If you take a peek at the northern Africa on a map, the most of what you see is actually the Sahara Desert—the largest HOT desert in the globe. Ranging from the Mediterranean in the north, the Atlantic, and the Red Sea in the east, the ever-expanding Sahara have been swallowing up the most of northern Africa. Sahara desert has always mystified people with its vast stretches of sand.
Reputed to be the largest hot desert in the world and due to its extreme climatic conditions, the Sahara desert often regarded as the place full of challenges. Best known for its distinctive flora and fauna, the large stretches of golden sand, Sahara desert allures thousands of global tourists each year. In this article, I’ve tried to compile some of the fascinating facts about Sahara desert, most of which are associated with its enigmatic land. Let’s discover some of the interesting Sahara desert facts that most of the people aren’t aware of.
10. Over a thousand species of plants grow in Sahara
There are around 1200 species of plants that grow in Sahara. The South Libyan Desert—very driest part of the Sahara—harbors very few species of plants. But there are many hundreds of different species of oases. There is the sparse and widely scattered vegetation in Sahara that mainly includes succulents, trees, shrubs, herbs, and grasses. The Saharan plants are easily adapted to heat and drought conditions. In addition to that, many varieties can survive in salty conditions as well. To name few of the major plants found in Sahara, we shouldn’t miss out African Peyote Cactus, Red Acacia Trees, Common Fig, Doum Palm, Thyme, Date Palm and so on.
Did you know that crops grew in Sahara in abundance some 8000 years ago? It was some eight thousand years ago when glaciers chilled northern Europe, the Sahara desert was fertile and well-watered land. This vast area was once very fertile grassland. But then something happened. As a result, the lush green area of Sahara turned out to be a desert. Even today, there’s enough evidence to show that the Sahara desert had once a grassland ecosystem and was much wetter place than it is today. The discovery of ancient cave drawings in parts of the Sahara proves that there used to be green and thriving vegetation.
8. Some parts of Sahara are fertile and rich even today
Despite being the driest part in the world, there’s still about 80000 square miles of lush oases across the desert. That means, over two percent of Sahara is covered by Oases while ease of irrigation makes another section of the desert fertile. Endless miles of Sahara near the Nile in Egypt have been transformed by irrigation.
7. Hottest desert in the world
Sahara is the hottest desert in the world. However most people think of it as a giant oven, the lack of humidity in the Sahara during summer season causes nighttime temperatures to drop steeply, often to freezing and below. But, when it comes to the hot temperatures, the Sahara generates significantly hottest temperature on the earth. The hottest recorded temperature of all time was 136 degrees Fahrenheit in Libya in 1992.
6. Sahara desert and population
At present, there are about two million people in the Sahara living nomadically. This population equals to 1 person per square mile which is of 1/150th of population density of the US. But scientists believe that Sahara was habitable once upon a time and there used to be more population than what is in the present time. But in course of time, the climate of Sahara desert has gone exorbitant changes which led to the extinction of many flora and fauna, and people as well. People can hardly imagine living there due to extremely high temperature.
5. Sahara desert and animals
Sahara desert is known to be the home to some of the most fascinating species of animals in this planet. The animals that inhabit Sahara desert are quite unique and most of them can’t be found elsewhere in the world. Have you ever heard of Horned Vipers? These endangered species of reptiles are found in Sahara. Other interesting animals that can be found in Sahara are: Dromedary Camels, Dorcas Gazelle, Dung Beetle, The Addax Antelope, Deathstalker Scorpion, Ostrich, Monitor Lizard, Fennec Fox, and The Jerboa among others. If we look back to thousands of years ago, there used to be enough water in Sahara. So the people and animals were able to survive. Scientists have found the evidences of the existence of river animals like crocodiles. They have also discovered the fossils of Dinosaurs, Jobaria, Afrovenator, and Ouranosaurus in the Sahara desert.
4. Sahara and Earth’s History
If we delve into the history of Sahara desert, it has undergone a series of wet periods. Studies have revealed that Sahara can shrink or even grow in size. Desert was bigger its current boundary during the ice age extending towards the south. But, it was not until 3000BC that the Sahara transformed into its present arid state. Being one of the much-studied are for historians, geologists, and archeologists, the Sahara desert has left them with a lot of evidences to prove that it was once a better place to live in. After the years of observations, Scientists have found the fossils of dinosaurs and petroglyphs dating back to millions of years. It indicates that there was a time when the Sahara was verdant with lush mountains, river valleys, and deep green forests. According to the experts, the reason behind this change in the Sahara is the increased desertification and rising of the earth’s temperature by 1600BC.
3. The Saharan Peaks are snowcapped during the winter
One of the most amazing facts about the Sahara is that Saharan peaks are camouflaged with snow during the winters. The desert has varied elevations and it is geographically rocky. However, it contains underground rivers that come out in the form of oasis. Many peaks in the Sahara are also known to be volcanic. The snowcapped Atlas Mountains in the Sahara are also recognized as the popular trekking destinations.
2. It is not even a half sand
Anyone would imagine Sahara as endless giant dunes of sand. And of course there are dunes, some tower to over 400ft high. But in many places of Sahara, the sand only comprises a thin layer atop gravel substrata. It will astonish you when you come to know that the Sahara is just 30% sand and 70% gravel.
1. It is not the biggest desert in the earth
“The largest desert in the world is Sahara!” This is what most of the students learn in their schools. But that’s not true. The Sahara is not the largest desert in the world despite what you may have learned in school. The largest desert in the world is Antarctica! Sahara is the second largest desert in the world but it’s the world’s largest HOT desert, and is getting bigger every day.
Stretched across the entire northern Africa, and recognized for its vastitude, the Sahara makes the largest hot desert in the planet. Being the hottest desert area in the world, the Sahara shares boat loads of fascinating facts related to its geography, flora and fauna, climate, and people. The desert itself has gone through dramatic changes in temperature and moisture over the past few hundred thousand years. Even more interesting would be the fact that the desert is expected to become green again in about some 15000 years.
Top 10 fascinating facts about Sahara desert by Arun Mahara