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The Secret Circle of the Sahara

Richat Structure........................(3811.jpg)

Hmmm. What is that? Could it be the eye of a hurricane? Jupiter's Great Red Spot turned blue? An ammonite? All acceptable guesses. The phenomenon sits in barren Northwest African terrain of the Mauritanian Sahara. A mystery that has intrigued scientists, geologists, astronomists and laypersons alike since its visual discovery by orbiting astronauts during the dawn of space travel. Le Guelb er Richat, or the Richat Structure.

Richat Structure........................(3810.jpg)

Initially believed to be a crater caused by a meteoric impact, current consensus leans towards the explanation that the geological formation is a symmetrical uplift that has been laid bare by erosion. (For a more in depth explanation that employs even more over-your-head geological lexicon check in with the Geological Society of America.

Richat Structure........................(3812.jpg)

The 50 km diameter structure, also referred to as the “Eye of Africa”, is located just a little off the beaten path in Northern Mauritania, not far from Ouadane or from the route of the endangered Dakar Rally. So if you're passing by the neighborhood on a Trans-Saharan trek with some nomads, keep your iPhone or GPS handy and have a look.

Richat Structure........................(3809.jpg)

However, you may be just a tad disappointed when you get there. Like the Nazca Lines in Perú, the Richat Structure is best seen from above. Way above. But, if you are just kind of adventure seeking traveler to visit this part of Africa, chances are you will find beauty and satisfaction in the stunning Mars-like landscapes and otherworldly isolation that the Sahara grants its visitors.

Yet, there are some people who live in the area, scraping by as locals have for thousands of years. And there may, or may not be, a functioning hotel. The results of our research are inconclusive, but a hotel is referenced on a few websites. So let us know if you go. Not the type of place likely to pop up on Orbitz.


Images courtesy of Nasa, Google Maps and John Spooner

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  • Bass

    November 6, 2008

    zooming out far enough in Google Maps it looks nothing so much as an eye in the head of Africa

  • JuanS

    September 28, 2008

    Hooray! Another strange place to visit on Earth!

  • Alvaro Eduardo Rojas

    August 31, 2008

    Thank you everyone for the input. The Google Maps link is now also in the 1st paragraph. Cheers!

  • Jimmy

    August 30, 2008

    Google maps (hopefully it will let me post this):

  • Egobert Flandander

    August 30, 2008

    Why not a link to the location in google maps??

  • J S

    August 30, 2008

    You can see this from Google Maps (search for

Any comments?