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Africa. Sahara Desert. Sahara Desert. Sahara Desert Sand Dunes. Satellite View. Saharan Countries. Saharan Countries. Western Sahara. Former Name: Spanish Sahara Principal Town: El Aaiun (pop: NA) Size: 97,344 square miles or about the size of Colorado Internet Service Providers: NA.

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Sahara Desert

western sahara
Western Sahara
  • Former Name: Spanish Sahara Principal Town: El Aaiun (pop: NA)Size: 97,344 square miles or about the size of ColoradoInternet Service Providers: NA
  • Official Name: Republic of Mauritania Government Type: RepublicCapital: Nouakchott (pop: 600,000) (1987)Size: 398,000 sq. miles or roughly three times the size of New Mexico
  • Official Name: Republic of Mali Government Type: RepublicFormer Name: French Sudan and Sudanese RepublicCapital: Bamako (pop: 477,750) (1980)Size: 482,077 sq. miles or roughly twice the size of Texas
  • Official Name: Kingdom of Morocco Government Type: Constitutional monarchyCapital: Rabat (pop: 518,616) (1982)Size: 177,117 square miles or roughly the size of CaliforniaInternet Service Providers: 27 (1999)
  • Official Name: Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria Government Type: Republic Capital: Algiers (pop: 1,483,000 -- 1987 est.)Size: 919,595 square miles or 3.5 times the size of TexasInternet Service Providers (ISPs): 1
  • Official Name: Republic of Tunisia Government Type: RepublicCapital: Tunis (pop: 1,479,000.) (1990)Size: 59,664 square miles or slightly larger than GeorgiaInternet Service Providers: 4 (1999)
  • Official Name: Socialist People's Libyan Arab JamahiriyaGovernment Type: Jamahiriya (a state of the masses) in theory, governed by the populace through local councils; in fact, a military dictatorshipCapital: Tripoli (pop: 591,062) (1988)Size: 679,362 sq. miles or slightly bigger than Alaska
  • Official Name: Republic of Niger/République du Niger Government Type: RepublicCapital: Niamey (pop: 392,165) (1988)Size: 458,075 sq miles or roughly twice the size of TexasInternet Service Providers: 1 (1999)
  • Official Name: Republic of Chad Government Type: RepublicCapital: N'Djamena (pop: 530,965) (1993) Size: 495,755 square miles or over three times the size of CaliforniaInternet Service Providers: 1 (1999)
  • Official Name: Arab Republic of Egypt Government Type: RepublicCapital: Cairo (pop: 9,900,000) (1999)Size: 385,230 square miles or three times the size of New MexicoInternet Service Providers: 31 (1999)
  • Official Name: Republic of the Sudan Government Type: transitional - previously ruling military junta; presidential and National Assembly elections held in March 1996; new constitution drafted by Presidential Committee, went into effect on 30 June 1998 after being approved in nationwide referendum Former Name: Anglo-Egyptian SudanCapital: Khartoum (pop: 1,950,000) (1990)Size: 967, 499 sq miles or roughly one-quarter the size of the U.S.Internet Service Providers: 1 (1999)
  • For nearly 500,000 years, the Sahara has attracted people from throughout North Africa. Early residents came when the Sahara was lush and teeming with wildlife. As the region became desert, the Sahara's residents turned to livestock herding. And, to trade caravans that brought gold, ivory, salt and slaves north, and commercial goods and metals south. Now, with just 2.5 people per square mile, the region's residents can seem afloat in a sea of sand. Among them are Arabs, Berbers, Bedouins, Fulani, Nubians and Tuareg. The Tuareg, a semi-nomadic group known for their salt caravans and distinctive blue veils, are the region's best-known people.
  • The Sahara has mesmerized outsiders for centuries. The world's largest desert, its size defies imagination: 3.3 million square miles or around 25 percent of Africa. Not surprisingly, the Sahara's name in Arabic means simply "desert."
  • Camel caravans looking for gold, ivory, grain, salt and slaves made the Sahara the world's first gateway to Africa. These endless trains, run by Tuaregs, Arabs and others, gave rise to the legendary era of trans-Saharan trade, a phenomenon that still defines the Sahara to many outsiders.
