Question: The Sahara has always been a desert.
Answer: The Sahara has often enjoyed periods of rainfall and moderate temperatures. Only 12,000 years ago what is now desert was a grassland dotted with lakes and rivers.
Question: Most of Niger is desert.
Answer: Niger is mostly desert. It covers parts of the dry Sahara region and the slightly wetter region known as the Sahel.
Question: The Sahara Desert covers parts of 10 countries.
Answer: The Sahara covers at least a part of ten countries in northern Africa—Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, and Sudan—plus the territory of Western Sahara.
Question: Deserts do not grow.
Answer: Deserts grow, and sometimes shrink. The Gobi, for example, is growing rapidly, coming closer to Beijing, China, at a rate of about 2 miles (3 kilometers) per year.
Question: The Gobi is the largest desert in the world.
Answer: At about 3.3 million square miles (8.5 million square kilometers), the Sahara is six times larger than the Gobi, the next largest desert.
Question: The Sahara Desert is overcrowded.
Answer: Although the Sahara is a huge region, it has a population of only a few million people. Thousands of years ago, when the climate was milder, the Sahara probably had more people than it has now.
Question: The Sahara is buried in many kilometers of sand.
Answer: The Sahara’s sand dunes are, on average, no more than a 328 feet (100 meters) tall. Sand can accumulate higher at the base of mountains and in ancient lake beds, but the desert’s sand cover is really quite thin.
Question: The Sahara is made up entirely of sand.
Answer: Only about 15 percent of the Sahara is sandy. The rest is mostly rock and gravel, with a few small areas of grassland.
Question: Timbuktu is a remote city in the desert.
Answer: So isolated is the city of Timbuktu, Mali, that it is often used as a symbol for remoteness. It is in the southwestern Sahara Desert. Today, as in centuries past, it is mostly accessible by camel.
Arabian Camel (Camelus dromedarius) in the Sahara Desert sand dunes. (pack animal; sand; Morocco; Africa; African desert; mammal; dromedary; drought)

Exploring Deserts: Fact or Fiction?

© Oleg Seleznev/Fotolia
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