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Salt-laden caravans brave one of earth's harshest environments

The vast desert basin of the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia has an average annual temperature of 34.4 Celsius. For centuries, merchants have travelled there with caravans of camels to collect salt.

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Sulphur and mineral salt formations are seen near Dallol in the Danakil Depression, northern Ethiopia, April 22, 2013.

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A man walks on sulphur and mineral salt formations near Dallol.

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A general view shows the town of Berahile in Afar, northern Ethiopia, April 23, 2013. Much of the town's economy revolves around the salt trade; the biggest building on the bottom right of the photograph is a newly constructed warehouse where salt is stored. In the centre, camel caravans spend the night, ready for the next day’s journey to the Danakil Depression.

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Salt merchants, and their pack animals, rest for the night in a canyon, during their journey to extract salt from the Danakil Depression.

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Salt merchants pose for a photograph as they rest for the night in a canyon.

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Residents of Hamad-Ile pump water from a well in the Danakil Depression.

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At dawn, a camel caravan starts its journey to the Danakil Depression.

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Men walk with their camels through the desert of the Danakil Depression. Once the caravans find a suitable place to mine salt, workers extract, shape and pack as many salt slabs as possible before starting their two-day journey to the town of Berahile.

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A man walks with his camels through the desert.

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A worker extracts salt from the desert. It will be shaped into slabs, then loaded on the camels and taken back across the desert so it can be sold around the country.

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A worker uses a pickaxe to extract salt.

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Workers extract and gather salt slabs.

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A camel herder and salt merchant holds rope in the Danakil Depression.

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Pack camels eat dried grass in the desert.

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A worker loads a camel with slabs of salt.

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A camel caravan carrying slabs of salt travels away from the Danakil Depression.

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A camel caravan carrying salt travels away from the Danakil Depression. The caravan will take two days to arrive at the town of Berahile where it will unload and sell the product to a salt association.

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Abdu Ibrahim Mohammed, a retired salt merchant, poses for a photograph close to his home in the town of Berahile in Afar, northern Ethiopia. Mohammed worked as a salt merchant for 25 years and has passed the business onto his children.

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Workers unload slabs of salt from camels in the town of Berahile in Afar, northern Ethiopia, April 19, 2013.

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Workers unload slabs of salt from the camels.

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Members of the Berahile Salt Association pay a merchant after purchasing salt in Berahile, northern Ethiopia April 19, 2013.

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Slabs of salt are stacked in the Berahile Salt Association warehouse in the town of Barahile.

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A man prepares bars of salt to be sold in the main market of the city of Mekele, northern Ethiopia.

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A man prepares a bar of salt to be sold in a shop in the main market of the city of Mekele.

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