Covering over 9,000,000 square kilometers, the Sahara desert is located in the northern part of the African content and covers about 10% of the continent. Its boundary to the north is the Mediterranean Sea and it ends at Sahel in the south where its landscape transforms into a tropic savanna (semi-arid). Its eastern and western boundaries are Red Sea and the Atlantic Ocean respectively.
The Sahara desert is commonly cited as the world’s largest desert which is untrue because Antarctica is in fact the largest desert which stands at 13,829,430 square kilometers. It sprawls over 12 countries and has a golden landscape. However it is an attractive tourist destination and its landscape is mainly characterized by sand dunes, rocks and prickly oasis. Tourists often follow in the steps of the ancient traders as they transverse the desert riding on camel backs which is quite breathtaking as they get the opportunity to visit dusty city markets as they make their way in the dusty desert.
A real Sahara desert experience is never complete without visiting the mountainous sand dunes commonly known as ergs which shift shapes with the winds to form huge hills. Most of them are accessible to visitors while some are inaccessible and have no settlements such as the Grand Erg occidental. Sand dunes are quite common in Morocco such as the Erg Chebbi and Algeria also has quite a number of Ergs which can be hiked or transverse on camel backs.
In the barren desert stands out a little oasis towns that are characterized by earth colored buildings which reflect the landscape surrounding them. These places have a lot to offer in term of architectural and cultural charms and are quite convenient places to stay as you are visiting. Some of the tourist friendly oasis with colorful and cafes are Egypt’s Sirwa and Morocco’s Erfoud. Ancient Ghadames in Western Libya is home to UNESCO World Heritage Site which is characterized by white buildings and is commonly known as ‘The Perl of the Desert.
The rare but vital bodies of water in the Sahara are home to civilization with the main lifeline being the Nile River in Egypt where the ancient temples of Karnack and Luxor, the pyramids, Sphinx and also ancient historic cities such as Timbuktu can be visited. Sports such as diving, spot fishing in the coral reefs and snorkel are quite common in the red sea.
Though several cities in the Sahara Desert have blossomed to become modern metropolises, most of the cities offer a rare glimpse into the rich past of the desert. Air conditioned retreat are offered in cities such as El Aaiun while towering mosques and bustling market places are housed in town sand cities such as Nouakchott in Mauritania. Ghat which is a city in Libya was quite useful in the medieval Trans-Saharan trade route when it served as a vital shop. It serves to remind tourists of this rich historic fact and it is preferred by most tourists in Libya. Timbuktu in Mali was once a haven for Islamic architecture and African trade but has since transformed to become dusty sanctuaries for traders.