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Top Ten Largest Deserts. Sahara. The Sahara covers huge parts of Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan and Tunisia. The Sahara is almost as large as the continental United States, and is larger than Australia.

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The Sahara covers huge parts of Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan and Tunisia.

  • The Sahara is almost as large as the continental United States, and is larger than Australia.
  • The Sahara’s history goes back as much as 3 million years.
  • Some of the sand dunes can reach 180 meters (600 ft) in height.
  • Its name comes from the Tamajaq Tuareg language word Tenere, which means the desert, translated into the Arabic it gave Sahara
  • The Sahara divides the continent into North and Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The Sahara has one of the harshest climates in the world. The wind often causes the sand to form sand storms and dust devils
  • People lived on the edge of the desert thousands of years ago since, immediately after the last ice age, the Sahara was a much wetter place than it is today.
  • Arabic is the most widely spoken language in the Sahara, but Berber people are also found there as well as the Beja who live in the Red Sea Hills of southeastern Egypt.
  • A number of mines develop to exploit the desert's natural resources: oil and natural gas in Algeria and Libya and large deposits of phosphates in Morocco and Western Sahara.

Fennec Fox

Dromedary camel


Leiurus quinquestriatus

Berber children in mid-Sahara nomad


The Arabian Desert stretches from Yemen to the Persian Gulf and Oman to Jordan and Iraq.

  • It occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula with an area of 2,330,000 square kilometers (900,000 mi²).
  • At its center is the Rub'al-Khali, one of the largest continuous bodies of sand in the world.
  • Gazelles, oryx, sand cats, and spiny-tailed lizards are just some of the desert-adapted species that survive in this extreme environment, which features everything from red dunes to deadly quicksand.
  • The climate is extremely dry, and temperatures oscillate between extreme heat and seasonal nighttime freezes.
  • This ecoregion holds little biodiversity, although a few endemic plants grow here.
  • Many species, such as the striped hyena, jackal and honey badger have become extinct in this area due to hunting, human encroachment and habitat destruction. Other species have been successfully re-introduced, such as the endangered white oryx and the sand gazelle, and are protected at a number of reserves.
  • The major ethnicities are: Arabs, Kurds, Turkmeni, Assyrians
  • The significant languages are: Arabic, Kurdish, Aramaic, Armenian

Turkmen man with camel

Honey Badger

Traditional Arabian Bedouin

Striped Hyena


The Gobi (Mongolian: Говь, Govi or Gov', "gravel-covered plain") is the largest desert region in Asia.

  • It covers parts of northern and northwesternChina, and of southern Mongolia.
  • The desert basins of the Gobi are bounded by the Altai Mountains and the grasslands and steppes of Mongolia on the north, by the Tibetan Plateau to the southwest, and by the North China Plain to the southeast.
  • The Gobi is made up of several distinct ecological and geographic regions based on variations in climate and topography.
  • This desert is the fourth largest in the world.
  • The Gobi is most notable in history as part of the great Mongol Empire, and as the location of several important cities along the Silk Road.
  • The Gobi is a rain shadow desert formed by the Himalaya range blocking rain-carrying clouds from reaching the Gobi.
  • Gobi is a cold desert, and it is not uncommon to see frost and even snow on its dunes.

Bactrian Camels

Herders wife and her son, southern Gobi desert, Mongolia

Mongolian woman collecting firewood

Marbled polecat


The Patagonian Desert is the largest desert in the Americas and is the 5th in the world by area, occupying 260,000 square miles (673,000 km²).

  • It is located primarily in Argentina with small parts in Chile
  • It is bounded by the Andes, to its west, and the Atlantic Ocean to its east.
  • It is a large cold winter desert
  • It has about seven months of summer and five months of winter.
  • Frost is not uncommon in the desert but snow is rare – too dry.
  • The burrowing owl, lesser rhea, guanaco, tuco-tuco, mara, pygmy armadillo, Patagonian weasel, puma, Patagonian gray fox, desert iguana, Jumping Cow Spider, and various species of eagle and hawk are a few of the variety of animals living in the region.
  • The desert cave paintings indicating various indigenous peoples in its past.
  • The area is sparsely populated today and those that do live here survive mainly by the raising of livestock such as sheep and goats.

Pink fairy armadillo (pygmy armadillo)


Patagonian Mara



The Rub' al Khali (Arabic: الربع الخالي), which translates as Empty Quarter in English, is one of the largest sand deserts in the world, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula, including southern Saudi Arabia, and areas of Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

  • The desert covers some 650,000 square kilometers (250,000 square miles)
  • Even the Bedouins only skirt the edges of the desert.
  • With summer temperatures up to nearly 55 degrees Celsius (131 F) at noon, and dunes taller than the Eiffel Tower — over 330 meters (1000 ft) — the desert may be the most foreboding environment on Earth
  • Geologically, the Empty Quarter is one of the most oil-rich places in the world.
  • The expedition also led to the discovery of 31 new plant species and plant varieties, as well as 24 species of birds that inhabit the desert, which fascinated scientists as to how they have survived under the harsh conditions. These findings led the geologists to nickname the area Rub' al-Ghali, or the Valuable Quarter.

