The Afar: The toughest people on earth?


Inside one of the hottest and driest countries on earth 07:56

CNN, Wed, Apr 6, 2016

by Vicky Brown and Thomas Page

(CNN) - Living above a magma chamber is not without its hazards, and yet the Afar have done so for generations.

Nomadic people from Djibouti, they have made the unforgiving landscapes at the northern reaches of the Great Rift Valley their home, relying on the same extreme elements that endanger their lives.

The dangers they face are many: drought, volcanoes, and the ever-present possibility that the ground beneath their feet may split open. One commodity makes it worth it: salt.

End of an era?

Located 500 feet below sea level, Lake Assal -- or what remains of it -- is the lowest point on the African continent. Lying at the foot on a volcanic crater, it's also one of the saltiest lakes in the world.

Receding water has left an expanse of crystal white salt that has become a lifeline for the area's nomadic people. For centuries the Afar have dug and sold the salt, first to Ethiopia and now increasingly to tourists, says Hamadou Aleisse, who has harvested the plains since he was 15.

But Djibouti is in the midst of a major climatic and geological event.

"Climate change is killing the nomads," argues geologist Abdourahman Omar Haga. "If you have no rains, you have no grass. Your goats, they (will) die."

"Life is very difficult here because we have no water," says Aleisse. "But this is where I live, and I cannot go anywhere else."

One day even the salt may be gone.

To read the full piece from CNN, click here.