The Sahara is the image that comes to mind when we think of a desert. And, without a doubt, few places in the world can capture the idea of sand dunes and aridity as well as the Saharan lands. But we are going to take the opportunity to tell you some interesting things about this huge part of the African continent.
The largest desert of earth and sand
From the title we have already specified that the Sahara desert is the largest in the world if we do not have the two poles. After all, although we can visit places like the South Georgia Islands or Lapland to the north, both the icy surface of Antarctica and the ice of the Arctic occupy an area greater than the Sahara and, of course, they are absolutely desert territories.
Having made this distinction, we can continue talking about the Sahara and dismantling some of its myths. To begin with, because It’s not just a land of sand dunesalthough it is clear that it is the most emblematic and some reach an incredible height close to 200 meters.
But there is more. There are areas of land, others of gravel, also valleys of rock, even salt flats. And there are even dissected mountains. For having, there is even a volcano like the Emi Koussi, which, with more than 3000 meters high, is the highest point in the Sahara.
Sahara: a desert surrounded by seas
The dimensions of the Sahara are overwhelming: more than nine million km². No other desert has sizes comparable to it, not the Gobi in Asia, nor any in America.
Its surface practically extends from the Red Sea in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. Meanwhile, to the north it has the Mediterranean Sea. It only has land continuity to the south. And there precisely is the Sahel, an area of arid tropical savannah, as inhospitable or more than the Sahara itself.
In short, it is an immense surface and spreads over roughly a third of the African continent, including numerous countries. Morocco, Mauritania, Western Sahara, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Chad, Niger or Sudan have Saharan territory.
A single stable river
In all that territory, when it rains, some rivers can flow. But they are all ephemeral, their waters evaporate. All except one. And what a river! One of the longest and most historic in the world: the Nile.
It is the artery that gave life to one of the most splendid civilizations of all time, the Egypt of the pharaohs. And it seems a miracle that it emerged from a territory as harsh as the desert.
Other desert towns
In reality, there have been more peoples who have known how to extract all their juice from the Sahara and from that hostile environment they have ended up making their livelihood. An example may be the Nubian peoplewhich since that splendor of Ancient Egypt, still lives in the south of the country today.
Other very interesting ethnic groups are the Berbers and the Tuaregs. They were nomadic people by definition, in continuous movement, forming caravans that went from one point to another to trade and who knew the desert perfectly, especially its oases, those places where water and vegetation miraculously emerge.
The flora and fauna of the Sahara
Yes, because we think that there is no vegetation in the Sahara. But there is. It is clear that in its most arid and central heart few species survive, but until then it is estimated that there are about 500 types of plants. However, where there is more variety is where the water from the aquifers emerges in the form of oases. Some as famous as Timimoun, Siwa or Bahariya.
Those oases are keys to the little life that there is in the desert. Although, in the Sahara there may be more than we expect. Just look at the types of animals that live here, which are much more than dromedaries or goats. There are also foxes, types of antelopes and gazelles, even the endangered Saharan cheetah survives. Not to mention its variety of arachnids, snakes and scorpions.
In short, the Sahara is not only the largest non-polar desert in the world, In addition to being immense, it is a surprising territory.