White Oryx (Oryx leucoryx)

Arabian Wolf

(Canis lupus arabs)


(Capra ibex nubiana )


The Great Victoria Desert is a barren, arid, and sparsely populated desert ecoregion in southern AustraliaI

  • It consists of many small sandhills, grasslands and salt lakes.
  • It is over 700 kilometres (435 miles) wide, covers 424,400 sq kl (163,900 sq mi) .
  • Due to the aridity and dryness of the desert, almost no farming activity is carried out there
  • It is inhabited by many different groups of Indigenous Australians, including the Kogara and the Mirning.
  • In 1875, British explorer Ernest Giles became the first European to cross the desert.
  • He named the desert after the then-reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria.

Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus)

Anangu Elders


Night Parrot, Kakapo

(Geopsittacus occidentalis )


The Kalahari Desert is a large arid to semi-arid sandy area in southern Kgalagadi Africa extending 900,000 km² (362,500 sq. mi.),

  • Kalahari covers much of Botswana and parts of Namibia and South Africa.
  • Kalahari has huge tracts of excellent grazing after good rains.
  • The Kalahari supports some animals and plants because most of it is not true desert.
  • There are small amounts of rainfall and the summer temperature is very high.
  • The only permanent river, the Okavango, flows into a delta in the northwest, forming marshes that are rich in wildlife.
  • Ancient dry riverbeds—called omuramba—traverse the Central Northern reaches of the Kalahari and provide standing pools of water during the rainy season.
  • Previously havens for wild animals from elephant to giraffe, and for predators such as lion and cheetah, the riverbeds are now mostly grazing spots, though leopard or cheetah can still be found.
  • The San people or Bushmen have lived in the Kalahari for 20,000 years as hunter-gatherers.


Bushmen, or Sanpeople




The Great Basin Desert, the largest U. S. desert that covers part of four states (Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah) and approximately 210,000 square miles

  • It is bordered by the Sierra Nevada Range on the west and the Rocky Mountains on the east, the Columbia Plateau to the north and the Mojave and Sonoran deserts to the south.
  • This is a cool or "cold desert" due to its more northern latitude, as well as higher elevations (at least 3,000 feet, but more commonly from 4,000 to 6,500 feet). In winter it gets snow.
  • Whirlwinds of dust often form over the land. These are called "dust devils".
  • The region is one of high valleys, basins, numerous mountain ranges, many rivers, and salt flats (a large, level area of flat land containing salt deposits)
  • Great Basin Desert is mostly covered by shrubs; there are only occasional yuccas and very few cactus.
  • A wide variety of animals lives there: bighorn sheep, kit fox, coyote, skunk, black-tailed jackrabbit, ground squirrels, kangaroo rat and many species of mice. Bird species are very diverse in desert oases.
  • 4 Native American cultures have lived in the area during the last 10,000 years or so: Nevares Spring People (7000 bce), Mesquite Flat People (3000 bce), Saratoga Spring People (2000 years ago), nomadic Timbisha (1000 years ago). Several families of Timbisha (Shoshone tribe) still live at Furnace Creek
  • The California Gold Rush brought the first Caucasians.

Salt Lake City

Bighorn Sheep

Shoshonean Indians

Golden Eagle

Tarantula spider


The Chihuahuan Desert is located at the U.S.-Mexico border.

  • In U.S. it covers parts of New Mexico, Texas, Arizona. In Mexico: Chihuahua, most of Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas and Nuevo León.
  • It is 140,000 square miles (~362,600 km²).
  • It is the third largest desert within the Western Hemisphere and second largest in North America, after the Great Basin Desert.
  • This desert is unique, as it has been sheltered from the influence of other arid regions such as the Sonora Desert by the large mountain ranges of the Sierra Madres. This isolation has allowed the evolution of many endemic species; most notable is the high number of endemic plants. However, this ecoregion also sustains some of the last remaining populations of Mexican prairie dogs, wild American bison and pronghorn antelope.
  • According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Chihuahuan Desert may be the most biologically diverse desert in the world, whether measured on species richness or endemism, although the region has been heavily degraded over time. Many native species have been replaced with creosote shrubs. The Mexican wolf, once abundant, has been extirpated. The main cause of degradation has been grazing.

Agave cactus or prism cactus

American bison

Mexican prairie dogs

Pronghorn antelope


The Thar Desert (Hindi: थार मरुस्थल), also known as the Great Indian Desert, is a large, arid region in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent.

  • Thar covers an area of more than 200,000 sq. km.,(140,000 sq. mi.)
  • It lies mostly in the Indian state of Rajasthan, and extends into the southern portion of Haryana and Punjab states and into northern Gujarat state.
  • It covers parts of Pakistan
  • The main occupation of the people in desert is agriculture and animal husbandry.
  • Due to the diversified habitat, the vegetation and animal life in this arid region is very rich. About 23 species of lizard and 25 species of snakes are found here and several of them are endemic to the region.
  • Rajasthandesert festivals are celebrated every year, during winters. Dressed in brilliantly hued costumes, the people of the desert dance and sing haunting ballads of valor, romance and tragedy. The fair has snake charmers, puppeteers, acrobats and folk performers. Camels, of course, play a stellar role in this festival, where the rich and colorful folk culture of Rajasthan can be seen.


ChinkaraJabeer Gazelle

Short-toed Eagle