  • Today, the Sahara still serves as a border between the continent's black African south and Arab-influenced north. Its scorching heat and size still influence the cycle of drought and rainfall in sub-Saharan Africa. With one of the planet's lowest population densities, its people -- Tuareg, Arab, Tubu, Moor - can seem afloat in vast seas of sand. Blue-robed Tuaregs still run salt caravans and herd goat, sheep and camels. Moors farm date palms.
  • But much has changed. The Arabs have retreated to Saharan cities like Cairo; at roughly 10 million people, Africa's largest. Trucks are replacing camels in the salt trade. Tuaregs are acting as guides to Western adventure tourists and oil and gas operations promise far greater riches than gold and ivory ever could. Political unrest has gripped the region: In the late 1990s, armed Tuareg insurgencies blazed across the desert. Nor has the Sahara escaped the Internet revolution. Rissani, Morocco, a tiny desert oasis, offers several Internet cafés, primarily for tourists about to embark on their own exploration of the most famous of deserts.
  • Prehistoric rock paintings in Algeria's Tassili-N'Ajjer park show that giraffes, elephants and lions once roamed a green Sahara. These days, animal life is based on what can best survive the heat and lack of water. Rodents, snakes and scorpions thrive here.
  • SMALL FENNEC FOX (Fennecus zerda): This tiny carnivore -- at 17 inches long and less than three pounds, it's about the size of a cat -- sports large floppy ears that give off heat from its body, allowing it to thrive in desert conditions. At home in tunnels dug into sand dunes, the small fennec fox prowls the Sahara at night in search of rodents like the jerboa. Its fellow Saharan carnivores include the jackal and several types of hyaenas.
  • JERBOA (Jaculus): The jerboa, kin to the mouse, rat and squirrel, is one of 40 species of rodents that inhabit the Sahara. To keep cool, the jerboa burrows underneath the desert's sands to more humid soils where temperatures are roughly 10 to 20 degrees cooler than the outside world. Handicapped by weak forelimbs, the jerboa uses its entire body - even its nostrils - to build its subterranean home. Attached emergency exits allow it to escape predators like the small fennec fox. The jerboa scavenges for food - plants and seeds - at night. Its kidneys produce a highly concentrated urine that minimizes water loss.
  • ADDAX (Addax nasomaculatus): The Sahara's largest indigenous mammal, the addax travels in small herds throughout the Western Sahara, Mauritania and Chad. A creature of the dunes, the addax rarely drinks water. Instead, it sucks moisture from the desert grasses and bushes that make up its daily food requirements. Its oversized hooves make the addax adept at moving through the Sahara's loose sand.
  • CAMELS (Camelus dromedarius): The animal most frequently associated with the Sahara, camels were first introduced to the Sahara around 200 AD as part of trade caravans from the Arabian Peninsula. Unlike the horses it replaced, the camel is perfectly suited to the Sahara's harsh climate. Its soft feet are aligned so that it can move quickly and easily through sand. Its two or three humps store enough water to last for up to five days. It can go for days - as long as 17 -- without drinking water or eating. Its food requirements are limited to the dry, brittle grass found throughout the Sahara. The Sahara's camels can move at speeds between 8 and 10 mph for 18 hours.
  • SCORPION (Scorpionida): The insect most commonly associated with deserts, scorpions in the Sahara come in 30 different varieties, most from the family Buthidae. Four of the Sahara's scorpion species are lethal to humans. In humans, their venom can cause temporary paralysis, convulsions, cardiac arrest or respiratory failure. In some species, the scorpion's venom is as toxic as that of a cobra. The scorpion limits its activities to the night, burrowing into the cooler sands beneath the desert's surface during the day. It absorbs water from the flesh of its prey.
  • HORNED VIPER (Cerastes cerastes): One of the most venomous desert snakes, the sand-colored horned viper conceals itself beneath the desert floor to spring suddenly on rodents and birds. Only its horns betray its presence. It uses a sidewinding motion to skim effortlessly across the desert and burrows beneath the surface to shield itself from the desert sun. The horned viper can grow to lengths of up to 2 ft.
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