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The Teguidda-n-Tessoumt Salt Economy

The tribes of the Nigerian desert have relied on an unusual form of currency for generations; salt. This precious mineral is not just used to preserve food but also to purchase goods and services. Traditionally it has been the job of the people of Teguidda-n-Tessoumt to act as a mint for the surrounding nomadic tribes producing the salt the economy relies upon. The ancient method of salt production used by the people of Teguidda-n-Tessoumt  leaves behind a very colorful byproduct that illuminates the desert.




Around the village of Teguidda-n-Tessoumt there are thousands of craters filled with colorful liquids. These are the pools that are used to dry out the briny clay that is found in the surrounding area. Teguidda-n-Tessoumt is home to 20 different briny springs each of which saturates the surrounding clay with different minerals.


The clay from the beds of these streams is dug up and placed in pools usually six feet in diameter and left to bake in the desert sun. The mineral content of the clay and algae growth causes the pools to turn bright pastel colors as the clay dries out and the salt rises to the surface of the water. As the clay dries it is transferred through a series of smaller pools adding further hues to the process. Once the clay has fully dried the salt is separated from the leftover dust and formed into bricks. These bricks are then sold to the local nomads passing through the area and thereby turning the wheels of this ancient economy.   

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