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Socialising in Hamed Ale

Young Afar girl playing, Afar village of Hamed Ale, Danakil Depression, Ethiopia

Young Afar girl playing, Afar village of Hamed Ale, Danakil Depression, Ethiopia

We loved staying in Hamed Ale. Liza knew lots of people and our little camp attracted children and village VIPs alike. Halima, an amazing and charming nine year old girl, had bewitched all of us. She was around from dawn to dusk, bringing along various friends. Also the village chief hung out there, showing off a small gun fastened to his hips. A souvenir from his pilgrimage to Jeddah / Saudi Arabia he bragged, only to add that at the age of 63 he will soon marry his fifth wife, somewhere in her early twenties. So within minutes we learned that he was the father of no less than 23 children, with more to come.

Liza’s cooking was not only a highlight for us, but also the villagers dropped by to munch on something exotic, like tomatoes or salad. Their diet is indeed very limited. A piece of ice from the cool box turned into a highlight for a group of children, so totally unknown in the hottest place on earth. They kept on pressing it on their front head and cheeks and screamed and laughed aloud at this unknown sensation of cold.

To our big surprise, one afternoon a little make-shift shower was put up a few meters away from our hut, a nice treat in this dry, dusty, sandy place. Our desert shower immediately became the object of desire of two Italian ladies who occupied it before we could blink. They justified their intrusion by shouting “Nuestra Agua”, which they carried along. Both left wrapped in neon colored bathrobes, walking across the dusty plain. We were too stunned to get a camera. When it was our turn to wash, Halima crawled in with Heidi and insisted on washing her hair. She would not accept Gilles coming anywhere near.

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