The Tao of Tofatat

Toffatat bird flying

THE TAO OF TOFATAT: From far away I spotted our destination, dominating a valley encircled at a respectful distance by small hills — Tofatat was a rocky desert queen on her sandy dais. Our footsteps quickened, keeping time with our racing heartbeats. La Nuit sensed our new fervor and barked incessantly. As we got nearer, no one spoke; even our Labradors seemed entranced. Arriving at its base, we just looked up in amazement, and understood why Ahoudan had been so proud to bring us here.

Much of the Bagzan is like a holy fountain that spewed huge stones into the air. When they fell back to the Earth, they cascaded atop one another, dotting the landscape with rock castles. The most extraordinary of these is Tofatat. A surreal monument towering 50 meters high, it is the inadvertent Stonehenge of the Sahara.

Tofatat is a natural paradox. It is a game of rock Jenga that got too tall, crashed to the ground, and in a one-in-a-million stroke of good fortune, created balance out of imbalance. It is a craggy citadel whose many chambers all break the ground rules of engineering, as if it were designed by celestial architects on hallucinogens. Palaces of giant stone mushrooms, mysteriously posed on top of one another, bigger ones frequently on top of smaller ones. Truncated pyramids, boulders ripped asunder. A few isolated rounded stones, polished by the wind. All of these together formed a perfect congruence derived from mayhem.

Text: by Michael and Aubine Kirtley, excerpt from “An Invitation to Tofatat” published in “The Walkabout Chronicles, Epic Journeys by Foot”, recounting their first trip to this mystical land of dreams.

Photo: by me… upon my return as an adult to the one place on this earth that I can truly call home.