The Eagles sang about a peaceful, easy feeling and referred to a desert. I keep singing that song over and over. Here are a few more memories of the Sahara…the place I can’t get out of my mind…
The sand can be as cold as snow in the evening or the morning. The sky is a deep, dark blue with a million stars all around. Seeing the Milky Way in such intensity was a first for me. I have never seen so many stars nor have I ever been so impacted by a sky as the Moroccan sky. Truly amazing and something to behold! The sky in Tibet was amazing: a bluer blue than I’ve ever seen. But this was different. Maybe it’s just knowing that I was out in truly the middle of nowhere that caused me to be so impacted by it; maybe it was the state of mind I was in or the happiness I was experiencing. It doesn’t matter. It was absolutely amazing to experience the desert and the sky.
Its vastness is amazing! The word ‘Sahara’ means desert in Arabic. So its name is a literal translation. Twenty years ago, researchers using radar technology discovered in the depths of the rocks of the wide valleys, a web of “channels”, some small, others wider, as broad as the Nile, which represent the dry riverbeds of the rivers that crossed Sahara thousands of years ago. Niger River once originated in Sahara.
The desert of Sahara is supposed to be at least 2.5 million years old. Studies made on the fluctuations of humidity in Sahara during the last 40,000 years revealed that the borders of the desert moved sometimes southward and other times northward and in particular periods, the desert disappeared completely, the sand dunes being replaced by wooded savannas, like those found today in eastern Africa. 18,000 years ago, the last Ice Age had reached its peak and Sahara had moved 400 km (250 mi) south from its current location. But the ice covering Europe, northern Asia and North America melted between 13,000 to 8,000 years ago.
The geological history of Sahara showed glacier vestiges in a 450 million old Sahara, during the Ordovician, at the beginning of the life explosion on Earth.
At different geological depths were found fossil algae that confirm that 150-200 million ago, during the Jurassic (the middle dinosaur era), Sahara was covered by an ancient sea, which was in some places 5,000 m (15,000 feet) deep. By 135 millions years ago, dinosaurs roamed Sahara, like the 9 m (30 ft) long carnivorous Afrovenator or the 22 m (73 ft) long sauropod Jobaria.
From that sea, many fossils came, like ammonites (a type of shelled squids), one meter long fishes from extinct groups and ancient huge sea reptiles. Later, during the early Cretaceous (the last dinosaur era), the zone was roamed by different species of dinosaurs. Even today, in the underground of Sahara, at 800 m (2500 feet) depth, there is a subterranean sea of fossil freshwater, compassing 620,000 cubic kilometers (150,000 cubic miles) over a surface of 6.5 million square kilometers (2.3 million square miles).
The exploitation of this water allowed the flourishing the Garamante civilization in the middle of the desert, between 500 BC to 500 AD, till the desert weather worsened too much.
One detail: today the symbol of Sahara is the dromedary camel. This species entered Sahara around the times of Jesus Christ, brought from Arabia. Before that, people of the place used the donkey, originated from the African wild ass, a native of the area.