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The Sahara (‘’The Great Desert’’) is the largest hot desert and the third largest desert in the world after Antarctica and the Arctic. Its area of 9,200,000 square kilometers (3,600,000 sq mi) is comparable to the area of China or the United States. The name ‘Sahara’ is derived from a dialectal Arabic word for ‘desert’,
The desert comprises much of North Africa, excluding the fertile region on the Mediterranean Sea coast, the Atlas Mountains of the Maghreb, and the Nile Valley in Egypt and Sudan.
It stretches from the Red Sea in the east and the Mediterranean in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the west, where the landscape gradually changes from desert to coastal plains. To the south, it is bounded by the Sahel, a belt of semi-arid tropical savanna around the Niger River valley and the Sudan Region of Sub-Saharan Africa. The Sahara can be divided into several regions including: the western Sahara, the central Hagar Mountains, the Tibet Mountains, the Air Mountains, the Tenure Desert, and the Libyan Desert.
For several hundred thousand years, the Sahara has alternated between desert and savanna grassland in a 41,000 year cycle caused by changes (‘precession’) in the Earth’s axis as it rotates around the sun, which change the location of the North African Monsoon. It is next expected to become green in about 15,000 years (17,000 AD). There is a suggestion that the last time that the Sahara was converted from savanna to desert it was partially due to overgrazing by the cattle of the local population.
From megalithic monuments older than the Stonehenge, to strange natural formations here are seven secrets of the Sahara Desert!
Things about secrets is that once they’re uncovered, they’re not a secret anymore. But, near El Gouda, Egypt, in the sands that surround the area, there is a ‘secret’ that keeps getting rediscovered. You see, in 2014, people used Google Maps to look at the Sahara Desert and its surrounding areas and noticed some odd cone shaped markings in the sand. As they zoomed out, they noticed a massive pattern that was too precise to be random.
The “cones” were actually forming a spiral pattern. But what was even more surprising was the size, it was 100 feet in diameter in the center, and the area that contained that spiral was a million square feet. So what was it? Of course everyone was speculating it was the remains of a newly discovered civilization or ancient aliens. Well, ironically, it was a human who did that. You see that pattern was actually an art piece done in 1997. It was called the “Desert Breath”, and was made under the watchful eye of Danae Stratou. Danae Stratou is a Greek visual and installation artist and former adjunct professor of fine art. It was apparently taken years to make, which given the desert setting I can believe. Ironically though people keeping forgetting about it, which is why when it was “rediscovered” in 2014 it caused this a stir. Hopefully people will remember it this time, but if not, it’s not the worst thing in the world.
When comes to building things that are theoretically impossible for the times, the Egyptians hold the record. In Southern Egypt there are ancient megalithic structures that are believed to be a type of calendar circle.
The stone structures of Nabta Playa are considered by archeologists to be the oldest known astronomical alignment of megaliths in the world. What’s more, the people of Nabta Playa apparently dragged them over 1 kilometer to their final resting place even though the stone blocks are over 9 feet tall. Still not impressed? Well if you compare this to Stonehenge, this humongous stone complex was made thousands of years before that. Not only did it have a megalithic calendar marking the summer solstice and the constellations in the night sky. There were also stones circles, tombs, slabs of stones and other things archaeologists are still uncovering. There are so many questions when it comes to these stones. Why did the Egyptians feel the need to build these? How long did it take? What exactly did they do there? Even though it dates back at least 7000 years, it was only rediscovered in 1972.
Let start off with some interesting facts about the Sahara Desert that you might not have known. For example, even though it is considered the largest desert on Earth, that’s technically not true. Antarctica is scientifically a desert too, a snow desert, but one nonetheless.
But still, if we’re talking sand deserts, the Sahara is king. Another fun fact, while the Sahara is known for its heat, as it should be, the nights in the Sahara are the exact opposite at certain months of the year. Between December and February, it can actually drop to below freezing temperatures sometimes way below. And there have even been cases of snow covering certain sand dunes. Also despite the deserts reputation for harshness and death, it actually has a lot of fertile lands on it. You just have to know where to look. Oasis isn’t everywhere mind you, but it’s enough to make you wonder how it happened. Some of it is man-made, while other aspects of it are caused by underground rivers. Because of this, over a thousand species of plants live in the Sahara. One last thing, the Sahara? Technically isn’t made up of all sand. About 30% of it is pure sand, and the rest is gravel. The more you know right?
When you are dehydrated and have been wandering around the desert for a while, you might start seeing things that are aren’t there, like a lake. A mirage can be very deadly depending on how you react to it. But, imagine people’s surprise when an actual lake appeared near Tunisia in 2014, and not only was it real, it was massive. How massive?
