Why Is the Sahara Desert Important?
Why Is the Sahara Desert Important? Sahara is the largest hot desert in the world, area about 3,629,360 sq miles and is still growing. The Sahara desert is located in North Africa. It occupies about one quarter of Africa, from the Atlantic to the Red Sea and from the Atlas Mountains to the River Niger.
North of the Sahara is the Mediterranean Sea. South is the Sahel region that sits between the desert and the African Savanna. The Sahara covers large sections of eleven different countries including Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, and Sudan.
How did the Sahara get its name? In Arabic the Sahara is called Al-Ṣaḥrāʾ al-Kubrā, or “the Great Desert.” The Arabic word ṣaḥrāʾ simply means “desert,” and its plural form, ṣaḥārāʾ, is where the northern African desert gets its Anglicized name. The word ṣaḥrāʾ shares its roots with the Arabic word aṣḥar, which translates to “desert-like” and specifically connotes the yellowish red color that characterizes the Sahara’s sandy expanses.
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.
Although it is very dry, only certain parts are sandy, others being stony or rocky, and it includes high mountains. The Tibesti Massif in Chad rises to over 3000 m (9840 ft). There are scattered oases and a few nomadic inhabitants. In the past, the Sahara was less dry. Today, the desert is slowly expanding southward. Discovery of oil and mineral reserves has given the Sahara new importance.
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.
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.