The Land of Salt and Fire Dallol, Ethiopia It is so hot here, the hottest place on earth. I come here to push my imagination. To see something new. To understand how this place is possible, I’ll take you to the white. To the salt. I’m Andrea Frazzetta, there on the back of the car, with the camera. I’m a photographer. And we are driving across the bottom of an ancient ocean, now a thick bed of salt. It is so hot you can imagine how 10,000 years ago the sun evaporated the ocean, leaving behind the vast plain of salt. Salt that the Afar people have been mining for centuries. They shape the salt into those blocks at your feet to sell at market. The blocks were once so valuable they were used as money. The miners are working now, but the week before, they had gone on strike to protest the falling price of salt. I met a man named Kedir who cut salt for 46 years. “The salt is right here on our doorstep. Our fathers mined salt to raise us and we do it to raise our children. In the hot season, we hire help.” “I think, in the future, the government will give the work to outside companies, and that the traditional way we mine salt with camel caravans will end.” Roads are being built in this area of Ethiopia, which brings access, and new mining techniques. If it’s easier to move the salt, that means fewer camel caravans each week. Across the salt plain, there is another industry growing. Tourism. That’s Ali. His father was a salt miner. But Ali has chosen a different path. “I work as a local guide to bring tourists to Dallol.” “I have lived in Dallol all my life. Every day brings new things. New people, new colors. It never stops changing.” Because just under our feet is one of the most active tectonic zones in the world. Magma heats the groundwater, pushing it up through cracks in the crust of the earth. The water mixes with minerals and the salt to create these rock formations and colors. Sulphur makes the yellow, copper makes the green. Iron brings the red. This landscape, a geyser island sitting in the middle of the vast salt plain, is like no other place in the world. It’s a reminder that, just as the Afar adapt to the forces that are changing their traditional way of life, the earth keeps shaping and shifting under our feet.