Libyan Desert Facts

The Libyan Desert is a vast desert region in North Africa, stretching from Egypt in the east to Tunisia and Algeria in the west. It covers an area of about 1,100,000 square kilometers (425,000 sq mi), making it the 17th-largest desert in the world. It is one of the aridest and most inhospitable regions on Earth, with temperatures often reaching well over 40°C (104°F).

The average rainfall is generally less than 50mm (2 in) per year, making it one of the driest places on the planet. There are no permanent rivers or lakes in the area, but there are some lakes that only last for a short time.

Sand dunes and other desert features dominate the landscape, and the region is home to a variety of unique animal and plant species adapted to the harsh environment. 

It’s a geographical region filling the northeastern Sahara Desert and is the least explored region of the greater Sahara. 

This Desert is inhabited by the Senussis, a conservative Islamic group. There are oases that are broken up by numerous gorges.

In contrast to the vast area of basement rocks that dominate the Desert’s uninterrupted territory, the Jilf al Kabir Plateau is a complex of layers of sediment that are horizontally laid down.

Libyan Desert Facts for Kids

  • It’s also known as the Great Sand Sea or Western Desert
  • The Libyan Desert is located in southwestern Egypt
  • There are oases scattered throughout the Desert
  • Animals like Fennec foxes, rodents, snakes, and lizards live in the Desert
  • The highest temperature on record was 58 °C (136 °F) in 1922.

Overview

Eight important depressions in the Libyan Desert, including the Siwa Oasis, are considered oases.

Several depressions are connected by a topographic chain of basins that extends from the Al Fayyum Oasis, sixty kilometers southwest of Cairo, to Kharga, which is the largest of the three oases.

The Qattara Depression

The Qattara Depression is largely below sea level and covered by badlands, salt marshes, and salt lakes.

The Gilf Kebir

The Gilf Kebir plateau is a sandstone plateau in Egypt, with sheer cliffs and deep, narrow wadis.

Flora and fauna

It is believed that camels were introduced to Northern Africa in the first century C.E. There are over seventy species of mammals, ninety bird species, one hundred reptile species, and numerous arthropod species in the central Sahara.

The central Sahara is home to only five hundred species of plants, which have adapted to the arid conditions by storing water.

History

It has been found that fossils, rock art, stone artifacts, bone harpoons, shells, and other items have been discovered in places that today are considered to be too hot and dry to live in, indicating that the Sahara once had lakes and swamps.

About twenty thousand to twelve thousand years ago, the Sahara was subjected to severe conditions, which led to the population leaving the area again between three and four thousand years ago. There were scattered settlements around the oases but little trade.

Modern exploration

Friedrich Gerhard Rohlfs was the first modern explorer in the Sahara, and he received much resistance from the natives. However, he managed to come back with several important findings and the first map of the Libyan Desert.

The legendary oases of Jebel Uweinat and Jebel Arkenu were discovered by Ahmed Hassanein in the Libyan Desert. His maps of the Libyan Desert were the first accurate maps of the Desert.

He also discovered significant rock art depicting animals and humans ten thousand years ago.

Senussis

In 1837, Sayyid Muhammad ibn Ali as-Senussi founded the Senussi (or Sanussi) political-religious order in Libya and Sudan. Historically, it has been closed to Europeans and outsiders, so their beliefs and practices vary greatly.

Members of the Grand Senussi must earn their living by working. It was neither the intuition of Sufi mystics nor the rationality of orthodox ulemas that he accepted.

The succession passed to Senussi’s two sons, Mahommed Sherif and Mohammed al-Mahdi after he moved from direct Ottoman surveillance to Al-Jaghbub, some 30 miles northwest of Siwa.

In spite of the fact that Mohammed’s father had the name Al Mahdi, his rising fame made the Ottoman regime uncomfortable and drew unwanted attention to them. To defend himself from an attack, he moved his headquarters to Jof in 1894.

Ahmed-el Sherif succeeded Mohammed al-Mahdi in 1902. Despite the British and Italian invasion of Libya and Egypt, the Senussites maintained friendly relations with Wadai.