The Sahara Desert, detailed description and where to find

Sahara

The Sahara is the largest desert located in North Africa. It is the largest desert on Earth! The Sahara has an area of 8.6 million km², or about 30% of Africa. If the desert were a state, it would be comparable to Brazil at 8.5 million km². The Sahara stretches 4,800 km from west to east, 800 to 1,200 km from north to south. There is not a single river, except for small sections of the Nile and Niger, and isolated oases. The amount of precipitation here is not more than 50 mm per year.

The first mention of the name of the desert dates back to the 1st century A.D. Sahara means “desert” in Arabic. The first explorers, scientists and archaeologists mentioned the desert area, hostile to humans. Thus, as early as the 5th century BC, Herodotus in his works described the sand dunes, salt domes, and gloominess of the desert world. Then the scientist Strabo described how the inhabitants of the desert were careful with water. And 100 years later, Pliny confirmed the descriptions of other explorers and said that the desert has no water at all and rain is very rare.

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Video: The Sahara from the Egyptian side

Frontiers

Of course, a desert this size could not occupy the territory of one or two African countries. It takes in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Chad, Sudan, and Tunisia.

The Sahara is washed by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, bounded to the north by the Atlas Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, and to the east by the Red Sea. The southern boundary of the desert is defined by a zone of sedentary ancient sand dunes at 16° N, to the south of which lies the Sahel, a transitional region to the Sudanese Savannah.

Dunes of the Sahara The Sahara Sands of the Ahaggar Highlands in the Sahara, southern Algeria

Regions

It is difficult to assign the Sahara to any particular type of desert, although it is largely dominated by the sandy and rocky type. It includes the following regions: the Tenere, the Great Eastern Erg, the Great Western Erg, the Tanezrouft, the Hamada el-Hamra, the Erg-Igidi, the Erg-Shesh, the Arabian, the Algerian, the Libyan and the Nubian deserts and the Talak Desert.

Climate

The climate of the Sahara is unique and due to its location in a zone of high altitude anticyclones, descending air currents and dry trade winds of the northern hemisphere. It rarely rains in the desert, and the air is dry and hot. The skies of the Sahara are cloudless, but they will not surprise travelers with blue clarity, as the air is constantly filled with the finest dust. Intense sun exposure and evaporation during the day is replaced by intense radiation at night. At first the sand is heated to 70° C, puffing with heat from the rocks, and in the evening the surface of the Sahara cools much faster than the air. The average temperature in July is 35°.

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Where the desert meets the ocean (Sahara on the coast of Morocco) Sunset in the desert

High temperatures, with their sharp fluctuations, and very dry air make it very difficult to be in the desert. Only from December to February comes the “Saharan winter,” a period with relatively cool weather. During the winter, the temperature in the Northern Sahara can drop below 0° at night, although it rises to 25° during the day. Sometimes it even snows here.

Nature of the Desert

Despite the fact that the desert is usually represented by a solid layer of hot sand, forming barchans, the Sahara has a slightly different topography. In the center of the desert, there are mountain ranges higher than 3 km, but on the outskirts there are pebble, stony, clay and sandy deserts with almost no vegetation. This is where the nomads live, driving herds of camels over the rare pastures.

The vegetation of the Sahara consists of bushes, grasses and trees in the highlands and oases located along the river beds. Some plants are fully adapted to the harsh climate and grow for 3 days after the rain, and then 2 weeks sow their seeds. At the same time, only a small part of the desert is fertile – these areas take moisture from the underground rivers.

The famous one-humped camels, some of which were domesticated by nomads, still live in small herds, eating cactus thorns and parts of other desert plants. But they are not the only ungulates that live in the desert. The Forked Addax, Grizzly rams, Dorcas gazelles, and Oryx antelopes, whose curved horns are almost as long as their torsos, have also adapted perfectly to survive in such difficult conditions. The light color of their wool allows them not only to escape the heat during the day but also to stay warm at night.

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Several species of rodents, including the gerbil, the Abyssinian hare, which emerges on the surface only at dusk and hides in burrows during the day, the jerboa, which has amazingly long legs that allow it to move by huge hops like a kangaroo.

