Western Desert (North Africa)


Western Desert (North Africa)

The Western Desert is a desert region encompassing 600,000km² of land to the west of the Nile in Egypt and Libya. In most of Upper Egypt, the desert encroaches very near the Nile, with a flood plain only a few kilometers wide.

Western Desert

The Western Desert covers about 700,000 square kilometers (equivalent in size to Texas) and accounts for about two-thirds of Egypt's land area. This immense desert to the west of the Nile spans the area from the Mediterranean Sea south to the Sudanese border. The desert's Jilf al Kabir Plateau has an altitude of about 1,000 meters, an exception to the uninterrupted territory of basement rocks covered by layers of horizontally bedded sediments forming a massive plain or low plateau. The Great Sand Sea lies within the desert's plain and extends from the Siwa Oasis to Jilf al Kabir. Escarpments (ridges) and deep depressions (basins) exist in several parts of the Western Desert, and no rivers or streams drain into or out of the area.

Limited agricultural production, the presence of some natural resources, and permanent settlements are found in the other six depressions, all of which have fresh water provided by the Nile or by local groundwater. The Siwah Oasis, close to the Libyan border and west of Qattara, is isolated from the rest of Egypt but has sustained life since ancient times. The Siwa's cliff-hung Temple of Amun was renowned for its oracles for more than 1,000 years. Herodotus and Alexander the Great were among the many illustrious people who visited the temple in the pre-Christian era.

The other major oases form a topographic chain of basins extending from the Faiyum Oasis (sometimes called the Fayyum Depression) which lies sixty kilometers southwest of Cairo, south to the Bahariya, Farafirah, and Dakhilah oases before reaching the country's largest oasis, Kharijah. A brackish lake, Birket Qarun, at the northern reaches of Al Fayyum Oasis, drained into the Nile in ancient times. For centuries sweetwater artesian wells in the Fayyum Oasis have permitted extensive cultivation in an irrigated area that extends over 1,800 square kilometers (694 square miles).

ee also

*Eastern Desert


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