Sahara Desert

When the Sands Were Green

Zegrahm Contributor|March 9, 2017|Blog Post

Staring out across the vast sand dunes that lie beyond Dakhla, it seems inconceivable that the Sahara Desert was once lush with vegetation. Yet according to reports published in Science magazine and other leading scientific journals, a period of heavy monsoon rains that fell some 10,500 years ago turned the 3.8 million-square-mile Sahara into a semi-arid region that supported flora, fauna, and even human life.

Computer simulations of the Earth’s ancient climate reveal that a shift of tectonic plates more than 7 million years ago dried up a vast African sea called Thethys, creating an inhospitable climate much like that found in the Sahara Desert today. The only habitable place to live was in the eastern region along the Nile Valley. Yet a millennium or two of downpours temporarily turned valleys green, allowed trees and shrubs to grow, and even fed large rivers.

The wet monsoons created permanent rain pools and freshwater lakes that lured a vast array of wildlife including elephants, rhinos, giraffes, hippos, and crocodiles. They also attracted human inhabitants, who migrated from the overpopulated Nile Valley. Radiocarbon dating from nearly 150 excavation sites reveals well-entrenched human settlements that even included domesticated livestock up until around 5000 BCE.

This savanna-covered version of the Sahara was not long for history, however. The monsoon rains eventually retreated, desert conditions returned, and human inhabitants headed back to the luxuriant Nile River Valley to usher in the pharaoh era.

Today Dakhla’s desert dwellers include mostly small, nocturnal wildlife and the nomadic Sahraoui or Sahrawi people, a group of whom travelers have the privilege of meeting during our Sea to Sahara expedition. Steeped in tradition and noted for their hospitality, the Sahraoui invite us to take part in their time-honored tea ritual, a time to socialize and perhaps share folklore of when the sands were green.

 

 

 

 

Related Blog Posts

  • Milford Sound, New Zealand
    Blog Post

    20 Intriguing Christmas Traditions Around the World

    November 20, 2017 | Blog Post

    Christmas has become an almost ubiquitous celebration found all around the world. Nearly every country—even those not traditionally steeped in Christianity—acknowledges the holiday in some fashion.

    Read More

    Gorillas of the Congo
    Blog Post

    How to Plan a Trip: Tips from an Expert Travel Itinerary Planner

    November 15, 2017 | Blog Post

    Jon Nicholson, Zegrahm’s Director of Operations & Itinerary Planning, was becoming an expert on how to plan a trip before he was even old enough to drive.

    Read More

    Zebras at Sunset
    Blog Post

    Why Overland Adventures Rock

    November 13, 2017 | Blog Post

    The best travel adventures do not happen in a flash of instant gratification. Instead, they are the long, meandering journeys that give us more immersive, interactive experiences to savor. Sure, jumbo jets might get you to your destination faster; but once you arrive, I believe that overland adventures are the key to truly exploring the heart and soul of a place.

    Read More

  • Island Sky
    Blog Post

    What Are Expedition Cruises? Proof That Not All Cruises Are Created Equal

    November 10, 2017 | Blog Post

    Cruises have gotten a bad rap lately, and some would argue that’s justifiably so.

    Read More

    Grimsey Island
    Blog Post

    Tips for Surviving a Long Layover

    November 7, 2017 | Blog Post

    Ah, the dreaded long layover… We all love the convenience of direct flights to our destination. But there are times when long layovers are simply unavoidable, especially when you’re traveling internationally.

    Read More

    Berber Drummer, Morocco
    Blog Post

    The Importance of Cultural Geography: A Q&A with Zegrahm Expert Ron Wixman

    October 26, 2017 | Blog Post

    It’s tough to know where to start when you’re talking to a guy with a resumé like that of Zegrahm’s cultural geography expert, Ron Wixman.

    Read More

  • Mountain Gorilla, Rwanda
    Blog Post

    The 10 Best Places to See Animals in the Wild

    October 4, 2017 | Blog Post

    I’ve been a nature-lover my whole life, but I began traveling specifically to see animals in the wild back in the early ’90s. Still in my early 20s then, I was fascinated by watching wildlife. My passion grew exponentially as I took up photography and became more adept at spotting hidden animals.

    Read More

    Sahara Desert
    Infographics

    Sea to Sahara [Infographic]

    September 18, 2017 | Infographics

    Take a glimpse into our brand-new itinerary, Sea to Sahara, showcasing far-flung islands and exotic ports of call, including Cape Verde, Canary Islands, and Morocco.

    Read More

    La Gomera, Canary Islands
    Video

    Sea to Sahara: A Brand-New Small-Ship Cruise Expedition

    August 29, 2017 | Video

    Watch as Director of Operations Jon Nicholson and Cruise Director Kelsey Simmons, talk about our brand-new expedition, Sea to Sahara, that explores Cape Verde, the Sahara Desert, the Canary Islands, and Morocco.

     

    Read More

  • Kenya & Tanzania Under Canvas
    Blog Post

    Kenya's Bushland, Birthplace of the Safari

    July 24, 2017 | Blog Post

    The traveler who goes on safari in Kenya is a bit like a golfer hitting the links at St. Andrews. Beyond the sheer enjoyment of their experience, there is an ever-present awareness of the history and heritage surrounding them.

    Read More

    Berber Drummer, Morocco
    Blog Post

    Experience Berber Culture in Morocco

    June 19, 2017 | Blog Post

    Morocco is often lumped into the Middle East (rather than North Africa) and classified as an Arabic country. But the indigenous people of Morocco—the Berbers—are the area’s original inhabitants. The majority of the country’s population of around 34 million is Berber, not Arab.

    Read More

    Great Barrier Reef
    Infographics

    2018: 26 Countries, 52 UNESCO World Heritage Sites [Infographic]

    May 4, 2017 | Infographics

    In 2018, Zegrahm will be visiting 52 amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites in over 25 countries! The United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the UN that maintains a list of important natural or historical sites, whose preservation and safe-keeping are deemed important for the world community.

    Read More