The Sahara is the world’s second largest desert after Antarctica. At over 9,000,000 square kilometres (3,500,000 square miles), it covers much of northern Africa; an area stretching from the Red Sea, including parts of the Mediterranean coasts, to the outskirts of the Atlantic Ocean. It is almost as large as the continental United States, and is larger than Australia. The Sahara has an intermittent history that may go back as much as 3 million years.
The boundaries of the Sahara are the Atlantic Ocean on the west, the Atlas Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea on the north, the Red Sea and Egypt on the east, and the Sudan and the valley of the Niger River on the south. The Sahara is divided into western Sahara, the central Ahaggar Mountains, the Tibesti Mountains, the Aïr Mountains (a region of desert mountains and high plateaus), Tenere desert and the Libyan desert (the most arid region). The highest peak in the Sahara is Emi Koussi (3415 m) in the Tibesti Mountains in northern Chad.
The Sahara divides the continent of Africa into North and Sub-Saharan Africa. The southern border of the Sahara is marked by a band of semi-arid savanna called the Sahel; south of the Sahel lies the lusher Sudan and the Congo River Basin. Most of the Sahara consists of rocky hamada; ergs (large sand dunes) form only a minor part.
Isolation and wilderness, vast-open spaces, palm-lined oases, desert wildlife, surreal scenery, nomadic people, camels and often remarkable volcanic vistas are just some of the attractions that the Sahara holds for the traveller who takes time to journey there.
Over the years many excellent desert camps have developed in the Moroccan Sahara. Designed for travellers seeking some comfort whilst maintaining the experience of sleeping out under the stars, such camps are often seasonal (operated during Morocco’s cooler winter months), and used as basecamps for Moroccan camel trekking safaris.
Travel in the Sahara can be a dangerous pursuit for those poorly equipped and ill-prepared. Suitably equipped 4WD vehicles, and an eye for navigation, are essential for navigating sand tracks.