Libyan Desert

Libyan Desert

The Libyan Desert (24 degrees North, 25 degrees East) ( _ar. الصحراء الليبية) is an African desert that is located in the northern and eastern part of the Sahara Desert and occupies western Egypt, eastern Libya and northwestern Sudan. Covering an area of approximately 1,100,000 square kilometers it extends approximately 1,100 km from east to west, and 1,000 km from north to south, in about the shape of a rectangle.

This desert is primarily sand and boulder plain and is inhabited by the Senussis. The dominant wildlife are sand vipers and scorpions.

Ridges and deep depressions (basins) exist in several parts of the desert, and no rivers or streams drain into or out of the area. The desert's Jilf al Kabir Plateau has an altitude of about 2,000 meters, an exception to the uninterrupted territory of basement rocks covered by layers of horizontally bedded sediments, forming a massive plain or low plateau.

There are eight important depressions in the Libyan Desert, and all are considered oases except the smallest, Qattara, because its waters are salty. Limited agricultural production, the presence of some natural resources, and permanent settlements are found in the other seven depressions, all of which have fresh water provided by the Nile or by local groundwater.

The Siwa Oasis, close to the Libyan border and west of Qattara, is isolated from the rest of Egypt but has sustained life since ancient times.

The other major oases include Dakhla and Kharga in Egypt, and Jaghbub in Libya, which, along with Siwah, form a topographic chain of basins extending from the Al Fayyum Oasis (sometimes called the Fayyum Depression) which lies sixty kilometers southwest of Cairo, south to the Bahariya, Farafra and Dakhla oases before reaching the country's largest oasis, Kharga Oasis. A brackish lake, Lake Karun, at the northern reaches of Al Fayyum Oasis, drained into the Nile in ancient times. For centuries sweetwater artesian wells in the Fayyum Oasis have permitted extensive cultivation in an irrigated area that extends over 2,100 square kilometers.

Key geographic feaures of the Libyan Desert


The desert areas are characterized with a moderate climate, warm during winter and spring seasons, that it is to say the most months of the year. The area are featured with the huge diversity of landscapes resulting form the multiplicity of relief aspects, where the area includes mountainous areas, such as Akakus, eastern Awinat, Mellita paths and Staft path, and sand dunes areas with different forms and colours, such as Adhan Ubari, Adhan Merzuq and great sand sea, and stone lands such as Elhamada Elhamra, in addition to oases areas, where the most important thereof is Ghadames oasis, Ghat oasis, Wadi Elhayat oases, Wadi Eshati oases, Jufra oases and Kufra oasis. The area includes desert unique phenomena, represented in desert lakes in the Ramlat Ezzellaf area, quiet volcanos areas, such as Waw Enamous, and rocky formation having multiple landscapes, such as rock columns and tables, and other natural phenomena resulting from the corrosion factors. The oases are considered in general among the most important desert tourist landmarks distinguished with their natural beauty, where they located usually in sinkages areas where the water source are near from the surface the matter that helps the growth of different types of plants and trees covering wide areas of the oasis, where the most important thereof is palm trees. The oases are surrounded with sand dunes, and sometimes with lakes, which make all thereof distinct tourist attractive landscapes. This is in addition to the richness of such oases of their cultural heritage and old cities having distinct style, as the oases are the permanent green areas in the desert which have provided along the eras the water and food for the mankind, which enabled them performing the social and economic activities having formed the a distinct desert civilization and culture. The most important oasis in the area is Ghadames oasis, Ghat oasis, Wadi Elhayat oases, Wadi Eshati oases, Jufra oases and Kufra oasis.

The sand dunes covering vast areas of the Libyan desert are considered among the landmarks distinguishing the area. The watcher thereof will be astonished by the simplicity of their formation and the order of their forms, as they are not dispersed masses but ordered groups in clear and accurate order, and with different forms. There are crescent dunes, domed dunes, star dunes, net dunes, longitudinal dunes "Sabers", further to their creative beauty, represented in their surfaces undulation, forms and colours diversity. The sand dunes enable the tourists to perform important sportive activities, such as walking and skiing on sands, use of sailing trolleys, or healing of hot sand baths, and the most important sand dunes areas in south Libya are Adhan Ubari, Adhan Merzuq, great sand sea, further to the sand area near Ghadames oasis, which are of a big tourist importance.

The Qattara Depression

The Qattara Depression, which contains the second lowest point in Africa, is approximately 15,000 km². (about the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island), and is largely below sea level (its lowest point is 133 meters below sea level). The sparsely inhabited Qattara Depression is covered by badlands, salt marshes and
salt lakes.

The Gilf Kebir

The Gilf Kebir plateau rises about 700 metres (1,000 ft) above the general plain, and lies entirely in Egypt. It roughly equals Switzerland in size, and is similar in structure to the other sandstone plateaus of the central Sahara. Its south-eastern part is well defined on all sides, with sheer cliffs and deep, narrows wadis. The northeast part, separated from the other half by a broad valley called the "Gap" is more broken, and supports three large wadis with vegetation.

The Sand Seas

The three sand seas, which contain dunes up to 512 meters in height and which cover approximately one quarter of the region include:
* Egyptian Sand Sea
* Kalansho Sand Sea
* Ribiana Sand Sea

Modern Exploration

Sahara was traversed by mostly Muslims traders and natives to the Sahara with pilgrims. It has received lots of writings from the likes of Ibn Battuta.

The first modern explorer to the Sahara was the German Friedrich Gerhard Rohlfs. In his daring expeditions on 1865 in which he's received much resistance from the natives of the Saharan oases and kingdoms he's visited. Because of the much resistance to all European explorers at the time specially by Senussis Ikhwan, Rohlfs managed to come back with several important findings and a first map of the Libyan Desert. Unfortunately it contained inaccuracies in the mapping and intentions of the natives.

It was not before the 1924, when Ahmed Hassanein has ventured into a 3500km expedition on foot in which he single-handedly set the first accurate maps and discovered the legendary oasis of Jebel Uweinat. He wrote important accounts on the Senussis explaining their lifestyle and ethics to the civilised world in his important book The Lost Oases.


External links

* [ The complete text and photos of the discoveries of Ahmed Pasha Hassanein in the Libyan Desert, National Geographic Magazine article, September 1924]
* [ Travel-To-Egypt Page concerning the Libyan Desert]
* [ Libyan Youth]
* World War II

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