The Lakes of The Ubari (Awbari) Sand Sea of Fezzan
The Awbari Lakes, Libya.
Recent archaeological research revealed the existence
of several fresh-water lakes, known
as palaeolakes, in ancient Fezzan, Libya. Some
of these lakes were located in the southern regions
of Wadi Irawan, Wadi al-Ajal and the Ubari Sand
Sea. The archaeological finds from the area include
dark layers of organic matters, shells, hand
axes and other Palaeolithic and Neolithic implements
and tools which strongly suggested ancient human
activity in Fezzan.
These lakes were part of a larger network of lakes
which have included the legendary nearby
Lake Tritonis and Lake Chad among numerous other smaller
Precise dating of the lakes is yet to be confirmed,
but current studies, conducted by the Fezzan Project,
suggest Pleistocene and Holocene human presence.
However, results from Wadi al-Ajal's playas
(: which are mud flats with rough
surface, cracks and salt encrustation, like the
Playa of Germa which represent the lakes just before
drying out) indicate these lakes to have disappeared
around 3000 years ago.
Findings from the lakes
also suggest that the impressive sand dunes of
the Ubari Sand Sea are at least 100,000 years
old. Numerous lakes were thought to have covered
the eastern and southern regions of the sea,
some of which still exist today, as in the case
of Gaberoun (or Gabroun), Umm al-Maa and Maafu,
where the land surface intercepts the water table.
Lake Megafezzan: (Image
by Nick Drake, from uk.geocities.com/morris.drake).
The main river systems that fed
the giant lake: Tasilli N’Ajjer and Hamada
Mangueni. The locations of the current Ubari lakes are situated
near the middle of the above lake; probably left
over as the mother-lake slowly evaporated away
into thin air.
are a group of about 20 lakes, set amidst the landscape
of towering dunes and palm fringed oases of the Ubari
Sand Sea. To reach these lakes, tourists usually
drive to Sabha, then from Sabha to Tkerkiba, where
an excellent camping site is used as the base to explore the lakes
as well as Wadi Matkhandouch. The depth of the lakes,
according to one Libyan diving centre, varies from
seven meters deep (as in Gabroun) to 32 meters deep
(Ain al-Dibbanah, near Ghadames). Some of these lakes are slowly
drying out, owing to drought and artificial drainage of
Among the most picturesque of the lakes are Gaberoun and Umm
al-Maa (the Mother of Water).
Also there are two more beautiful lakes which are
rarely visited by tourists. These are: Umm
Mother of the Horse), also spelt as Oum El Hassan,
located north of Gaberoun; and
11km from Umm al-H'isan.
Lake Gaberoun is one of the largest and
most beautiful lakes of the great sand sea of Ubari;
beautifully set amidst the magnificent sand dunes, with palm trees
on one side and the ruins of the old village on the
other. Most of the lakes of the Libyan interior are highly carbonated,
enabling swimmers to easily float without exerting
any effort. The content of salt is rather high: nearly five
times saltier than seawater. Some of the lakes are
home for a harmless tiny red shrimp-like creatures that thrive
in the shallow waters of the lake, which the Tuareg
grind into a paste and use for making cakes, and which have
earned the local inhabitants the name of 'worm
eaters' (Dawada or Dawwada), and hence the name: Dawada Lakes.
|Distances between the lakes:
Tkerkiba - Hofret H'lima > 10 km
Hofret H'lima - Mahrouga > 10km
Mahrouga - Gaberoun > 15 km
Gaberoun - Mafo > 15 km
Mafo - Umm Almaa > about 18 km
Gaberoun - Umm Alh'isan > 30 km
Umm Alh'isan - Attrouna > 11 km
Tkirkiba - Mandara > 15 km
Tkirkiba - Umm Almaa > 17 km
Tkirkiba - Mafo > 39km
Tkirkiba - Gaberoun > 45 km
Mandara Lake from above (double click to zoom in).
Mandara Lake, Fezzan, Libya.
Umm al-Maa from above
Umm al-Maa (
the Mother of Water ) Lake, Fezzan, Libya.
Umm al-Maa Lake, Libya.
Gaberoun Lake from above
Gaberoun Lake, Fezzan,
The name Gaberoun is a compound of two names: Gaber (grave) and
A'awn (a name). The oasis was the home of an old settlement
which has been moved elsewhere. The ruins of their settlement
are located on the western shore of the lake (see photo).
The temperature of the water is, strangely enough, colder on the surface
than it is a foot or two below, where it is noticeably warmer.
A tourist camp is located on the northeastern shore of the lake, with
a Tuareg shop, selling traditional Berber jewellery and other
Links to Related Resources:
Palaeohydrology and Palaeoclimate of Lake Megafezzan: A Giant
Palaeolake in the Fezzan Basin, Libyan Sahara:
outcrop of Lake Megafezzan sediments in Fezzan, Libya (image
© Dr. Simon Armitage,
University of Oxford).
Taken from personal.rdg.ac.uk/~sgswitke/megafezzan.htm.
palaeolakes of Fezzan (see picture
in the Wadi Shati region,
were first studied by Petit-Maire et al.,
(1980), and then by Thiedig et al.,
(2000), White et al., (2001), Brooks et al., (2003) and Drake
et al., (in press). Their preliminary conclusion was
that Fezzan was a giant closed basin with a very large
lake, which scientists named: ‘Lake Megafezzan’, with size
estimates range from 76,250 (Brooks et al., 2003)
(Thiedig et al., 2000).