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Algeria

Tassili n'Ajjer

The abstract sandstone rock formations at this Algerian national park are rich with prehistoric art. 

Just outside the desert oasis of Djanet, Algeria, there’s a national park brimming with pieces of the past. A trip through the alien-like landscape of Tassili n’Ajjer is like stepping into an open-air art gallery, where the sandstone rock formations become canvases for more than 15,000 prehistoric carvings and paintings.

According to UNESCO, the park holds one of the world’s most important clusters of prehistoric rock art. The paintings and carvings offer a fascinating look at the animal migrations, changes in climate, and human life that helped shape the area’s history.

The artwork is from the Neolithic period, back when this slice of the Sahara was a savanna teeming with wildlife like antelopes, giraffes, and crocodiles. You’ll find images of these creatures etched or painted onto the rocks.

You’ll also find images of humans which act like a historical snapshot of daily life. In these, you’ll see people doing a range of activities like dancing, hunting, or handling their livestock.

In addition to the art, Tassili n’Ajjer is worth exploring for its unique environment. The wind has sculpted the sandstone structures into beautiful, abstract shapes that tower above swathes of sand.

Because of the nearby oasis, this part of the Sahara still boasts a considerable amount of life. Here, you’ll find endangered species of vegetation like Saharan Myrtle and Saharan Cypress. You may even catch a glimpse of a mouflon, a type of wild sheep that’s depicted in some of the early rock art.