Top Ten Deserts

Sahara Desert

Proud and supreme monarch of all aridity, the Sahara, a name derived from the Arabic word for "deserts," is as daunting to describe as it is to behold. More than 3,000 miles from east to west across the full length of northern Africa and 800-1,200 miles from north to south, its almost 3.5 million square miles make it by far the largest desert in the world. It may also be the hottest; the world's highest recorded temperature was suffered in the Libyan desert in 1922: 136 degrees F. Topographically very varied—with seasonal water basins, numerous eastern oases, enormous gravel-covered plains, rocky plateaus, mountains rising 11,000 feet above sea level, and sand sheets and dunes (the latter covering almost 25 percent of its surface)—it has changed little in human terms: It is as limitless and imposing as it was when the Pharaohs ruled. Nevertheless, in a classically human attempt to plant a footprint on every inch of the earth's surface, exploration into and commerce across this scorched earth has been carried on since Carthaginian times. Today, the accessible parts of it are staging grounds for endurance adventure challenges such as marathon-length foot races and motorized rallies.


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