Deserts of Africa - Unimaginable Beauty
of Africa -- Unimaginable Beauty
Africa - the second
largest continent in the world is also home to the
largest desert in the world - the Sahara. In fact
there are three deserts on the continent - The
Sahara, the Namib and the Kalahari. Together these
three amazingly vast and diverse land masses cover
a large portion of Africa. Beautiful, yet treacherous,
these areas of the continent provide a rich geological
and cultural history that dates back millions of years.
Sahara Desert - As inconceivable as it seems,
this desert is ever changing, shrinking and growing
in size. Satellite photos studied from the early
1980s show that the Sahara's southern edge is expanding
into the Sahel, a dry band that separates the desert
from the Savanna. But the mid-1980s saw this area
grow green and wet again. A common trade route
for many centuries, caravans traveled through the
Sahara spending days and weeks traversing the immense
landscape. Several desert oases here made trade
possible between the ports of North African and
the southern Savannah markets.
There are around
4 million people or so that dwell in the Sahara,
mostly in Mauritania, Western Sahara, Algeria,
Libya and Egypt. Additionally there is a fascinating
and impressive array of animal life, include gerbil,
jerboa, cape hare, desert hedgehog, barbary sheep,
oryx, gazelle, deer, wild ass, baboon, hyena, jackal,
sand fox, weasel and mongoose. The bird life includes
more than 300 species. This vast life and diverse
culture comes all in one desert.
The Namib Desert -
The sand dunes of the Namib Desert are the highest
dunes on Earth. While the Sahara is the largest
desert in the world, the Namib is considered the
oldest desert, having endured arid or semi-arid
conditions for at least 80 million years. In the
Nama language, Namib means “vast”,
and this is no exaggeration. At 50,000 kilometers,
the Namib-Naukluft Park is the largest conservation
area in Namibia and one of the largest in the world.
Wind blows the thirsty Namib Desert sand into sharp
ridges. Amazingly there are animals, insects and
plants that reside in this beautiful, yet mostly
inhospitable region of the world. One of its most
unusual inhabitants, the Welwitschia, is a shrub-like
plant that grows just two long, strap-shaped leaves
continuously throughout its lifetime. It is believed
that they are very long-lived, possibly living
1000 years or more. Some individuals may be more
than 2000 years old.
The Kalahari Desert - A geological wonder, the Kalahari Desert is part
of the huge sand basin that reaches from the Orange
River up to Angola, in the west to Namibia and
in the east to Zimbabwe. The sand masses of wind-shaped
sand that are so common in the Kalahari landscape
were created by the erosion of soft stone formations.
Thanks to vegetation in the area, the dunes were
stabilized 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. Strangely
enough, the grasses, thorny shrubs and Acacia trees
can survive long drought periods of more than 10
months a year. Some scientists don’t consider
the Kalahari a true desert because some parts of
the Kalahari receive more than 10 inches of rain
in a year. Animals that live in the region include
brown hyena, lion, meerkat, several species of
antelope, and many types of birds and reptiles.
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