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The Tassili N’Ajjer National Park  

The Tassili N’Ajjer National Park in a nutshell

The park is located on a plateau of outstanding scenic and geological interest, covered by eroded sandstone forests of rock. The area has one of the largest and best preserved groupings of prehistoric cave art in the world, an immense gallery of neolithic art of international importance. More than 15,000 drawings and engravings record the climatic changes, the animal migrations and the evolution of human life on the edge of the Sahara from 8000 to circa 1500 years ago. It is also a floristic and faunal island of Sahelian life in the middle of the desert, and harbours a relict Mediterranean cypress, one of the rarest trees in the world.

Père et fille

Details about the Tassili N’Ajjer National Park

The Tassii N’Ajjer National Park was created in 1972, then extended through successive decrees until 2001, finally covering over 8 million hectares. It varies in altitude from 1150 to 2158 metres (3770 to 7080 feet) and the desert stands at an average altitude of 1500 metres (4920 feet) in the north and north-west, 1800 metres (5900 feet) in the centre and south. It is between 80 and 300 kilometres wide (50 to 190 miles). Tassili means “Mountain massif crowned with plateaus.” Tassili N'Ajjer means plateau of chasms. The Park comprises two geomorphic units:

  • sandstone plateau
  • mountainous volcanic ridge.

The plateau

The plateau is of extremely broken terrain towards the north, its north-facing cliffs cut by several deep gorges and steep-sided watered valleys running northward into sands. The red to black-weathered sandstone has been deeply eroded into forests of 20-30m pillars (65 to 100 feet) like ancient ruins and rises to the south-west-facing escarpment above the shifting dunes of the Erg d'Admer and Erg Tihodaine.

The ridge of relatively recent volcanic rock, the Adrar massif, rises 2158m (7080 feet) in Mt.Akao and is crossed at a few aqbas (passes) only.

There are springs and 300 permanent gueltas (pools) on the plateau, and in the north-flowing Oued Imirhou 20km of water sometimes runs for six months. Another semi-permanent river is on a tributary, Oued Iherir, where secreted travertine forms natural dams and pools which cascade from one level to another. Near Amguid on the western edge there is a huge crater .

The climate

The plateau is hyper-arid, very exposed and barren, but there are sheltered more humid micro-climates where relict Mediterranean fauna and flora survive. The annual rainfall is scant and variable, with a mean of 25mm (1 inch), locally occasionally 150mm (6 inches). The plateau’s summer temperature range is between 20º-30ºC (68 to 86°F) and the winter range is between 31º-1ºC (34 to 88°F); snow is recorded on the peaks. The annual mean is 20.3ºC (69°F) at 1,100m (3600 feet) but in summer Djanet at this elevation at the foot of the southern escarpment has experienced 50°C (122°F).

To see the daily weather in the Djanet area, click here

Vegetation in the Tassili N’Ajjer National Park

The Tassili N'Ajjer plateaus, owing to their elevation and the humidity of deep shaded valleys, possess relict Mediterranean as well as Sudanese and Saharan vegetation. The most notable Mediterranean species is the endemic Saharan cypress, the only conifer of the central Sahara. There are only some 153 left in the world, about a 100 of them scattered in the 'Valley of the Cypresses' northeast of Djanet. They grow between 1000-1800m (3280 to 5900 feet) and are extremely drought-resistent; all are old, some perhaps over 2000 years old !

Fauna in the Tassili N’Ajjer National Park

Fauna is mainly composed of insects and reptiles; mammals are disappearing: “gundi” desert mice, antelopes, jackals... Depending on migration fluxes, some palearctic birds make a stop, to take advantage from the plateau’s relative humidity.

Cultural heritage of the Tassili N’Ajjer National Park

The eastern and north-eastern part of the National Park harbours frescoes from different periods, especially in Sefar, Tamrit and Tin Tazarift among the stone forests. Some of the most beautiful neolithic engravings in the Sahara are to be found near Djanet. In the northern part of the Wadi Djerat canyon are 30 kilometres (20 miles) of rocks engraved with human and animal figures, some of them life-size (hippopotamuses, buffaloes, rhinoceroses and giraffes).

Le plateau du Tassili N'Ajjer

 

Végétation du Tassili N'Ajjer

 

La faune du Tassili N'Ajjer

 

Gravure rupestre du Tassili N'Ajjer

Partially reproduced from the UNESCO index
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