SAHARA DESERT, a gateway to Africa
Sahara desert is the largest desert in the world with a hot climate and a lot of amazing occurrence happen in the Sahara. It is one of the most distinctive features of Africa, a leading sight and sound of the continent.
On the map of Africa, Sahara stretches from Egypt in North Africa to Niger in West Africa, particularly covering large expanse of North Africa countryside. It occupies a quarter of Africa’s lands.
Sahara desert covers an approximately 3500 Square miles, almost the same size as China or United States and is bordered by very significant monuments, indicating its importance.
The Sahara desert is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west.Atlas Mountain and Mediterranean Sea forms the northern border. Red Sea lies in the eastern border and Sahel Savannah in the southern border.
Although it’s erroneously believed that the Sahara is entirely covered with red sand dune, which are referred to as erg, the topography of the Sahara consists of other materials undulating stones, gravel, valleys and salt flats.
Land forms in the Sahara are always changing. This is due to the activities of wind and rain. The wind can blow a lot of sand dunes, giving rise to different land forms within minutes.
So strong is the wind that if your vehicle breaks down in the middle of one of the sand storms, your vehicle could be totally covered with sand in minutes.
There are a few water bodies in the desert which are seasonal with the exception of the Nile River which runs all year long.
Despite its hotness, few mountain ranges in the Sahara get snowfall regularly. This phenomenon rarely occurs anywhere else in the world.
Dominating two global climate patterns, Sahara desert is responsible for first the Harmattan season in West Africa and southern Africa.
Harmattan season brings about the dry and sandy winds that cover much of West Africa region, beginning from November and ending March the next year.
Second,Sahara helps kick start the hurricane season winds across America and Asia, indicating the significant role the Sahara plays in maintaining world climate.
It is regarded by many in the science community as one of the most significant example of the power of nature.
Any change in the climatic behavior of the Sahara desert means that the seasons of the world would no longer exist as we know it. Even so Sahara has wider application in Africa.
For example, the Sahara has been known to provide some sort of border security. The desert protected Egypt from invasion through her western flank by other Arab nations for centuries
Even in terms of global conflict, it wasn’t until the Second World War that battle occurred across the Sahara desert.
Economic importance of Sahara in terms of trade cannot be over emphasized. Trans-Saharan trade has been in use for centuries.
Although the trade route is in current decline, the Sahara provides a viable channel for commodity trade between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa for hundreds of years.
Finished goods were brought into North Africa through the Sahara desert roads. This opened up avenues for lucrative deals between Europe and Africa, including raw materials like crude oil, gold and diamond.
African Union, AU,through the African development bank, AFDB, now sees light in the tunnel.
In recent years, there have been efforts to revive Saharan trade with the construction of trans-Sahara highway, from Algiers in Algeria to Lagos in Nigeria. Three other highways are proposed by the A.U for further construction.
Tourism in the Sahara is intensifying. Sand dunes, oasis towns and visit to various cities such as in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Morocco are some of the highlights one would encounter while on a field trip in the Sahara.
With exotic camel ride, as the main vehicle of transportation, revenue may well reach over US $10 million annually.
On a Sahara vacation, you can choose to be buried in the hot sand bath for 10 minutes.
However, climate change due to greenhouse effect is threatening Africa through the Sahara.
Some parts of the Sahara are bringing about rapid deforestation with the desert now encroaching the Sahel region and Savannah landscape.
This desert phenomenon if not tackled could pose serious danger to Africa’s ecosystem and the world climate.
Africa can learn from quick thinking countries plagued with desert challenges, and devise strategy on how to transform deserts into an eco-friendly, economic powerhouse.
Israel, for example,is the only country over the last 100 years to see a net gain of trees in the desert.
This Middle East country is home to dry land-dwelling. But Israel has tree planting model that many countries have copied as they attempt to afforest their lost lands.
Only 100 years ago, Israel was a dusty desert habitation: home to Jews, frontiersmen, Arabs, Bedouin and immigrants.
The answer to desert control lay in a series of desert agriculture and conservation techniques including sustained tree planting that survive on few inches of annual rainfall.
Israel has been able to develop desert floodwater collection system, build desert adapted houses, drip irrigation, green house management and promote desert tourism, architecture and urban planning.
Africa can do the same.
Sahara desert has a unique set of untapped assets: sun, sand and sea borders. Only to the southern border do you find Sahel Savannah. The other Saharan borders are essentially seas and Atlantic ocean.
Facing a future of unpredictable weather occurrences of biblical proportion, Africa must make a crucial decision.
We must transform the Sahara to one of the world’s most environmentally friendly desert habitation. This will give rise to a rich mix of high end desert tourism, desert agriculture and a landscape of exclusive desert public housing engineering.
In Africa, it is believed that God works in mysterious ways and the power of nature including the Sahara desert is one of them.
How Sahara influences the delicate balance of some of the world’s most vulnerable seasons remains to be fully understood. We are sitting on an enormous environmental time bomb Africa confronts.