Les Comptoirs de l'Azalai


History


IN THE DEPTHS OF SAHARA

Azalaï salt is quarried in the Taoudeni mines, in the heart of the Malian desert, eight hundred kilometres north of Timbuktu.

It is the direct result from the evaporation of the oceans covering this part of the African continent 220 million years ago.

This salt of an exceptional quality, protected all this time against pollution, is extracted according to the same craftmanship since the middle of the 16th century.

Its transportation, from the mines in the desert to Timbuktu, the ancient capital of the Malian empire, is done, as for centuries, by the timeless caravans of camels (in fact they are dromedaries having been renamed “djamels” by local traditions) seeming to appear suddenly out of the dawn of time.

Led by the Tuareg nomads, the undisputed masters of these desert regions, these herds advancing in their own slow pace have inherited the name of AZALAÏ.








THE SLOW PACE OF THE CARAVANS

Up until the middle of last century, to protect themselves against attacks from looters, the Azalaï gathered twice a year, and numbered in thousands of camels.

The "modern" caravans have split in much smaller units, anywhere from fifteen up to three hundred camels.

They carry out the transport of the salt, essential in the survival of men and herd, from October until May, when the temperature “stays mild” and doesn’t exceed 50°C in the sun.

It takes twenty days of travelling to cover the eight hundred kilometres of sand and stone to bring millet and necessary food for the six hundred miners in Taoudeni, an then another twenty days return with the precious salt bars to reach the shores of the Niger river.

It is an exhausting voyage, punctuated with few steps at the scarce wells along the invisible trail.

Each camel in the herd carries four pieces of salt hanging along their flanks, weighing approximately one hundred and twenty kilos in total.

A load that necessitates unloading at every stop for the camels to have some well earned rest.

That is how it is since 300 years. It will continue for a long time, before Azalai Salt reaches your table.





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