The Sahara is utterly massive. Its just huge - at 11 million km2 it is larger than the entire USA. It is by far the largest desert in the world (excluding the polar regions). The sands of the Sahara are filled with history and stories of the past - but this region has also been plagued with instability and poverty. Fortunately, the Sahara also has a number of top ranked tourist destinations and more stable countries to visit.

One of the best ways to explore the Sahara is with a camel ride with the tribal Bedouin - Marrakesh in Morocco is particularly famous for camel rides. The Sahara is far more than just sand and desert - in fact only comparatively small amounts of it is sandy desert. The Sahara is an enchanting place few ever get to fully explore.

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What Is The Sahara, And Where Can You See It?

The Sahara is a massive desert that covered most of Northern Africa. It extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean south until one reaches the transitional Sahel Zone (the Sahel is a belt of semi-arid tropical savanna to the south).

  • Size: 9.2 Million Km2 or 3.5 Million sq miles or 11 million km2 to 4.2 million sq miles (depending on definition)
  • One Third: Of Africa's Land Area

Countries that are wholly or partly in the Sahara include: Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Western Sahara (claimed and controlled by Morocco), Sudan, and Tunisia. Naturally, the best time to see the Sahara is in the cooler months before the blistering heat of summer.

Some of these countries are failed states and/or there are travel warning about visiting (like Libya, Chad, and Sudan). Others are safer and for intrepid explorers (like Algeria and Mauritania). The most popular countries to visit the Sahara are Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt - these countries have extensive tourism infrastructure and are comparatively safe.

Related: Your Most Pressing FAQs About Visiting Morocco

The Best Places To See The Sahara

Arguably the best place to see the Sahara is Morocco - specifically Marrakesh. Marrakesh is a location like none other, and is the gateway to the grand Sahara Desert - just like it has been for thousands of years. Marrakesh was an important oasis trading city trading all the way south across the Sahara in Sub-Sahara.

  • Best Place To See the Sahara: Marrakesh, Morocco

Today Marrakesh is UNESCO World Heritage-listed and offers so much to the adventurous tourist - like camel rides in the desert, the impressive architecture of the city, traditional food, stunning performances and culture, and fantastic shopping in its bazaars.

  • When To Go: Year Round (Though It Will Be Particularly Hot In The Summer)
  • Tip: Watch Out For Pickpockets
  • Largest: Marrakesh Has The Largest Traditional Market In Morocco (Called A Souk)

Camel Riding and Camping In The Desert

Camel riding and camping in the desert is a very big part of the attractions of Marrakesh. There are selections of desert tours for everyone - these range from one night in the desert to up to two week expeditions.

For those with only a short stay in Morocco, this company's one night in the desert and camel ride may be the right option. This trip ensures that one will get to spend at least one night in the Sahara. The trip includes a camel ride for the night in the desert near the sand dunes.

  • Duration: The Camel Ride is About 1 Hour 30 Minutes
  • Drum Music: At The Camp In The Desert One Can Enjoy Traditional Drum Music
  • Accommodation: In Nomad Tents (In the Morning Breakfast And Shower In The Hotel)

Related: Prehistoric Cave Paintings Prove The Sahara Was Once Green

See the Prehistoric Cave Paintings In The Sahara

The Sahara has not always been desert, at time its has turned into a savanna grassland - during this time, it was inhabited by many hunters and gathers. Today one can visit many sites around the Sahara were its former inhabitants left cave paintings of the animals like giraffes, ostriches, and crocodiles, that once lived there.

The Sahara has gone through 20,000-year cycles of greening and desertification caused by the precession of the Earth's axis as it rotates around the sun. Cave paintings and rock art from between 14,600 and 5,000 years ago show us that the Sahara was a very different place. These cave paintings can be seen throughout the Sahara, but Egypt is one of the best places to see them.

Cave Of The Beasts: This is a large natural rock shelter in the Western Desert of Egypt with Neolithic rock paintings. Paintings are thought to be over 7,000 years old.

  • Located: In the Libyan Desert In Southwestern Egypt
  • Animals: Include Elephants, Ostriches, Gazelles, and Giraffes (Don't Exist There Today)

Cave Of Swimmers: The Cave of Swimmers is located very close to the Cave of Beast above. Both are in the Gilf Kebir area of Egypt

  • Animals: Includes Giraffes and Hippos (Don't Exist There Today)
  • Date: Around 10,000 Years Ago