The Sahara Desert is also home to predators, the largest of which is the fenek, a small fox with wide ears. It is also home to barchan cats, horned vipers and rattlesnakes that leave winding trails on the surface of the sand, and many other species of animals.

Video: From Casablanca to the Sahara

The Sahara in the Movies

The mesmerizing landscapes of the Sahara do not cease to attract cinematographers. Many films have been filmed on the territory of Tunisia, and the creators of two famous pictures have left their memories among the sands. Planet Tatooine is not really lost in space, and is located in the Sahara. Here is an entire “extraterrestrial” village from the latest series of “Star Wars”. When the filming ended, the “aliens” left their homes, and now the bizarre dwellings and interplanetary refueling station are at the disposal of rare tourists. Next door to Tatooine, the white Arab cabin from “The English Patient” is still visible. You can get here only in a jeep and with an experienced guide, because you have to go off-road, with a complete absence of signs and landmarks. Fans of the “English Patient” need to hurry a little more and the merciless barkhan will finally bury this unusual attraction under the sand.

Sahara Desert

Sahara Desert – the hottest desert and endless monotonous sands, tourists are attracted by attractions located on the territory of several states in Africa.

The territory of several states, attractive to tourists covers the vast part of Africa (about 30%), where the Sahara Desert is located. Among these countries, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania stand out.

The Sahara on the World Map

The hottest desert of the globe from north to south is 800 to 1,200 kilometers and from west to east is 4,800 kilometers.

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According to various sources the area of El-Sahr el-Kubra is 8.6 million to 9.1 million square kilometers. Scientists claim that every year its area increases by a few kilometers to the south.

  • The western part is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean,
  • The northern part is framed by the Atlas Mountains, the Mediterranean Sea,
  • the eastern boundary runs along the Red Sea,
  • the southern sand dunes form the transition to the savannah of Sudan.

The stereotypical view that the Sahara is a vast, monotonous desert sand is mistaken. Several regions are distinguished:

Name of region Location, States
Tenere Northeast of Niger, west of Chad
Greater Eastern Erg. Algeria, eastern outskirts Tunisia, Libya
Greater Western Erg. Northern Algeria
Tanezrouft Southern Algeria, Northern Mali
El Hamra Libya
Igidi Algeria and Mauritania
Erg-Shesh Southwestern Algeria and northern Mali
Arabian Egypt
Algeria Algeria
Libyan Libya (eastern part), Egypt (western part), Sudan (northern areas)
Nubian Sudan, southern Egypt.
Talak Western Niger, Algeria, Mali

Climate of the Sahara Desert

According to scientific research, the Sahara became a desert natural zone 5 million years ago. Typical of the climate are the following features:

  • A percentage of relative humidity of 30-50;
  • high evaporation;
  • the presence of 2 types of climate: the northern part – dry subtropical, the southern part – dry tropical.

The northern part is characterized by a number of features:

  • a high rate of annual temperature fluctuations is recorded;
  • the temperature in the desert during the day and at night also has a significant difference;
  • winter is cool, summer is hot;
  • average temperature level in winter +13°C, in summer + 37.2°C;
  • the most rainy months are August (frequent thunderstorms), December-March;
  • Spring is accompanied by many days of hot winds, leading to dust storms.

The southern zone is characterized by:

  • hot summers,
  • Winter has mild, dry weather, and the average temperatures do not differ from the subtropical temperatures;
  • The minimum of -15 ° C;
  • temperature index of + 50 ° C maximum;
  • rainfall is low, more frequent in summer.

The most arid areas have poor diversity of fauna. The main areas of habitat are the central highlands. Most of the wildlife is unique in its kind, as they adapted to the harsh conditions of the desert, often leading a nocturnal lifestyle.

Interesting. It is believed that the ancient Egyptians used the image of a horned viper for the hieroglyph “phi” because of the similarity between the sound it makes and the pronunciation of the hieroglyph. Snake charmers still use this species in their performances to this day.

