The Sahara in North Africa is the world's largest desert as it covers a third of the continent. At 9 million square kilometres it is about the size of the USA and 24 times the size of the British Isles. In Arabic, 'Sahara' is the word for 'desert'. The Sahara is an example of a trade-wind desert. The trade winds blow from subtropical areas with high pressure towards the Equator where there is low pressure. They are dry winds because they are continental in origin.
Deserts can be categorised by their landscape, sandy, rocky, stony and salty of which all can be found within the Sahara. Or they can also be categorised by their climate, hot (Sahara) cold or even freezing (Antarctica). A desert is defined as an area that has an average rainfall of less than 250mm a year. Hot deserts can feel drier than cold deserts due to the heat and the sun and the fact that they have high rates of evaporation.
Two major rivers the Nile and the Niger cut through the Sahara Desert. The Atlas mountains, Hoggar (Ahagger) Mountains and Tebesti Mountains are amongst those located in the desert.
For most of us deserts are thought of as vast, lifeless, empty space. But for people who live in or near it, the Sahara is a source of wealth, a highway to travel and also a spiritual place. Many religious people have gone into the desert to feel closer to God.
Activity 1 - complete box 1 on the Sahara case study sheet using the information above and the maps below.
Activity 3 - a journey through the Sahara with Michael Palin.
Read the information and follow the links to answer the questions below.
Which would you find: a) the most suprising b) most challenging c) most interesting? Explain why you chose these places.
Fez, north of the Atlas mountains in Morocco, boasts a fine Islamic medieval city centre where people shop, worship and do business in the network of narrow streets. Each morning the call to prayer reverberates around the city from over 50 mosques. Fez
The Hoggar Mountains in Algeria and Libya rise up to 3000 metres in the midst of the Sahara. The peaks are formed from the cores of old volcanoes, eroded over millions of years. At this height the air is cool but dry. Hoggar Mountains
Nouakchott is the capital of Mauritania. It is on the Atlantic coast where the Sahara meets the ocean. The coast has a thriving fishing industry. Hundreds of small boats land on the beach to unload their catch. Nouakchott
Timbuktu lies on the southern edge of the Sahara in Mali. It is famous for its mudbrick architecture but these days you see more buildings made of corrugated iron and plastic as poor migrants swell the town's population. Timbuktu
The Ténéré Desert in Niger is one of the most beautiful parts of the Sahara. Seas of sand dunes fill the landscape. This doesn't make for easy travelling; 4x4 vehicles get stuck in teh sand and the wind blows grit in your face. Tempeartures can rise to over 50 degrees celsius. Ténéré Desert
Michael Palin's journey round The Sahara.