Ben Amera Monolith in Mauritania

Jutting abruptly from the Sahara Desert, Ben Amera stands 633 meters (2,027 feet) as the largest monolith in Africa. Though Uluru in Australia is officially larger, some geologists believe that if the portion of the rocks below the surface were included in the measurements, Ben Amera would claim the title.

But there’s more to Ben Amera than just its size. The mammoth rock stands at the end of a chain of monoliths of different sizes. At the far end of the chain stands the slightly smaller Ben Aicha, which, according to the Mauritanian folklore, is the female partner of Ben Amera.

As the story goes, Ben Amera and Ben Aicha were married. But after some time, Ben Amera learned of his wife’s betrayal. There is no resolution to their story, other than their children standing between them to keep them apart, but the family together.

Ben Amera stands about five kilometers from Ben Aicha, so it’s best to explore them with a 4×4. Between them are several smaller monoliths that are covered and surrounded by house-sized rocks that have shed away from the main rock. However, these breakaways make for great scrambling to reach unobscured, elevated views of either Ben Amera or Ben Aicha.

To best experience these monoliths, camp overnight near their shadow. You will be treated to the starry skies illuminating the rocks. Then in the morning, over some Mauritanian tea, the sunrise will peak out from behind Ben Amera with its glorious rays.

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