October 21, 2022

GADOUFAOUA, NIGER — Petrified tree trunks jut from the desert floor, and fossil jaws and bones of nameless beasts peek out from a barren landscape. Nomad legend describes it as “The place where camels fear to go.” Called Gadoufaoua (Ga-doo-fawa) by French geologists who visited in the 1950s, this 100-mile stretch of the Sahara comprises the richest dinosaur beds on the continent. Just 10,000 years ago, Gadoufaoua was a lush paradise, home to elephants, hippos, crocs, six-foot perch, and an early civilization of people. On lakeside dunes at a place in Gadoufaoua known as Gobero, their small villages thrived on this abundance without ever tilling soil or tending livestock. All that vanished with the water some 5,000 years ago, leaving behind ancient graveyards not far from huge dinosaur fossils from Africa’s much deeper past.

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Exploring Gadoufaoua, known as 'the place where camels fear to go'

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Riders atop camels and as many cars with supporters weave through the desert in a wild race to the finish, the finale of the Cure Salée festival in InGall. 
Photo courtesy of Matt Irving.

Following a trail, three expedition Land Rovers head a vehicle train that numbers 15, counting the armed escort and truck filled with supplies.
Photo courtesy of Matt Irving.

Spotlights allow excavation of a sail of the dinosaur Ouranosaurus in the cool of the night in Gadoufaoua.
Photo courtesy of Matt Irving.

The spines of the sail of Ouranosaurus are wrapped in plaster jackets by Paul and team members (left to right) Rachel Vautrin, Erin Fitzgerald and Robert Laroche.
Photo courtesy of Alex Igidibashian.

Hundreds of bones of small animals exposed on the surface hint at many more below in a pond deposit in Gadoufaoua.
Photo courtesy of Paul Sereno.

Exploring Gadoufaoua Image

The spines of the sail of Ouranosaurus are wrapped in plaster jackets by Paul Sereno and team members (left to right) Rachel Vautrin, Erin Fitzgerald and Robert Laroche.(Alex Igidibashian)