated an active ingredient within the root, the 8-methoxypsorate, which turn out crucial to preventing skin cancer. And again: the myths of local nomads, who tell of a Triton Sea existing in antediluvian times, could perhaps confirm the hypothesis that the Saharan lakes, today, are just remains of such a huge mass of water, present in the area millions of years ago? At that time, of course, man is supposed to be not on the Earth yet; in many caves are anyway painted marine animals by obvious prehistoric traits, while European maps of the sixteenth century represent over there territories "officially" unknown yet. And what about the extraordinary discovery of Toumai skull - now kept in the National Museum in the capital - which locates the oldest hominid in the world just in Chad?

Not many studies have been developed, but significant clues are still available. In effect, according to Taylor Hansen’s researches, the dead Triton Sea was an inland sea, destined to dry up, being closed by the Atlas Mountains westbound and down south by the mountains rising over the lake Chad (itself in great danger of drying up): strolling through the most remote areas, however, traces associated to ancient megalithic ports, exactly as thickly painted underground tunnels, are now detectable. For James Churchward, author of "Children of Mu", those would be the remains of that enigmatic straight-nosed and dark-skinned civilization, of which southern India Dravidian would be the current descendants: proofs of that ancient kingdom, would lie across the river Mya, one of the great disappeared beds in the Sahara, whose flow reached Atlas and Hoggar "ports" (Triton Sea islands then). "When the sea level dropped up to dry - he writes – it survived Lake Chad alone. So that area was green. Ostriches, buffalos, deers and tigers inhabited the forests, while crocodiles were asleep in rivers. Even today this area is called "the land of monsters", since the rocks are shaped like huge animals. But Tuareg people claim that, when they arrived in ancient times in these territories, monsters really lived and gathered there to fight and defend their hunting grounds". Theories are in full swing. To new explorers, the last word.

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