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My Journey to the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia

Thoughts after a tough stint in the “Gateway to Hell”. The Danakil Depression in North Eastern Ethiopia in 2017.

The Afar people who live in the Danakil Depression 150m below sea level in the hottest and most inhospitable place on earth have a lot to teach. They have adapted their bodies to cope and their lifestyles have remained relatively unchanged for hundreds, even thousands of years. They subsist in a nomadic lifestyle relying on their camels and their goats for their survival. They drink salt water, since that is the only water available and they eat camel and goat meat and the products made from their milk.

They have nothing and they want nothing. They have no variety, no relief from the hardship of their existence and no complaints that I could see. They don't compare what they have or their experience with anything and so they can live in the moment, enjoying the magic of whatever comes their way. They don't argue with reality or hold onto their things, they live hour to hour and day by day. They truly smile!

We had an interesting conversation with one of the clan chiefs one afternoon during our trail-blaze through the Desert. We spoke about the subject of education. The Ethiopian government wants the children to be educated. The Afar do not believe in education and this chief wanted to hear our thoughts on the subject. Our guide facilitated and interpreted for us. I was intrigued by this chief's argument: as soon as the children imagine there is something better, they will want it, they will leave in search of that. The something better may just be elusive. Maybe the simple way of life they have, IS better. I thought of the consumerist mentality we have in the modern world, and I realised his wisdom. They smile and they share and they live in nature and with nature. Things can't add value to them.

They don't suffer mental stress from striving and driving and arguing with reality. Maybe they have more physical stress, but they show no signs of mental stress and it's beautiful to encounter.

I wonder if we could take a lesson from them. Each moment is a treasure and a mystery, because we have no clue what will come next. The simple lifestyle with less clutter and less possessions to tie us down and require holding onto, may just be the happiest one.

The last thing I came home with is the deepest sense of gratitude! Greenery, water, shelter, coolness and rest are exquisite blessings. I will never take them for granted again. In the desert in the Danakil, there is no green, no growth, no water, no respite from the heat and absolutely no luxury. When you shower…. Notice the awesome water. When you turn on the tap, notice the water flowing, cool and life giving. When you look at your garden, notice the trees and birds and enjoy them. Delight in the treasures that fill your life.

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