What is the largest African desert?

Do you know the name and peculiarities of the biggest desert in Africa? You should find out more about it, as this topic is extremely interesting. Keep reading to learn more.

african desert

You would be surprised to know that the world’s largest desert is Antarctica. It is unusual, as we tend to believe the general misunderstanding that a desert is a hot place. However, the definition of the word “desert” states that a desert is an area with no or little precipitation. The lack of rain results in denudation, as no animals or plants can live there.

Therefore, to be a desert a place does not have to be too hot. It only needs to have hostile living conditions to flora and fauna.

However, the largest hot desert is Sahara, which is located in the northern part of the African continent. This African desert is the third largest desert, as it can cover the whole territory of the United States of America. Sahara is washed by the Red and Mediterranean Seas to the east and the north correspondently.

The entire massive land of the Sahara desert is divided into separate areas. On a map, this African desert covers the territories of countries like Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Sudan, Chad, Morocco, Egypt, Niger, Mali, Western Sahara and Mauritania. The total area is about 9,000,000 which is about one-third of the whole African continent.

This African desert, being the largest hot desert in the world, is only a home to almost two million people in the view of the heat and unbearable living condition that make it difficult to grow food. Despite this situation today, some scientists state that according to some drawings they found on the territory of Sahara, this place used to be used as a very fertile farmland. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

african desert sahara

The name of the desert comes from the plural form of the word “desert” in Arabic. Since Sahara is mostly a mountain range, it is interesting to learn that the highest peak of the desert is Emi Koussi. It is a well-known volcano that is more than 3,400 meters high. Its caldera is between 12 and 15 kilometers wide. The STS space shuttle took a picture of the volcano where its caldera can be seen with the remains of hardened lava on the sides of the mountain. Meanwhile, among other high mountains are Ahaggar Mountains, Tibesti Mountains, Saharan Atlas, Aïr Mountains and Adrar des Iforas.

READ ALSO: Ancient African writing, how did it look like?

Despite the typical stereotype, Sahara is not all covered with sand dunes. These dunes are only a small amount of the whole territory of the place. Nevertheless, dunes attract much attention in the view of their unusual shapes and forms that are frequently made by the wind or in rare cases by rain. You can also find it interesting that sand only covers one-third of the total territory of Sahara. The other two-thirds are covered with gravel.

Interesting fact about this African desert is that there are certain areas in Sahara that have never experienced rain. Among such regions are the Libyan Desert, the Nubian Desert, and the Tanezrouft. Nevertheless, there are mountains in Sahara that are often covered with snow.

Interesting fact about this African desert is that even Algeria or the part of the country which is located in Sahara was covered with snow. This happened twice: the first time was in 1979, the other one in 2012. Even though the snow melted within hours, traffic and normal life was stopped!

sahara african desert

Another interesting fact about Sahara is that there are people living there. It is not entirely uninhabited. There are people living there. And not just separate small villages but important cities. For instance, the capital, Mauritania is located on the territory of Sahara, which proves that there should be some vegetation and areas where living conditions are not as hostile as in the other ones.

Among the other cities located in Sahara are El Oued, Tamanrasset, Hassi Messaoud, Ghat, Agadez, and Timbuktu. These cities are important hubs of Chad, Mauritania, Algeria, and Libya. However, people that live in Sahara outside of these cities are called nomads. They usually have no stable place they live at, so they move from one point to the other when the weather conditions or their financial state worsens. There are other factors that make them run, but that is a topic for a different article.

Some of the scientists claim that Sahara was not always this hot; it used to be a home for many animals and plants. However, with the change in the climate that occurred in the view of the change of our planet’s tilt it became one of the hottest places on Earth. This made the environment unbearable for most animals as well as plants and even people.

Still, the temperature in Sahara can get to a freezing level, especially at night. This makes it an even more difficult place to live in, as it is scalding during the day and cold at night!

african desert map

Also, Sahara is a place where more than a thousand of plants can grow. They do not grow everywhere; however, these plants can be seen growing in abundance in oases throughout the desert. The exact number of the plants growing in this African desert is close to 1,200. Still, keep in mind, this number is quite rough.

 This African desert is a home to some the most adaptive animals in the world. Therefore, the number one on our list of these animals is Jerboa. This little buddy can run up to 15 miles an hour despite its size. This creature is this adaptable thanks to the fact that it gets water from the food, and can live without having a river or a stream near.

african desert animals jerboa

The other African desert animal is a Fennec fox. This animal can survive in Sahara thanks to their night lifestyle and ability to release heat… through the ears.

african desert animals fox

Number eight most adaptive animal in the world is a monitor lizard. They can live almost anywhere: in a desert, in the forest or even in the areas with high humidity. However, be careful with them, as you can threaten one. A threatened lizard is quite aggressive!

Sure thing, the next adaptive Sahara animal is an ostrich. They run fast and can even be quicker than some gazelles, which makes it possible for them to live in a desert and avoid being eaten.

african desert animals ostrich

Sahara is a home to a dreadful scorpion. Death Stalker scorpion lives in Sahara, and just its name can make your knees shaking. Though they are minuscule, they can kill a person if they get threatened. This kind of scorpions is yellow and brown. So watch out!

african desert animals scorpion

The Addax antelope, the same one that is on the list of the endangered animals on the planet, lives in Sahara. They are few, as only five hundred of these antelopes are left after the hunters pursued them for a long time in the view of their beauty and uniqueness.

Another African desert animal is Ariel Gazelle, which is as beautiful as the mentioned above antelope or even more. Interesting fact about this kind of gazelles is that they are capable of jumping very high when they see any danger on their way. They use this ability to warn their family members about a predator as well as discourage the one willing to eat them. When the predator sees how high the gazelle can jump, it automatically thinks that the victim is very fast and hard to get. That is why they often let the Ariel Gazelle run without chasing it.

african desert animals antelope

And finally, the last African desert animal and probably the first one you think of when you hear about Sahara is a camel. Keep in mind that they do store water in their humps (that’s not true). Fun fact is that while people think that fat in their bodies is something that has to be burnt, camels like fat. They store it in their humps to be able to eat it when no other food is available. This makes it possible for them to survive in the desert.

african desert facts Marathon des Sables

So as you see, Sahara is the largest hot desert in the world. It is quite diverse despite the hostile living conditions and has developed flora and fauna which makes it an interesting place to visit.

In a place, you fell in love with the place and want to come and visit, make sure to register for the Marathon des Sables. This marathon usually takes place in Morocco, and so many people want to take part in it that you would have to register for it a few years in advance.

The participation fee is more than $4.000, and it is quite challenging, too. You would have to carry your backpack all the time throughout all the week. Your goal is to run 150 miles, and you cannot stop, as you will be left in the desert. No one is going to wait for you! So if you feel like you have the strength to go through this challenge and be lost by the end of it, go for it!

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