Sahara in the North of Africa

The Sahara is the largest desert in the world. Absolute solitude, dunes hundreds of metres high and an overwhelming starry sky make a trip to the Sahara an unforgettable experience.

The Sahara in the north of the African continent is the largest dry desert on our planet. It stretches from the Atlantic coast of Africa to the Red Sea and, with an area of nine million square kilometers, is as large as the entire United States of America. The Sahara is bordered by Morocco, Western Sahara (recognized by only a few states and actually belonging to Morocco), Mauritania, Algeria, Mali, Tunisia, Libya, Niger, Chad, Sudan and Egypt.



Photo gallery: Sahara in the north of Africa

Inhospitable conditions in the Sahara

Even though the Sahara's sand dunes are best known, the so-called erg makes up only one fifth of the total desert area. The rest of the Sahara consists of stone, gravel and rock.

Extreme climate

Average temperatures in the Sahara are 38°C in summer and 25°C in winter - © Pichugin Dmitry / Shutterstock
© Pichugin Dmitry / Shutterstock

The average temperatures in the Sahara are 38°C in summer and 25°C in winter. Extreme temperatures of up to 60°C occur during the day in summer and down to -10°C at night in winter. Even in summer it is up to 30°C "colder" at night than during the day and in winter even snowfall and ground frost are possible. In some parts of the Sahara, there is often not a single drop of rain for years or even decades.

Gigantic sandstorms

In some parts of the Sahara, not a single drop of rain falls for years or even decades, here the dust-dry Ahaggar Mountains in Algeria - © Pichugin Dmitry / Shutterstock
© Pichugin Dmitry / Shutterstock

Only a few people brave the adverse conditions in the Sahara, mainly Arabs, Moors and Berbers or the small groups of Tubu and Tuareg. The inhabitants of the Sahara are 40% non-sedentary and live from livestock farming and trans-Saharan trade. They know best how to cross the Great Desert in caravans without getting lost and dying of thirst.

The Sahara is still alive

Only a few people brave the adverse conditions in the Sahara, mainly Arabs, Moors and Berbers - © Pichugin Dmitry / Shutterstock
© Pichugin Dmitry / Shutterstock

The extreme temperature fluctuations only allow life in the Sahara in limited forms. In the midday heat, a living creature cannot stay under the scorching sun for more than a few minutes before its body temperature rises to a life-threatening level.

Some species, however, have adapted in an extraordinary way to the hot life in the Sahara. The silver ants, for example, have a natural sun protection due to their silver colour, which reflects the light similar to a space suit and allows them excursions of up to 15min in the blazing sun even in the greatest midday heat before they have to retreat back into their sand holes.

Another fascinating example is the desert rose, well known as the "rolling briar". This shrub, also known as the resurrection plant, can survive for decades without water. If its location is dry enough, it is torn from the sand by the wind and rolls over the dunes. If the desert rose lands in one of the rare puddles of water in the Sahara, its branches unfurl within minutes and soak up the precious water.


If it then starts to rain, the seed pods of the desert rose break open and within a few hours tender seedlings appear, which immediately produce flowers and shortly afterwards also seeds. These then set off on their usually year-long journey to the next watering hole.

Oases in the Sahara

Lake Umm al-Ma in the Sahara is located in the Ubari oasis region in south-western Libya and offers much better living conditions - © Patrick Poendl / Shutterstock
© Patrick Poendl / Shutterstock

Better living conditions prevail, of course, in the oases, the few palm-fringed waterholes in the Sahara. Some of them - the largest of which is the Nile, the only river that crosses the Sahara - are even home to fish and crocodiles.

Once a year, the West African monsoon causes the Sahara to blossom. In July and August, up to 200mm of precipitation fall in the south of the Sahara, turning the inhospitable desert into a blossoming savannah. However, just as quickly as the desert turns green, the fantastic natural spectacle is over again and the seeds of the plants fall into their month-long sleep before the next rains.

On the road in the Sahara

Camel trekking in fantastic sand dunes of the Sahara of Morocco - © / Shutterstock
© / Shutterstock

For every North Africa traveller, a visit to the fantastic desert landscape in the Sahara is an absolute must. The most impressive way to explore the Sahara is by camel or your own off-road vehicle.

Roaring over the shimmering sand dunes in complete desertedness and camping at night under an overwhelming starry sky - nothing brings you closer to the soul of the Sahara.

Tours through the desert - never alone!

The first excursions into the Sahara should definitely be accompanied by a professional guide - © Saida Shigapova / Shutterstock
© Saida Shigapova / Shutterstock

Of course, this also harbors dangers. Inexperienced travelers in particular should not venture into the Sahara alone. Driving on sand is very different from roads with gravel or asphalt and orientation in the endless expanse is also not always easy.

The first few trips to the Sahara should therefore be accompanied by a professional guide. There are many providers for tours in the Sahara, whether in a group with an off-road vehicle, in a small group with your own driver or camel trekking in a caravan. Short trips in the Sahara are offered by almost every hotel in southern Morocco, Egypt or Tunisia.

Night in the desert

Sunrise in Tassili N'Ajjer, a spectacular mountain range in the Algerian Sahara - © Pichugin Dmitry / Shutterstock
© Pichugin Dmitry / Shutterstock

If possible, however, an overnight stay in the Sahara should definitely be experienced once! Who would have thought that pita bread baked in the sand tastes so good?


Most tours start in the late afternoon, when the worst of the heat has gone and the spectacular sunset is not far away. When preparing dinner and breakfast and loading the camels, the tourists are also allowed to lend a hand. However, not only camel tours are offered, but also excursions by off-road vehicle, motorcycle or simply on foot through the spectacular dunes.

Those who spend several days travelling in the Sahara also have the opportunity to get to know the nomadic peoples of the desert and their way of life.