Sahara Territory


Mali map.

Total area: +/- 1240000 km2.
Saharan area: +/- 700000 km2 (56%).
Lowest point: 23 meters (Senegal river).
Highest point: 960 meters (Adrar des Iforas).

Mali territory is largely flat and monotonous. The scarce mountainous relief consists in low plateaus and isolated rocks in the Sahel and southern regions, and a mountainous massif called Adrar des Iforas in the north-east. The desert largely covers the northern part of Mali, in a similar proportion as it does in Chad. Chech and Azauad regions are particularly torrid.

As in the other southern saharan countries, the Sahel makes the transition between the southern fertile savannah and the arid desert. In the south, Mali is irrigated by two important rivers, the Niger and the Senegal. The first one is particularly important; it is a source of food, drinking water, irrigation, and transportation. It could be considered as the Nile of Mali.

In the basin located just south-west from Taudenni, the sands become intensely red within an area of about 50000 km2.

The reddish dunes near Taudenni.

Adrar des Iforas is a rather insubstantial mountainous massif that covers an area of about 70000 km2 in the border between Algeria and Mali, though Mali posseses the most area of it and also its highest point, Mount Essai, which is also the highest elevation in Mali with 960 meters above sea level. Adrar des Iforas is a volcanic massif, being its terrain similar to the one found in the Air massif, a terrain covered with both sharped or rounded, dark basaltic or granitic, rocks and stones. However, this massif is much less compact than the Air massif. Here the rocky areas are spread or isolated, leaving large valleys in the center of the massif.

The touareg of the Kel Iforas confederation have lived in this region for many centuries. They have their capital town in Kidal, a town inhabited by approximately 30000 people, while a few small oasis settlements such as Tessalit or Aguelhok are present along the massif.

The oasis of Tessalit in Adrar des Iforas. The rugged terrain in Adrar des Iforas.

The Azauad is a flat and greatly arid region swept by the harmattan, where as far as the eye can reach no trace of vegetation is to be perceived.

The clear dunes near Arauane.

There is a desert terrain that is not a vast wasteland where plants barely can grow or a sea of sand dunes spread with occasional lush green date palm oases. The touareg call brousse these areas where grass abounds after the rains, areas that are the anteroom of the Sahel and the subsequent savannah. There is water in the rainy season and apart from the years of drought, enough pasturage to support the herds. The acacias (tamat) bear litte yellow flowers that are fed to the young goats. Also the sap of this tree is picked off in the dry season and eaten like candy.

Some desert areas in Mali can hold vegetation in the wetter season.

The images below show two rocky formations near Hombori, the "Hand of Fatima" (left image) and the Mount Hombori (right image), a plateau which is one of the highest elevations in Mali. This area is located in the Sahel, a region which is a strip that runs along the entire southern border of the Sahara, a region where the ever arid desert ends. The Sahel has a short wet season during summer time that alternates with the dry season that lasts for the rest of the year. During the wet season the withered grass and acacias appear deeply green.

The rock formation known as Fatima's Hand. The Mount Hombori.

Mali Ethnography


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