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Taoudenni (also Taoudeni, Taudenni or Taudeni) is a remote village in northern Malimarker known for its salt mines. The salt is mined and quarried from ancient dry lake beds, by hand, using a crude axe. The village contains hundreds if not thousands (active and inactive) of hand dug mines that are approximately 10-12 feet deep and can extend under the earth for up to 30 feet in some cases. Taoudenni is slowly migrating, as it moves to a new location on the salt pan each time a mine becomes depleted.

It was previously used as a place of exile for political dissidents, debtors, and petty criminals. Although workers are now free, they are paid poorly and largely in salt which they must exchange for food and water in a form of truck shop. At one time there was also a Malian Army fort in Taoudenni but, it was closed because life was so difficult in this austere environment. Temperatures reach in excess of 140 degrees F (60 degrees C) from April-September. The only drinking water is a salinated pastoral well. The workers can only stay in Taoudenni for six months. This is for two reasons; the first being that the only drinking water is salinated and these workers will go into renal failure if they consume salt water for more than six months. The second is that in the hot months (April-September) these people cannot live in these high temperatures. It is estimated that less than 10 people stay in Taoudenni through the hot months.

The salt is carried to Timbuktumarker by camel on the caravan route called Azalai, one of the last caravan routes in the Sahara that is still in use.

At one time the caravan route from Timbuktu extended through Taoudenni to Taghazamarker, another salt-mining site, and on to the lands north of the Sahara on the Mediterraneanmarker Sea. Caravans with up to 10,000 camels carried gold and slaves north, returning with manufactured goods and salt from Taghaza and Taoudenni.

See also

Taoudeni basin


  1. Trench, Richard (1982). Forbidden Sands: A Search in the Sahara (p. 119). Chicago: Academy Chicago. (Original work published 1978, London: J. Murray). ISBN 0-89733-027-7
  2. Trench, Richard (1982). Forbidden Sands (p. 123).
  3. Mali - Azalai - URL retrieved from Internet Archive January 20, 2008
  4. de Villiers, Marq, and Seila Hirtle. (2007) " Space, Time, and Timbuktu". Natural History. 116:6. July/August 2007. ISSN 0028-0712

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