10 Facts About the Sahara Desert

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This week we’re heading on our first ever Sahara Desert trek! To get our Bucketlisters excited for the trip, and to inspire the rest of you with a little wanderlust, here are eleven facts you might not know about the Sahara!

Check out our Sahara Desert infographic, and keep reading to find out more about this fascinating part of the world.

Facts about the Sahara Desert

1. Where is the Sahara Desert?

The desert encompasses most of North Africa, spanning the countries of Morocco, Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan and Tunisia.

2. How big is the Sahara Desert?

Sahara Desert - ultimate Morocco experience

At 3.6 million square miles, the Sahara Desert is as big as China or the U.S.A. 

3. Saharan Dunes can reach 180 metres in height

Sahara Desert trek

Although this is hardly dizzying heights, climbing up the slippery sand, in the heat of the day, can be a real workout! However, as the desert’s dunes – otherwise known as ergs – shift by several yards each year, the landscape is constantly changing.

4. Does anyone live in the Sahara Desert?

The Sahara is en route for Bedouin nomads, who travel with camels.

Beoduin people

The word Bedouin is derived from the Arabic badawī, meaning “desert dweller”. These nomadic peoples move around the desert during their migrations around North Africa and the Middle East, making tent camps near natural resources depending on the season and the community’s needs. Bedouin nomads are known for herding traditions, as well as their rich history of oral poetry. You might get the chance to meet some nomads yourself during a Sahara trek.

5. How hot is the Sahara Desert?

The record high temperature of the Sahara was 136°F!

Sahara Desert trek

On September 13th 1922, the Sahara’s record high temperature was recorded at 136 degrees Fahrenheit in El Azizia, Libya. Despite what this might suggest, the desert is more livable than you might think. In fact, the forecast temperature for our trip next week is just around 22 degrees Celsius. Pretty perfect if you ask us!

6. Many dinosaur fossils have been found in the Sahara

dinosaur footprint 61988 1920

As you would imagine, the desert is full of archaeological and palaeontological wonders. Along with 6000-year-old megalithic stone circles and Saharan rock paintings, unique dinosaur fossils have been found by scientists. As recently as last year, the fossilised remains of an 80-million-year-old dinosaur were found in a Saharan oasis. Named the Mansourasaurus shahinae, the dinosaur is thought to have been 33 feet long and weighed 5.5 tons.

7. The Sahara is actually mostly rock – not sand!

Yes, really. The desert is made up primarily of rocky hamada landscapes. In fact, it is just 30% sand, the remaining 70% being mostly gravel. The rest of the desert comprises sand seas, stone plateaus, salt flats, arid valleys, mountains, rivers, streams, and oases.

8. Emi Koussi Volcano is the highest point in the Sahara at 3,415 metres

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I told you it wasn’t all sand. Emi Koussi is a shield volcano that sits in the Tibesti Mountains of northern Chad. The volcano has various lava domes, cinder cones, lava flows and maars visible on its outer flanks, which are evidence of its active history. Today, fumaroles sit at its southern base, and hot springs heat waters up to 37 degrees celsius – perfect for a relaxing dip!

9. The Sahara has been used as a set for Star Wars

Several times, actually. The Tunisian Sahara has been used as a backdrop for the towns of Tatooine (which, by the way, is a real place) and Matmata, ever since the desert Berber towns caught the eye of director George Lucas. Matmata is the fictional village where Luke Skywalker grew up, and today you can still see some of the sets, often either abandoned or repurposed in a curious fashion.

10. Monitor lizards, camels, foxes and gazelles live in the Sahara

Fennec fox

The desert might be a tough environment for humans to inhabit, but many animals do live here. Camels are the main animals you will see in the Sahara, largely due to their use by humans. However, other notable species of wildlife in the Sahara include fennec foxes, addax antelopes, Dorcas gazelles and Saharan cheetahs. You might be lucky enough to spot one of these curious creatures during your Sahara desert trek.

11. It’s not all dry! There are over 20 lakes in the Sahara

All of these are saltwater lakes, except for Lake Chad, which is the only freshwater lake in the desert. There are also over 90 oases in the Sahara. But as they’re spread out over 3.6 million miles, we wouldn’t recommend setting out in search of water. It might be a long walk!
Instead, why not explore the highlights of the Sahara with our expert local guides on the next Bucket List trip to trek the Sahara Desert? We’re now taking bookings for our 2020 trip, and soon you’ll see lots of videos and posts from our trip next week to inspire your Saharan wanderlust!


Every 41,000 years, the Sahara alternates between desert and savanna grassland. This is caused by a wobble in the Earth’s axis as it rotates around the sun, which changes the location of the North African Monsoon and therefore causes the Sahara’s landscape to undergo a drastic change.

What a place.

Contact us to find out more about how you can tick visiting the Sahara off your bucket list today on 01769 309007.

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