|Area||3,629,360 sq. mile|
|Nearest International Airport||Menara Airport, Marrakech, Morraco|
|Distance from the Airport to Ouarzazate (city closest to the desert)||125 miles (approx.)|
|Best time to visit||October and November and from December to February|
Sahara, the largest hot desert in the world, is located in the northern parts of Africa. The Red Sea borders the eastern side of the desert and to the west lies the Atlantic Ocean. It is bound to the north by the Mediterranean Sea and in the south the desert ends in a semi-arid tropical savanna called Sahel. The Sahara Desert spreads across many African countries including Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Chad, Mali, Libya, Mauritania, Tunisia, Niger, South Sudan, and Sudan. The Sahara can be reached from all the mentioned African nations; however, the nearest city, which is also known as the door of the desert, is Ouarzazata in Morocco. Many excursions to the desert start from this town; this is also the departure center for the camel tours to Timbuktu. In fact, another option is to start the desert tours from Timbaktu on camel trains, these tours are organized on regular basis. To reach Sahara the nearest international airport is Menara Airport in Marrakech, many flights from Europe land in this city. From Marrakech a road trip toQuarzazata takes about 4 hours and is the best possible option to reach the town. To move around parts of the desert, camel trains are an adventurous option, but tourist vehicles are also available.
The Sahara Desert is the largest hot desert of the world and the driest part of the world. This part of the world has known human inhabitation since 6000 BC. The Egyptian and Phoenician civilizations were centered on the 'great desert'. Most of the tribes living in the Sahara are nomadic groups who keep travel across the desert. A number of cities have also grown, centered on oases and fertile belts.
The size and the climate of the Sahara Desert have undergone much change through history. It is believed that the desert was much bigger and perhaps drier prior to 8000 BC. Between 8000 BC and 6000 BC the desert was much wetter, and saw a distinct increase in precipitation. The region had vegetation and animals, geographers say. With changing climate, the savanna turned into desert land.
The evolution of the Sahara into its present form started after the removal of ice sheets post the ice age. The monsoon retreated down south; in fact, the present arid hot climatic conditions have been the characteristic of the Sahara Desert for about 13000 years.
Huge, wild, and magnificent are some of the adjectives commonly used to describe the landscape of the Sahara Desert. Covered mainly by sand and sand dunes, the monotony of this land is broken by the presence of oases, which support life in the form of plants and animals in this region. Home to several barren mountain ranges of granite and sandstone, this desert is also made up of different forms of landforms. Gravel plains, plateaus, river, underground aquifers, areas of vegetation and valleys are also spread across the desert. This land of golden sand under clear blue sky is beauty personified. The Sahara Desert is not navigable in many parts and the virgin wilderness is inimical to explorers.
Though the desert spans across an area of the arid climate and extreme temperatures support very few species of plants and animals. There are about 500 plant species and 70 types of animals in the Sahara Desert. While the plants are mostly hydrophytes the animals include some very deadly reptiles such as the horned viper and flying scorpions and some large mammals such as the baboon, hyrax, jackal, fox, and mongoose.
Attractions of the Sahara Desert
This undulating land of gravel, sand dunes, scattered oasis, mountain ranges, steppes, and nomadic Bedouins holds an undying charm over tourists from across the world. The other major attractions of a trip to the Sahara are the desert safaris and camel caravans.The camel caravans usually start from Timbuktu and ends at the oasis points in Taoudenni and Araouane. These treks are organized on demand. The camel caravans set out in the morning and go on for several days depending on the distance the visitors wish to travel. The performances by the local snake charmers, acrobats, and jugglers make for great night time entertainment
The greatest attraction of this land, perhaps, is the hospitality of the local people - the Berber. Visitors spend time with them at the camps and learn about their culture and lifestyle and their desert survival tactics. Tourist can also visit nearby towns to buy local handicraft products and tribal artifacts.
A Saharan safari is ideal for people who want to enjoy the beauty of nature and the taste of adventure. The three main highlights of traveling to the Sahara are camel trek, desert wilderness, Marrakech, and kasbahs. Camping out in the solitude of the sand dunes under the sparking starry sky blended with the warn hospitality of the local tribes is an experience of a lifetime.
Last Updated On : August 28, 2012