Waw an Namus is an extinct volcano located deep in the Sahara desert of South Libya, one of the most captivating and remote places on earth. What makes Waw an Namus so special are the three salt lakes that form an oasis in its 2.5 mile (4km) wide crater, as well as the 12 miles (20 km) of dark-black deposit of ash that surrounds the volcano and its oasis, making it one of the most beautiful and contrastingly colorful sights you can imagine.
The name Waw an Namus means the “Oasis of Mosquitoes”, due to the surrounding small lakes being infested with mosquitoes. Which means camping nearby requires nets or repellents.
The volcano and its ash field seen from space. The picture was taken by astronaut André Kuipers from the International Space Station.
The ash “tail” stretches for 200 miles downwind, standing out starkly against the yellowish color of the Sahara desert.
A common phenomenon in the Sahara desert is the occurrence of fresh water close to salt lakes, this scarce water source located under the salt lakes is what feeds the lakes.
Due to this presence of fresh water at this remote volcano, and throughout the long history of desert caravan travel, Waw an Namus was always an extremely important watering point for the caravans travelling through South Libya.
This scenic volcano remained unknown to the outside world until it was reported by Karl Moritz von Beurmann in 1862 and later Gerard Rohlfs in 1881, although neither one ever visited the volcano.
Probably the first European to visit this volcano and report it was French military officer, Laurent Lapierre in 1920. Lapierre was captured in combat and taken in captivity to a near by military camp. He had the opportunity to report about his adventure after his release a few years later.
About 11 years later an Italian geologist, Ardito Desio, reached Waw an Namus during a famously long camel journey. He published a geological description of the volcano for the first time in 1935.
Today the oasis area is very popular with local tourists.
Imagine being stranded in the desert and coming across this huge oasis.