03/2007 - Libya – 2nd part: the Desert, the Akakus and Ubari Lakes

2-week trip to Libya visiting Sebha, Germa, Msak Settafet , Methkandoush Wadi , Great Wadi Imriwan, Idehan Murzuq , Msak Mellet , Abahoa Pass , Wan Kasa , Akakus , Wadi Wan Millal, Imenineh well , Wadi Anshal, Natural Arch, Tezeren , Tingaliga Arch, Wadi Tashwinat , Tinankofot , Inapolu Arch , Wadi Melol , Wadi Adad , Awiss , Alkamar , Al Alweinat , Ubari, Ubari Lakes, Mandara Lake, Umm Al Maa Lake, Mavo Lake, Gebraoun Lake, Tekerkiba



By a short domestic flight, after several waiting hours at the airport, we left the Mediterranean Libya to reach the heart  of the desert.

We landed in Sebha and drove immediately to Germa , where we spent the night.

The next morning, we found three jeeps led by Tuareg drivers and we began our adventure in the desert and in Akakus.


Initially, we crossed the Mesak Settafet  a  stony desert called ” ocean of stone”. We arrived at Wadi Methkandoush which is the site with the largest and oldest (16.000 years old) collection of rock engravings of Libya.

The engravings represent many animals like crocodiles, elephants, giraffes, hippos, ostriches, rhinos.

The most representative engraving, due to its location, its beauty and conservation state, is the “Fighting Cats” (Meercatze) .

In the afternoon we crossed the Great Wadi Imriwan , also called the Valley of “Scia”, from the name of the plant that grows there ( like chamomile ); then we entered the heart of Idehan Murzuq (Murzuq Desert), a mountain range formed by sand dunes . Among those dunes we camped for the night .

The whole group was considerably excited  being the first time that we were sleeping in a tent among the dunes of the desert. It was interesting to learn how to put up tents and to light a fire, with the wood brought by the Tuareg, in order to prepare dinner . I cannot forget the Taajeelah , the Tuareg’s bread, cooked under the sand, made ​​hot by fire, and covered with other very hot sand.

The next day, we left the dunes of Murzuq Desert and slowly began to walk a track which was very fatiguing for the large amount of black stones that constituted it. Then we met a site full of petroglyphs (rock engravings).

The track became sandy although surrounded by mountains of black stone: it is the Msak Mellet .

And it was under the shade of a big tree …. the place where we opened the ” Ristorante Venezia” (Venice Restaurant) .

In the afternoon, after passing the Abahoa Pass , we arrived in the “Sand Sea” formed by the dunes of Wan Kasa (or Caza ). The dunes got different colours depending on the light : ranging from a pale pink to a light grey . And it was among those dunes that we should have spent our second night in the desert, but Shik , the Tuareg chief, considering a strong wind which suddenly had arisen, decided to continue until Akakus where it was easier to find some places to shelter from Garbi wind.

Leaving Wan Kasa, the scene changed again: we travelled on a thin layer of sand, surrounded by numerous  towers and pinnacles of black rock.

Despite Shik had chosen a very sheltered place to camp, during the night we were disturbed by a blustering hot wind .

In the morning of the next day, our third day in the desert, we started along the northern edge of Wadi Wan Millal , until we reached the  Imenineh well .

Then we arrived to Wadi Anshal where we stopped to visit two sites of prehistoric rock art :

– The former with paintings of the ” Roundheads period” ( 8000-6000 BC),

– The latter with paintings of the ” pastoral period ” ( 5500-2000 BC).

We went on until we reached the Natural Arch, imposing and majestic ( 150 meters high ), which is the most spectacular rock formation in Akakus .

We had lunch in the shade of a high protruding rock admiring the Natural Arch.

The temperature was high as well as humidity and flies were really annoying.

In the afternoon, after visiting another site of prehistoric art , we passed through an area called Terezen , which in Arabic means “nice site”. We stopped in time to organize our camp in a place that definitely sheltered us from the wind; it was our last night in tents.

We began our fourth day in the desert visiting the Tingaliga Arch, before entering the great Wadi Tashwinat (we had to pay and get the ticket!); here it is where professor Mori carried out his researches and I describe his activity in the next gallery.

After the lunch break, we visited the only Tuareg village still existing within the Wadi Tashwinat  area.

