This series of blog posts is based on the book 100 Wonders of the World by Michael Hoffman and Alexander Krings.
The Sahara (Arabic: aṣ-ṣaḥrā´ al-kubra, "The Greatest Desert") is the world's largest hot desert. At over 9,000,000 square kilometres (3,500,000 sq mi), it covers most of Northern Africa, making it almost as large as the United States or the continent of Europe. The desert stretches from the Red Sea, including parts of the Mediterranean coasts, to the outskirts of the Atlantic Ocean.
The name comes from the Arabic word for desert: "ṣaḥrā´".
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The Sahara divides the continent of Africa into North and Sub-Saharan Africa. The southern border of the Sahara is marked by a band of semiarid savanna called the Sahel; south of the Sahel lies the lusher Sudan and the Congo River Basin. Most of the Sahara consists of rocky hamada; ergs (large sand dunes) form only a minor part.
People lived on the edge of the desert thousands of years ago since the last ice age. The Sahara was then a much wetter place than it is today. Over 30,000 petroglyphs of river animals such as crocodiles survive. The modern Sahara, though, is not lush in vegetation, except in the Nile Valley, at a few oases, and in the northern highlands, where Mediterranean plants such as the olive tree are found to grow. The region has been this way since about 5000 years ago. Some 2.5 million people currently live in the Sahara.
By around 3400 BC, the monsoon retreated south to approximately where it is today, leading to the gradual desertification of the Sahara. The Sahara is now as dry as it was about 13,000 years ago.
Sahara - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sahara