The Nile Valley: The Tropics meets the Desert

Sahara Desert, Africa

The Sahara Desert is located in southeastern Africa and is the largest hot desert, the third largest desert after the Arctic and Antarctic deserts.

What is it really like?

The word “Sahara” in any person evokes associations with the scorching heat of the African continent. Being under the influence of stereotypes, the average man often judges this African desert one-sidedly. But it is completely different. Endless sands stretching over the horizon line, with dunes and dunes rising on them; flat, like a table, stretches of salt marshes, stony plateaus and oases buried in verdure; the exhausting heat of the day and piercing night cold, the almost total absence of moisture and violent floods during heavy rains. In the eastern part, the Nile River flows through the Sahara Desert, serving as the only source of life for the civilizations that lived along its shores in ancient times.

Photo of the Sahara Desert

Why is the desert called the Sahara?

Interesting fact: this unique place owes its name to the nomadic Tuareg tribes, who lived here from time immemorial. In translation from the local vernacular, the word “Sahara” means “desert area”. Located in the north of Africa, the Sahara Desert was first mentioned in documents dating back to the first century AD.

Hot desert Sahara landscape

Area of the Sahara Desert.

According to different data, the area of the Sahara Desert ranges from 8.6 to 9.1 million km2 . Because of its vastness and the differences in climatic and terrain conditions, the following deserts are distinguished in its composition:

  • Nubian;
  • Arabian;
  • Talak;
  • Libyan Desert;
  • Algerian.

Each of them has its own unique ecosystem, microclimate and unique topography.

Sahara desert photo

Climate of the Sahara Desert.

The northern part of the desert has a subtropical climate, while the southern part has a tropical climate. The average monthly winter temperature in the northern and southern Sahara reaches +13 degrees Celsius and in July it is +37.2 degrees Celsius. The temperature fluctuations in the northern part are much higher than in the southern part. The average daily temperature in the Sahara desert can reach +50 degrees Celsius in the summer (the maximum was fixed at +57.8 degrees), while the surface temperature reaches 70-80 degrees Celsius. In the mountainous areas the temperature may drop to -18 degrees Celsius, so the ground freezes at night during the winter, and occasionally it even snows.

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In the northern part it rains from December to March, with little precipitation in the rest of the months. In the southern part, rainfall occurs mostly in summer and is often accompanied by thunderstorms. Dust storms are also common in the desert, with wind speeds of up to 50 meters per second. In the western part of the Sahara Desert, humidity is high and fog is not uncommon.

In which countries is the Sahara Desert located?

Every year millions of tourists flock to touch the secrets that the Sahara hides and admire its greatness. It stretches across several states. The list of the most visited tourist countries where the Sahara Desert is located include Morocco, Mauritania, Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria. Each of them has its own unique attractions.

Map of the Sahara Desert

Sahara Desert in Tunisia.

Tourists coming to Tunisia and wishing to see the Great Desert should visit the city of Douz, standing on the border of a blooming oasis and endless sands, which is a kind of gateway to the Sahara Desert. As a reminder of this on the outskirts of the city, near the Great Dune, there is a monument in the form of a symbolic key.

The city of Duz in the Sahara desert

Tourists are offered a variety of options for excursions. These can be one-hour camel rides on a camel to the nearest dune or two-week expeditions deep into the desert. For those who want to see the Sahara from above, you can fly in a hang-glider. You can breathe the spirit of the ancient desert in the remote oasis of Xar-Gilan with its thermal waters and date palms, surrounded by dunes.

The Xar Gilan Oasis in the Sahara Desert

Shack

Here you can also see the ruins of an ancient Roman settlement and a defensive structure. And by taking a walk around the drying salt lake Chott el Jerid, you can see the famous bizarre mirages of the Sahara Desert.

Salt Lake Chott el Jerid in the Sahara Desert

Desert Mirage photo

The tour includes a visit to the filming sites of the movie “Star Wars”. Complementing the program is the opportunity to eat dates and buy a keepsake “desert rose” – a creation of sand, sun and wind, similar to a rosebud.

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Desert Rose photo

The Sahara Desert of Egypt.

Not all tourists who come to Egypt are interested in the beaches, sea and tan. Many of them buy a trip to see the pyramid complex in the Giza Valley, take pictures against the backdrop of the grand and mysterious Sphinx, to feel the magic of the desert. Travelers can visit numerous oases of the Sahara Desert.

Sphinx in Giza, Egypt

In the city of Siva, except for the lush thickets of date palms growing near the sources, you can see the remains of ancient fortresses built from adobe and bricks, as well as a temple dating back to the reign of Alexander the Great. According to local legends, the tomb of this commander is located here somewhere.

Most of the Southern Oases are ideal starting points for horseback, car, or walking tours of the vast Black or White Desert, which is part of the vast Sahara. The Crystal Mountains, which enchant travelers with their scenic beauty, can be reached up close.

Black Desert in Egypt

White Desert in Egypt

Egypt's white desert

A visit to Baharia, an oasis located in the western Sahara Desert and consisting of several Bedouin villages, provides an insight into their life and customs. Some of the scenery surrounding this oasis resembles the surface of the moon, and thermal waters flow from hundreds of springs near the main settlement.

Oasis of Baharia in the Sahara Desert

To the oasis of Dakhla, located in the Nile Valley, knowledgeable tourists come to improve their health. There are many hot springs, the waters of which help get rid of sciatica and some stomach diseases. And in the town of Muta is well known Ethnographic Museum, where you can learn in detail about the culture and customs of the people living here.

The Sahara Desert in Morocco.

Travelers who find themselves in Morocco, will certainly be attracted to the Draa Valley, which has many oases. The main attraction here is the incredible scenery, which consists of red dunes and the ruins of ancient fortresses.

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Fortress in the Draa Valley, Morocco

It was once the final stop for caravans crossing the desert to the Mediterranean Sea. People come here to admire the eternal dunes – the virgin ergs of Shigga. The way to this magnificent spectacle can be done both by off-road and on horseback on camels, but only in a group. One cannot get to this place by oneself.

Travelling by camel through the desert

The Sahara Desert in Morocco

The Sahara Desert in Mauritania.

Traveling through the Mauritanian Sahara is quite dangerous because of the political situation in the country. But fans of extreme sensations are attracted here by the Adrar Plateau. It became famous after the beginning of the space age of mankind. From the depths of space on it is clearly visible grand structure, called Guer-Rishat. The diameter of this formation is over 50 km and more than 0,5 billion years old. The origin of this phenomenon is still not precisely known. Previously it was assumed that it was a meteorite impact, but today most scientists are inclined to the version of an erosive origin. Although the place is remote from civilization, tourist companies organize tours here.

The Adrar Plateau

The Sahara Desert in Algeria.

The largest area of the Sahara Desert goes to a country like Algeria. Its vast expanses of sand cover about 80% of the country.

Panorama of the Sahara Desert in Algeria

Unfortunately, tourism infrastructure in Algeria is underdeveloped, but travelers are welcome to visit the many attractions, including the Tassil Mountains of the Sahara Desert with unique rock paintings, protected by UNESCO, and the Mzab Valley with its unique architecture of all five cities located in it.

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