Geological structure of the Sahara Eye
In the heart of the Sahara Desert in Mauritania lies a geological marvel known as the Eye of the Sahara. This circular structure with a diameter of 40 kilometers is a true spectacle of nature and can be easily seen from space.
Astronauts on space missions have admired this geological formation for decades, and its origin has been the subject of intense debate and research.
The origin and formation of the Sahara Eye
Contrary to many theories that suggest that the Eye of the Desert was the result of a meteorite impact, recent research suggests that its formation is much more complex and fascinating. The Rishat Circular Structure, as it is officially called, is located in the northwestern part of the Taoudini Basin, in the Adrar Highlands region of central Mauritania.
It stands out in the landscape as a slightly oval depression, surrounded by concentric ridges of rocks dating from the Proterozoic to Lower Paleolithic. This structure is considered unique, as it is distinguished by its layers of highly resistant quartzite rocks, which form protrusions, while the valleys located between them are formed of less resistant rocks.
Geological structure of the Sahara Eye
The Eye of the Desert is actually the result of a dome of molten rock that rose and, once reaching the surface, was formed over millions of years by the action of wind and water. In contrast to the previous theory of meteorite impact, recent geological research indicates that this formation is of magmatic and intrusive origin.
Moreover, it consists of a limestone and dolomite platform overlain by siliceous megaliths for kilometers, which in turn are exposed to intrusions of small basalt rings and alkaline volcanic rocks. Despite everything, the origin of the Ain al-Sahara still fascinates scientists, making it a geological mystery that defies traditional theories.
Search for the eye of the desert
History of the search for the Eye of the Desert
Research on the Eye of the Desert dates back to the 1950s, when it was first identified through aerial photographs. Since then, scientists from various regions, especially geologists, have dedicated themselves to discovering the secrets of this structure.
In recent field work, in which multidisciplinary teams in the fields of geology and geophysics participated, the magmatic and intrusive origin was confirmed. The Rishat Ring Structure, once thought to be a meteorite impact crater, is now viewed as a superposition of several igneous rocks, including gabbroic ring dikes connected by a large intrusive molten body.
Salient features of Ain Al Sahara
One of the most notable features of the Eye of the Desert is the way its appearance changes depending on the viewing angle. When viewed from space, it looks like a huge target, sometimes compared to a 40-kilometre-wide flying saucer.
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station highlighted the vitality of this formation in the desert landscape. However, the view at ground level is much less impressive, and often indicates an unrecognizable structure.
Other wonders near Ain Al Sahara
The Sahara Desert and its wonders
For Mauritanians, visiting Ain Sahara represents a desert adventure that few tourists would want to undertake. Few people have the privilege of immersing themselves in the grandeur of this geological formation due to its inhospitable location, although the trip can be very enriching.
The city of Ouaddan and its heritage
Furthermore, the nearby city of Oudane is a historic site housing the region’s rich cultural and commercial heritage, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and dating back to an era when Mauritania played a central role in commercial transportation. Desert salt.
Today, cities like Ouadane and Chinguetti are home to ancient monuments and libraries that tell the story of a time when the Islamic world was a pioneer in the fields of science and technology.
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