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The Afar Depression or the Afar Triangle) is a geological depression, includes Afar Triple Junction, near the Horn of Africa, also a part of the Great Rift Valley, where it overlaps ETHIOPIA AFAR REGION ,Eritrea and Djibouti. Afar is well known as one of the cradles of hominids, containing the Middle Awash, site of many fossil hominid discoveries such as Ardi, (ardipithecus ramidus); Gona, site of the world’s oldest stone tools; and Hadar, site of Lucy, the fossilized specimen of Australopithecus afarensis.
The Afar Depression includes the Danakil Desert and the lowest point in Africa, Lake Asal (155 metres / 509 feet below sea level). Only the Awash River flows into the depression, where it ends in a chain of lakes that increase in salinity. Dallol is also part of the Depression, one of the hottest places year-round anywhere on Earth with a shaded air-temperature record of 64.4 °C (148 °F). The climate varies from around 25 °C (77 °F) during the rainy season (September–March) to 48 °C (118 °F) during the dry season (March–September). Thousands of years ago, this low-lying area was a salt lake which has subsequently dried up and resulted in a vast plain of salt which covers an area of more than 10 square kilometers and from which salt has been extracted since ancient times. It is estimated that there are 290 million tons of sale at Lake Afrera alone. Today one can see hundreds of Afar and Tigrayan cameleers cutting open the crust of the salt lake to produce neat rectangular salt tablets, and loading them on to thousands of camels for distribution to markets across Ethiopia.
Not far from Dallol in the Danakil Depression north of the Great Rift Valley, the only volcanic crater below sea level has remained silent since 1926 as the seabed it will one day occupy gradually widens. Another impressive natural phenomenon of this region is Erta Alle, Erta Alle is particularly a unique Lave Crater Lake that erupts all the time. Erta Ale is the best place to study geology particularly the volcanic eruption, besides its great adventurous value.
Erta Ale means Smoking Mountain according to the local Afar Language. Normally, the caravan is taking of late afternoon and will travel the whole night with some stops. Along the route, while walking at night, one can admire the reflection of the volcanic lave that frequently erupts from the Crater Lake situated on the hill 613 meters high. The journey, walking on strange but amusing extensive dry lava feels like walking on the moon.