The Great Rift Valley stretches from northern Syria to central Mozambique. It is the longest rift on the earth's surface -- nearly 6400 kilometers long. It ranges in elevation from 395 meters below sea level to 1,830 meters above sea level with an average width of 60 kilometers.

The escarpments (or walls) of the rift are normally 600 - 900 meters high, but in several places they can rise in sheer cliffs 2700 meters high. The valley is set alongside some of Africa's highest mountains - including Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, and Mount Margherita.

The rift is dotted with many shallow lakes - some of them the most poisonous and alkaline on earth; lakes where nothing but algae can grow. Conversely, the rift is also home to some of the deepest lakes in the world. There is ongoing seismic, volcanic, and tectonic activity as three continental plates come together in the region.

Among the familiar places that are within the Great Rift Valley are the Jordan valley, parts of the Dead and Red Seas, the Awash valley and Lake Tanganyika.

In East Africa the rift continues to widen. Some scientists believe that most of the area will eventually be submerged and become part of the Indian Ocean - with the Horn of Africa becoming an island.

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