  • Dromedary or one-humped camels are domesticated, used for riding, transporting goods. The hump, which stores a supply of fat, allows them to be hardy.
  • The horned Saharan viper is a dangerous venomous nocturnal snake. It emits a continuous hiss to scare off enemies.
  • The gazelle dorkas is an animal that is 65 centimeters tall, weighs 25 kilograms, and has a speed of about 80 kilometers per hour. It survives because of its sand-colored camouflage and its ability to feed on dew and plants that conserve water. When it senses a predator approaching, it instinctively jumps away, which serves as a warning to other animals.
  • The Mendes or Addax antelope has a special paw structure that, on the one hand, helps it move across sandy soil and, on the other hand, prevents it from being attacked by predators. At the moment, the habitat, the number of the population is significantly reduced.
  • Saharan ostriches are identified as a separate subspecies of African ostriches. The features of ostriches provide them the ability to live in the desert: covering long distances with great speed (70 km/hour), high level of hearing and vision, powerful legs that help fight off predatory animals.
  • Cold-blooded varanas are armed with a very dangerous venom, which they use to hunt small animals, insects. Adapted to heat, they become aggressive in the cold.
  • The Fenek is a nocturnal miniature fox that has unusual large ears to help avoid overheating.
  • The dung beetle, aka Sacred Scarab, rolls a ball of ungulate droppings with its hind legs, hides it in underground cavities, feeds and lays eggs.

Interesting. The ancient Egyptian god Khepri was depicted with the head of a scarab beetle. Legend has it that he possessed the secrets of the sun and rolled it across the sky.

How to get to the Sahara

A tourist’s journey depends on which state of the African continent has a Sahara Desert attraction.

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Airline Connecting or connecting One way cost
Aeroflot direct flight 300 USD
Turkish Airlines Istanbul 320 USD
Lufthansa Frankfurt 530 USD

Tip. It is optimal to choose a flight to Djerba-Zarzis airport, as it is closer to the Sahara.

City Approximate cost, there
Hurghada 131 USD
Sharm El Sheikh 129 USD
Cairo 146 USD
Luxor 400 USD
City Approximate cost, there
Casablanca 128 USD
Marrakech, Tangier 127 USD
Agadir 217 USD

Flight cost is approximately 227 USD – 230 USD.

City Approximate cost, there
Nouakchott 396 USD
Nuadibu 1400 USD

The gateway to the Sahara is considered to be Douz, located on the border of the oasis. On its outskirts is a symbolic key, which opens the way for travelers. Tourists are offered tours:

  • A camel ride to the nearest dune (20 USD);
  • Visiting a remote oasis among the dunes Ksar Gilan (thermal waters) (168 USD);
  • Ruins of an ancient Roman settlement, drying salt lake Chott el Jerid with a chance to see mirages, the program “explorer of the Sahara” (2 days) – 98 USD;
  • Trip on jeeps – 120 USD.

Interesting. Conducted tours to the filming locations of the movie “Star Wars”.

Egypt offers travelers not only to relax on the beach, but also to explore the sights of the desert (approximate cost):

  • Giza Valley, the pyramid complex, the Sphinx (35 USD);
  • numerous oases, from which you can go for a walk on camelback, by car, on foot (tourist group) (25 USD – 35 USD);
  • Siva city, ancient fortress, Temple of Alexander the Great, Crystal Mountains (5 days, 300 USD);
  • The oasis of Bakhariya introduces the Bedouin way of life (155 USD – 259 USD);
  • Mouta City, Ethnographic Museum, Dakhla Oasis, Nile Valley, an opportunity to undergo a recovery course with the use of thermal springs (300 USD – 400 USD).

Travelers to Morocco are attracted to:

  • Draa Valley with oases, red dunes, ancient forts (300 USD);
  • off-road vehicle or camel you can explore the pristine ergs of Shigaga (200 USD).
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Many famous Hollywood movies were filmed in the valley, including “Gladiator”, “The Pearl of the Nile”, “The Mummy”.

Almost the entire state is located in the Sahara. Tourists are encouraged to see:

  • The rock paintings of the Tassil Mountains;
  • The Mzab Valley and five cities with unique architecture.

The tours to Algeria cost from 1000 USD.

Despite the tense political situation, desperate tourists are attracted by the Adrar Plateau. The unexplored formation of Gu Er-Rishat, which has a diameter of 50 kilometers, became famous after the image from space. The cost of the tour to Mauritania is 3030 USD – 3380 USD.

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