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History >> Ancient Africa

Ancient Africa

Sahara Desert

The Sahara Desert is the largest hot desert on Earth (the cold desert of Antarctica is larger). The Sahara has played an important role in the development of African culture and history.

Where is the Sahara Desert?

The Sahara desert is located in North Africa. It covers much of North Africa stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. North of the Sahara is the Mediterranean Sea. South is the Sahel region that sits between the desert and the African Savanna.

Map showing the location of the Sahara Desert in North Africa
Map of the Sahara Desert by Ducksters

The Sahara covers large sections of eleven different countries including Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, and Sudan.

How big is it?

The Sahara Desert is huge. It covers an area of 3,629,360 square miles and is still growing. From east to west it is 4,800 miles long and from north to south it is 1,118 miles wide. If the Sahara were a country it would be the fifth largest country in the world. Larger than Brazil and only slightly smaller than the United States.

How hot does it get?

The Sahara Desert is one of the most consistently hottest places on Earth. The average temperature during the summer months is between 100.4 °F (38 °C) and 114.8 °F (46 °C). In some areas the temperature can exceed 120 °F for several days in a row.

The overall climate of the Sahara makes it a difficult place for any life to exist. It is hot, dry, and windy. Even though it is so hot during the day, the temperature can drop rapidly at night. Sometimes to below freezing. It rarely rains in the Sahara. Some regions can go years without seeing a drop of rain.

Landforms of the Sahara Desert

The Sahara Desert is made up of several different types of landforms including:
Picture of sand dunes in the Sahara Desert
Desert Dunes
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Living in the Desert

Even though it is difficult to survive in the desert, some powerful civilizations have formed in the Sahara. Larger cities and farming villages tend to form along rivers and oases. For example, the Ancient Egyptians and the Kingdom of Kush formed great civilizations along the Nile River. Some peoples, like the Berbers, survive by being nomads. They constantly move around to find new areas to graze their livestock and hunt for food.

Desert Caravans

Trade routes across the Sahara Desert were an important part of the economies of Ancient Africa. Goods such as gold, salt, slaves, cloth, and ivory were transported across the desert using long trains of camels called caravans. The caravans would often travel in the evening or morning hours to avoid the heat of the day.

Interesting Facts about the Sahara Desert Take a ten question quiz about this page.

To learn more about Ancient Africa:

Civilizations
Ancient Egypt
Kingdom of Ghana
Mali Empire
Songhai Empire
Kush
Kingdom of Aksum
Central African Kingdoms
Ancient Carthage

Culture
Art in Ancient Africa
Daily Life
Griots
Islam
Traditional African Religions
Slavery in Ancient Africa
People
Boers
Cleopatra VII
Hannibal
Pharaohs
Shaka Zulu
Sundiata

Geography
Countries and Continent
Nile River
Sahara Desert
Trade Routes

Other
Timeline of Ancient Africa
Glossary and Terms


Works Cited

History >> Ancient Africa





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