We left that area and entered the one of Wadi Tinankofot which in Arabic means : Stone Sea.

The landscapes were stunning; less spectacular was the Inapolu Arch.

With a quick transfer on hard sand we followed the trail that runs along the dunes of Wan Kasa , on our right. Suddenly Shik (being the chief was always on the first of the jeeps), sharply turned right and began to climb, at high speed , a very steep sand dune , until we got to the top. From there, we could admire a wonderful panorama.

We had just the time to leave again that a strong wind began to blow carrying clouds and rain.

We arrived at the tented camp in Alfaw with wind and rain that continued throughout all the night.

As previously mentioned, that day we visited several archaeological sites discovered by Professor Mori .

In the first site we saw cave painting of “tintaharari”( giraffes ), and a second site with engravings representing two elephants , and finally the Tagrel cave paintings (or Takdhalt ) representing coloured dancing women .

Later we visited the site where it was found the skeleton of a child which dates back to 5400 years ago, and finally the site with scenes of a marriage (in Wadi Melol ) .

We began our fifth day in the desert with a light autumn rain. It did not rain all day long, but the sky remained covered with rainy clouds influencing the quality of the pictures.

Shortly after the departure, we stopped at Wadi Adad , a symbolic place for Tuareg , with the thumb-shaped rock.

We entered the wide area of Awiss , formed by several wadis , which offered us a wonderful view of nature: we travelled on a carpet of red sand surrounded by tall arches , pinnacles and rocks with the most unlikely shapes.

Even that day we visited several sites of prehistoric art that I describe in the next gallery .

After stopping for lunch, surrounded by grazing camels , we began to walk the area of Akakus that the Tuareg call Alkamar, or “lunar landscape”. And still more sand , more black rocks, more fascinating landscapes, although  the presence of clouds did not allow us to have a good light.

We ended the day with a final thrill: with the jeep, Shik drove us with a jeep up to a very steep dune , stopped at the top with the bottom of the vehicle , and then went down despite the really steep slope .

The first visited site had very damaged carvings, instead the second site had colourful paintings depicting hunting scenes dating back from the “pastoral period” to the “cabalino period” ( 5.500-100 BC). In the last site, we admired carvings of the “period of the great wildlife” ( 10.000-6.000 BC ) depicting three elephants.

We left the Akakus during another rainy day. As we moved away the landscape lost its intense beauty to become a sandy plain.

We met a group of children who were playing even though they were in charge of a group of goats.

We reached Al Aweinat , the first town that we met after six days in the desert .

As soon as we reached an asphalted road, we had a “technical stop” for the jeeps to buy petrol and inflate the tires of our jeeps.

We had not even time to get down from the car that it had already been organized a market for the tourists.

The rain didn’t stop  and the Tuareg created a kitchen and a dining room in an abandoned radio and television station.

We arrived to Ubari and we went to stay in a Fort, built by the Italians in the 1930s, which has been converted into a hotel.

It was the worst place of the entire trip (rooms had neither private bathrooms nor windows ) .

The last day in the desert area was dedicated to the visit of Ubari lakes and of the dunes that surround them.

It was a beautiful sunny day although very windy .

We started from Ubari , going towards Germa, ad after about an hour of paved road,  we sharply  turned  left . Suddenly, and it seemed almost impossible , we were surrounded by beautiful sand dunes.

Before arriving at the Mandara Lake (drained at the moment) we stopped several times to take pictures.

We arrived at the Umm Al Maa lake ( its name means : mother of water ), then we saw the small but beautiful Mayo lake . Finally we reached Gebraoun Lake, the largest one, surrounded by high dunes from which some tourists were trying to descend using skis. We stopped for lunch before going back.

Our jeeps seemed to float on the soft sand, smoothed by the wind while around us there was an infinite number of beautiful sand dunes .

Suddenly, the dunes changed their colour : from yellow to pink , from pink to ocher, from ocher to orange .

Then suddenly as they had appeared , the dunes disappeared .

We reached Tekerkiba and the paved road; we had just the time to get to Sheba , where, after the usual long wait at the airport, we flew over Tripoli to return to Italy.


Libya wondered us with its archaeological beauties quite superior to what we had expected from our studies while the desert, the Akakus and its magnificent graffiti gave us immense emotions.


The photos of the trip con view them in slideshows with music on the link: www.viaggiaresempre.it – Libia 2^ parte