Well, about 2.6 acres or about 10,522 m² in size and about 54 feet or about 16.5 m deep. The appearance of this lake is baffled many since its arrival. But for the locals, it’s a godsend. The temperature in the area where the lake is which is 25 km/15.5 mi from Gafsa, Tunisia, can easily got above 100 °F/38 °C, so why roast when you can take a dip in a massive lake? And because of its size, it could fit a lot of people. While investigations are still going on to find out how the lake was formed, one popular theory suggests that it was because of an underwater spring that was unearthed because of mining operations. The problem here is that the area is known for phosphate mines, so if the water came up through those mines it could be radioactive. Another problem is that soon after the waters arrival, the color of it went from a pure turquoise to a sludgy green. Now, there’s no real sludge in the water, it’s actually algae which is a sign that the water itself is not getting replenished. Because of this development there have been warnings that disease could be gotten from swimming in the water. This hasn’t been proven yet though, and the lake is still open for business by decree the Tunisian government. Though they have sent warnings about not swimming in it.
Glass is something you most likely see every single day. It’s used to make windows, windshields, glasses, and so many more things. But, you wouldn’t expect to find it in certain places. Like for example, in the worlds’ biggest desert. Yet, that’s exactly what happened.
December 1932, a man named Patrick Clayton, who worked for the Egyptian Geological Survey, was driving through the Sahara, and he heard something that didn’t sound quite right. Driving on sand is relatively soft experience, right? But, instead, he heard a crunching sound. So, he stopped the car and looked under his tires then he found there was a glass underneath them. And not just ordinary glass, but pure glass. Glass with a yellow-green tint that apparently had iridium in it. Iridium is a very hard, brittle, silvery-white transition metal of the platinum group. Sand can be turned into glass. That’s pure science. However, to do so, you need to raise the temperature to 3300 °F/1815 °C, and while the Sahara is certainly hot, it’s not that hot. In fact, you’d have to start digging to the Earth’s core to find temperatures like that. Naturally, ones this glass was discovered, it launched an investigation as to what happened to cause this, and the explanations given are both cosmic and terrifying.
One explanation is that this sand-to-glass event occurred via a meteorite impact. The force and heat of the impact could have been enough to turn the sand to glass. However, scientists debate whether this is true because there were other desert meteor impact sites occurred that don’t have that same glass. And some of these sites don’t have the signs of a meteor strike. The other explanation is really out there, but it does have some evidence. Some believe that an ancient weapon caused an event that raised the temperature to the degrees necessary to turn sand into glass. Why do they say that? Well, when the New Mexico, atomic bomb tests were being done, glass was formed from the heat. An engineer saw these shards of glass, and noted that they were similar to the ones in Africa, which he had seen 50 years before. Now, the problem with this theory is that the “event” that cause the Sahara Desert glass to form would’ve had to have been much more intense than those nuclear bombs. So, the question remains, how did the glass get formed? I’m really curious, and many are still trying to find out the answer to that question.
One of the biggest things that the Sahara Desert is known for is its sand. It’s everywhere! The sand has helped hide and preserve some interesting secrets. Looking at it from above, we have found some very old secrets.
Satellite imagery has found some very interesting markings in the desert. These marks are very direct and specific, and they look kind of like pyramids. Very very old pyramids. Here’s the problem, they aren’t Egyptian pyramids, and they appear to be much older. So that begs the question, what exactly are we looking at here? More questions arise when you see that there are more of these massive imprints in the sand of the Sahara. Some are triangular but others are circular, and the sizes of these imprints are massive. Some are estimated to be 100 feet wide, and others are 300 feet wide. A running theory is that these were once part of ancient civilizations, one that existed long before the Egyptians or other native tribes that lived in the areas that now make up the Sahara. Getting even deeper into the lore, some people think that these structures are proof of the Great Flood mentioned in the Bible and the story of Noah. They see this as proof that all kingdoms were “washed away” during the flood, and that these imprints are the remains of what used to be there. You might be asking right now, “Why hasn’t this been researched yet?” Expeditions were planned, but they just never got off the ground, and until one of them is fully funded, this is hands down one of the biggest secrets of mysteries that the Sahara holds.
I definitely saved the best for last, because this mystery is something that’s been around for quite some time, but was only discovered once we started taking pictures from space. I give to you, the Eye of the Sahara.
Let’s start off with the size; this “eye” is massive, in fact, its 25 miles across, which is why it can be seen from space. Why were astronauts looking for it in space? In 1965, the Gemini IV team was told to look for potential impact craters from meteors, as they could help tell the history of Earth in many ways. The Astronauts of Gemini IV was James McDivitt and Ed White. So when the “Eye of the Sahara” was found, they thought it was that. But, once they started studying it, they realized that wasn’t the case because there wasn’t enough melted rock in the area. The current theory actually comes from Canada, where they believe that several geological instances came together to form this natural beauty. And make no mistake, this thing, whatever it is and regardless of how it was formed, is quite beautiful. That’s what makes it so mysterious, only the desert knows how this thing was made. The “eye” has become a landmark of sorts in the desert, and even the astronauts in space came to love the eye because it broke up the monotony of looking at sand for such a long time. Either way though, no matter how the Eye of the Sahara was formed or what it is exactly, it most definitely is a treasure to be appreciated.
After having researched the topic that I’ve picked with my synthesis. I learned that desert is not just talking about the dry land but also it talks about the wetland like Antarctica and the Arctic. As a student, I’m surprise to know this truth, and it’s proof that there are still many things that we did not yet know. We just only know it if when we make research on it.
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