“ The French call the first encounter with the desert ‘le baptême de la solitude’. It is a unique sensation and has nothing to do with loneliness, for loneliness presupposes memory. Here in this wholly mineral landscape lighted by stars like flares, even memory disappears; nothing is left but your own breathing and the sound of your heart beating … For no one who has stayed in the Sahara desert for a while is quite the same as when he came. “

Legend relates that one day Allah, enraged by mankind, decided that for punishment the would drop a grain of sand on earth for every sin committed. This was how an area that had before been green and flourishing was transformed into a vast sandy expanse. Thus the Sahara came into being, its name Sah’ra, first mentioned by the Arab writer Ibn Abd-el-Hakem, meaning “emptiness”. The word desert (from the Latin meaning “abandoned”) is redolent with meaning, emotions, feelings and symbolism. The Sahara is the largest desert in the world, extending in fact over 8 million square kilometers, divided between 11 countries.

The history  of the Sahara is also that of our planet. Once covered by glaciers, later the sea encroached on the area, albeit partially. At the time of the dinosaurs, it was a boundless verdant plain with rivers flowing and abundant large lakes and swamps. All these climatic changes are indicated by the different kinds of landscape in the Sahara : the stony desert is known as serir or reg and the smooth pebbles covering the surface are evidence of running water in the past; the rocky desert, or Hamada was created by the eruption of lava on the surface and, like the stony desert, is criss-crosses by dry riverbeds (wadis); lastly, the sandy desert, known as erg consists of large dunes.

The possibility of spending a night in a riad, or for the more courageous in a Bedouin tent, should absolutely not be missed. The reward is a black night sky, bright with a carpet of stars, accompanied by the sound of Berber drums rhythmically lulling one to sleep.

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