Sahara Desert

The Sahara <<suh HAIR uh>> is the world’s largest desert. It covers about 3 1/2 million square miles (9 million square kilometers) of Africa, as much land as the United States. The Sahara is in northern Africa. Most of it is made up of mountains, bare, rocky plains, and high, flatlands called plateaus <<plah TOHS>>. The rest is a huge sea of sand. In some places, sand piles up in hills called dunes. The desert is hot and dry, but it turns cool at night. It gets less than 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain each year.

About 2 million people live in the Sahara. Many people are nomads <<NOH madz>>. Nomads are people who travel from place to place to find food and water for their herds of sheep, goats, camels, or cattle. Some people live in oases <<oh AY seez>>, places where water comes from wells or springs. They grow crops there.

 A few plants can live in the desert. Some kinds live only a few weeks, but their seeds lie in the ground until it rains again. Other plants have deep roots or take in moisture through their leaves.White gazelles, antelope called addax, and small foxes called fennecs live in the dunes. So do snakes, lizards, and gerbils. Barbary sheep live on the plateaus.

Over 10,000 years ago, the Sahara had lakes and streams. Then, about 6,000 years ago, the region began to turn into a desert. Since that time, the Sahara has been slowly growing larger.

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