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All about Sahara Desert

Located in the Northern Africa, Sahara with a size of 8.6 million km² is the world's largest hot desert and second largest desert after Antarctica. The name Sahara is an English pronunciation of the Arabic word for desert. The Sahara stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Red Sea in the east; the desert crosses the borders of 11 nations.

Sahara Desert's maximum length is 4,800 km, running from west to east, and up to 1,200 km from north to south. Sahara covers most of Mauritania, Western Sahara, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger and Mali, and touches Morocco and Tunisia. Its sand dunes make up about 15% of the desert, rocky plains comprise another 70% and the remainder consists of limestone and shale plateaus.

To the north, Sahara is bordered by the Atlas Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, in the west by the Atlantic Ocean, in the south, the desert zone reaches 16 deg northern latitude and in the east it is bordered by the Nile. Still the desert continues to the east of the river until it reaches the Red Sea.

Around 4 million people live here and most of them live in Mauritania, Western Sahara, Algeria, Libya and Egypt. Dominant groups of people are Sahrawi’s, Tuareg and Negroid's. Only 200,000 km² of Sahara are fertile oases, where dates, corn and fruits in the Sahara are grown. The few fertile regions today are fed by underground rivers and underground basins. Many of Sahara's oases rests in depressions (areas under sea level) allowing water to surface from underground reservoirs; artesian wells.

The soil in Sahara is low in organic matter, and often biologically inactive. Other sorts of vegetation include scattered concentrations of grasses, shrubs and trees in the highlands, as well as in the oases and along river beds. Some plants are well adjusted to the climate, allowing them to germinate within 3 days of rain and sow their seeds within 2 weeks after that.

Animal life is limited to gazelles, antelopes, jackals, foxes, badgers, hyena, gerbil, jerboa, cape hare and desert hedgehog, barbary sheep, oryx, gazelle, deer, wild ass, baboon, hyena, jackal, sand fox, weasel and mongoose. The bird life counts more than 300 species.