The hottest desert in the world, the Sahara Desert, stretches across most parts of North Africa with the exception of the narrow fertile strip of land on the Mediterranean Coast. The desert stretches from the coast of the Red Sea in the east to the Atlantic Ocean coast in the west. Due to its vastness, the terrain and ecology of the Sahara Desert tend to vary significantly in different sections of the desert. In different parts of the Sahara Desert, the land is called by different names either given by locals or described by geographers. The subdivisions of the Sahara Desert aid in learning about the distinct characteristics of the desert in different locations. Here is a list of the major parts of the Sahara Desert of North Africa.
12. Ténéré Desert
The Ténéré Desert occupies an area of about 400,000 square kilometers as it stretches from western Chad to northeastern Niger. It is a part of the greater Sahara Desert, lying in the south- central part of the Sahara. The desert is bounded by the Tibesti Mountains, Hoggar Mountains, and the Djado Plateau to the east, north, and northeast, respectively. The Lake Chad basin lies to the south of the Ténéré desert.
11. Tanezrouft Desert
The Tanezrouft Desert is one of the least inhabited parts of the Sahara Desert and lies to the west of the Hoggar Mountains. It covers parts of Algeria, Niger, and Mali. The desert is known for the extremely high temperatures and high aridity.
10. El Djouf Desert
The El Djouf desert is a part of the Sahara Desert that covers parts of northeastern Mauritania and northwestern Mali. The sedimentary basin of the desert is interrupted by plateaus, mountains, and fault blocks. In 1989, a rare type of meteorite was discovered in the desert.
9. Djurab Desert
The Djurab Desert is located in northern Chad. The desert is an important research ground for paleontologists since a number of significant fossils including that of a hominid have been found in this desert.
8. Eastern Desert
The Eastern Desert is a part of the Sahara Desert that lies to the Nile River’s east and stretches to the Red Sea coast. The desert spans over parts of Egypt, Eritrea, Sudan, and Ethiopia. The most notable geographical feature of the Eastern Desert is the "Red Sea Riviera” on the coast of the Red Sea and the Eastern Desert mountain range along the coast. The desert is popular among tourists as a safari destination. It also houses the Wadi Gamal National Park and Gebel Elba.
7. Nubian Desert
The Nubian Desert encompasses an area of 400,000 square kilometers between the Red Sea and the Nile River in northeastern Sudan. The Nubian Desert features a rough and rugged landscape with sand dunes in certain parts. The desert receives very little rainfall and has many wadis that die out before reaching the Nile. The Medemia argun, a critically endangered palm tree grows only in this desert.
6. Bayuda Desert
The Bayuda Desert covers an area of about 100,000 square km in northeastern Sudan. The desert has two major subdivisions whose boundary is formed by the Wadi Abu Dom. To the east lies the Bayuda Volcanic Field and to the west lies an area with scattered rocky outcrops amidst sandy sheets.
5. Atlantic Coastal Desert
This desert forms the Sahara Desert’s westernmost ecoregion. The desert stretches as a strip along the Atlantic coastline occupying an area of 39,900 square kilometers in Western Sahara and Mauritania. The North Saharan steppe and woodlands form the eastern boundary of the desert. Since it is located near the coast, the influence of the cool Canary Current creates an environment of frequent fog and haze offshore. This moisture laden environment is able to support a variety of succulents, shrubs, and lichens. A large number of endemic plants grow here. The area is also an important wintering ground for a variety of birds including the Greater flamingoes. The mammalian fauna of the Atlantic Coastal Desert features the golden jackal, Dorcas gazelle, striped hyena, fennec fox, etc.
4. Sinai Desert
The Sinai Peninsula is a peninsula stretching between the Mediterranean Sea coast in the north to the Red Sea coast in the south. The total area of the region is about 60,000 square kilometers. This vast tract of land is mostly desert referred to as the Sinai Desert. Although the climate of the region is harsh, several forms of life still thrive in this desert. A number of snake species like the black cobra, carpet viper, horned viper are found in the region. Lizards are also common. Birdlife is abundant near the coastline. The mammalian fauna of the desert features leopards, ibex, etc. Several archeological sites are also located in the Sinai Desert and evidence of the existence of humans as far back as 200,000 years ago have been discovered here.
3. Western Desert
The Western Desert of Africa refers to that part of the Sahara Desert that stretches from the western banks of the Nile in the east to the Libyan border from the where the Libyan Desert begins. From north to south, the desert stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the border with Sudan. The Western Desert encompasses an area of about 262,800 square miles. The land is mostly rocky except for a western part near the Libyan border that has a stretch of sand named the Great Sand Sea. The desert is almost barren and uninhabited with the exception of oases where small human settlements exist.
2. Algerian Desert
The Algerian Desert is the part of the Sahara that occupies four-fifth of Algerian territory. The desert has a stony landscape near the Atlas mountains but is more sandy further inland. The Tassili n'Ajjer mountain range in the desert is a place of great archaeological interest. The Algerian Desert, like most other parts of the Sahara Desert, is extremely arid and highly uninhabited.
1. Libyan Desert
The Libyan Desert constitutes the Sahara Desert’s eastern and northern part and lies in the modern day state of Libya. It is one of the oldest, driest, and most desolate parts of the Sahara Desert. The treacherous desert is almost completely uninhabited since it is nearly barren and receives negligible precipitation.
About the Author
Oishimaya is an Indian native, currently residing in Kolkata. She has earned her Ph.D. degree and is presently engaged in full-time freelance writing and editing. She is an avid reader and travel enthusiast and is sensitively aware of her surroundings, both locally and globally. She loves mingling with people of eclectic cultures and also participates in activities concerning wildlife conservation.
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