The Sahara desert is the worlds largest hot desert. In Arabic, it is called Al Sahara Al Kubra, meaning the Great Desert. The Sahara spans nearly 9,400,000 km (3,630,000 mi), which, to put into perspective, is almost the size of the United States of America. The Saharas location in North Africa means that it is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Red Sea to the east, the Atlantic on the west, and an area called the Sahel, which consists of a belt of semi-arid tropical savannah, to the south. The Sahara desert is divided into the Western Sahara, the Tnr Desert, the Libyan Desert, The Ahaggar Mountains, Tibesti Mountains, and the Air Mountains.
Africa is divided by the Sahara into two sections: Sub-Saharan and Northern Africa. The desert is mostly covered in reg landscapes, with a relatively small percentage being sand dunes. Thousands of years ago, the Sahara was a much wetter place, with evidence found in places in Algeria such as rock engravings of crocodiles, and fossils of dinosaurs have been found there as well. In the Egyptian desert, there have even been discoveries of whale fossils in an area called Wadi El Hitan (Whale Valley).
In modern times, the only areas full of vegetation and greenery are the Nile River Valley, a few scattered oases, and the area near the Mediterranean Sea. The desert covers the countries of Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan, and Tunisia. Much of the landscape is shaped by wind, though some is slightly shaped by the minimal rain received in the area. Apart from the Nile River, any other rivers or streams are seasonal. At the time of the last glacial period, the Sahara was much larger in size, extending further to the south.
The Sahara has a very harsh climate in fact, one of the harshest in the world. Sand storms and dust devils are quite common as the north-easterly wind is quite strong. With half of the desert only receiving less than 1 inch of rain per year, and the rest receiving less than 4 inches, rainfall is quite rare. However, if its been quite a while since the last rainfall, it can come down pretty hard.
With regards to the native animal and plant population, dromedary camels and goats are the most common domesticated animals in the desert. There are also scorpions, foxes, antelopes, gazelle, cheetahs, lizards, vipers, and wild dogs. Some plants such as acacia trees, palm trees, and shrubs also exist in the Sahara.
Last Updated: May 12th, 2011