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Be honest – have you ever thought about going on a trip to the Sahara Desert? It might be on the bucket list of a few adventurous souls, but hardly in the minds of your average holidaymaker. But, you miss out at your risk. The sprawling desert is an incredible place, and there is a lot more to it than endless sand dunes and mirages. And, it is so big it is spread across twelve countries – each with their unique personality. Here are five essential experiences that you should check out if you get the chance.
Egypt’s River Nile is pretty much the lifeline for the many towns and cities that inhabit the Sahara. And, of course, it goes close to the Sahara’s most ancient buildings – the temples of Luxor and Karnak. But, don’t stop there. Moving out, you will hit the world famous Timbuktu, and even follow the river down to the Red Sea. In Africa, the Nile is known as the giver of life – and it’s easy to see why.
When you think of a desert, you don’t think of somewhere teeming with life. But, the Sahara has some incredible creatures that call it home. They are tough little things, too, capable of surviving some of the harshest conditions on the planet. It’s well worth taking a wildlife trip one night with an expert to see if you can catch a glimpse of the locals. You might see a monitor lizard or the cute looking Fennec Fox. There are plenty of other, too. Conservationinstitute.org have a good insight on what to expect.
The bustling cities
Cities in the Sahara are a lot more advanced and comfortable than you might think. El Aaiun, for example, is a beautiful place with plenty of luxury to retreat from the harsh, dry, atmosphere of the desert surrounding it. The likes of tripadvisor.com have rundowns of the fantastic hotels available – and they might just surprise you.
The amazing oasis towns
The Sahara is so big; it shouldn’t be surprising there are so many amazing little towns there. Of course, you can’t go there expecting a raging nightlife and all mod cons, but they are well worth a visit. They are the perfect place to stay when you are planning trips out to the dunes, too. Oasis towns tend to be in the major countries, such as Morocco and Egypt. Some are quaint little places full of a sleepy atmosphere while others are far more colorful affairs. Check out Ksar Ghilane in Tunisia or Tamanrasset in Algeria.
It’s easy to write off the sheer volume of sand in the Sahara – but it needs to be seen to be believed. The size of the dunes can be mountainous, and many of them will look completely different the next day. If you get the chance, head out with an experienced guide and see it for yourself. It is a little eerie seeing a landscape change before your eyes – and it’s very much alive. You may even find yourself a meteorite if you are lucky.
Have you been to the Sahara? Let us know about your experiences in the comments section below!
Thirty five migrants traversing the Sahara desert on their way to Europe have died of thirst in Niger, officials say.
Rhissa Feltou, the mayor of Agadez, the main town in northern Niger, said that 35 of the 60 travelers trying to reach Algeria had died.
Agadez lies on one of the main routes migrants from West Africa use to reach Europe.
Hundreds of migrants have died this month when their boats sank as they tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
Thirty five migrants traversing the Sahara desert on their way to Europe have died of thirst in Niger
Rhissa Feltou said two vehicles had left the town of Arlit, north of Agadez, earlier this month, carrying “at least” 60 migrants.
The convoy was heading for Tamanrassett, an Algerian town in the heart of the Sahara, he said.
The mayor of Agadez said that after one vehicle broke down, passengers went to look for spare parts and bring them back for repairs.
He said the migrants broke up into small groups and started walking.
Days later, the survivors who reached Arlit, a centre for uranium mining, alerted the army, but troops arrived too late at the scene, he added.
Those left behind consisted of “entire families, including very many children and women,” Azaoua Mamane, who works for the non-governmental organization Synergie in Arlit, told the AFP news agency.
Algerian military operation has been ended at In Amenas gas facility in the Sahara desert killing 11 Islamist militants after they killed 7 hostages, state news agency APS has said.
The hostages were summarily killed as the Algerian troops tried to free them, it said.
Foreign workers were among the hostages, but the nationalities of the dead are not known.
The militants had been involved in a stand-off since Thursday after trying to occupy the remote site.
APS has previously said 12 Algerian and foreign workers have been killed since rescue efforts began.
On Friday, 573 Algerians and about 100 of 132 foreigners working at the plant were freed, Algerian officials said.
About 30 foreigners remain unaccounted for.
The militants themselves said before the raid that they had been holding 7 hostages.
Shortly before reports of the final assault emerged, the leader of the hostage-takers, Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri, said the government had to choose between negotiating with the kidnappers and leaving the hostages to die.
He said the area had been booby-trapped and swore to blow up the complex if the Algerian army used force.
Algerian military operation has been ended at In Amenas gas facility in the Sahara desert killing 11 Islamist militants after they killed 7 hostages
Algerian national oil and gas company Sonatrach said the army was now clearing mines planted by the militants.
The crisis at the remote In Amenas desert gas facility began on Wednesday when militants attacked two buses carrying foreign workers. A Briton and an Algerian reportedly died in the incident.
The militants then took Algerians and expatriates hostage at the complex. The leader of the hostage-takers is said to be a veteran fighter from Niger, named as Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri by the Mauritanian news agency ANI, which has been in contact with the militants.
The Algerian armed forces attacked on Thursday as militants tried to move some of their captives from the facility.
APS reported before Saturday’s raid that a group of militants remained at the site, holed up in a workshop with the remaining hostages and armed with rocket-launchers and machine guns.
The Algerian newspaper El Watan quoted officials as saying that the militants tried to sabotage the gas installation on Friday evening by starting a fire, but that it was quickly extinguished.
“The terrorists were prepared to commit a collective suicide; the army’s intervention led to their neutralization. Unfortunately, the hostages were executed,” the newspaper added.
Information from the siege has been hard to come by. No foreign reporters are thought to have been given access to the In Amenas plant.
The In Amenas gas field is situated at Tigantourine, about 40 km (25 miles) south-west of the town of In Amenas and 1,300 km (800 miles) south-east of Algiers.
The plant is jointly run by BP, Norway’s Statoil and Algeria’s state-owned oil company.
A statement from the kidnappers said the assault on the gas plant was launched in retaliation for French intervention against Islamist groups in neighboring Mali.
- Bus attack: 05:00 a.m. local time January 16: Heavily armed gunmen attack two buses carrying gas field workers towards In Amenas airfield. A Briton and an Algerian die in the fighting.
- Hostages taken: The militants drive to the installation at Tigantourine and take Algerian and foreign workers hostage in the living area and the main gas facility at the complex.
- Army surround complex: Security forces and the Algerian army surround the hostage-takers. Western leaders urge Algeria to consult them before taking action.
- Army attacks: 12:00 p.m. January 17: Algerian forces attack as militants try to move some of their captives from the facility. Reports say some hostages escape, but others are killed.
- Final assault: The Algerians ended the raid on January 19, killing the last 11 captors after they had killed 7 hostages, state media reported.
Malian coup leaders have agreed to stand down and allow a transition to civilian rule, as part of a deal struck with regional bloc Ecowas.
In return, the bloc will lift trade and economic sanctions and grant amnesty to the ruling junta, mediators said.
The move came after Tuareg rebels in the north declared independence of territory they call Azawad.
The rebels seized the area after a coup two weeks ago plunged the West African nation into political crisis.
Under the terms of transition plan, military rulers will cede power to the parliamentary speaker, Diouncounda Traore, who as interim president will oversee a timetable for elections.
Once sworn in, Diouncounda Traore would have 40 days to organize elections, the five-page agreement says.
The deal, signed by coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo, states that Ecowas prepare for the ending of sanctions, but did not name a date for him to hand over power.
“It will be necessary to organise a political transition leading to free, democratic and transparent elections across the whole of the territory,” it states.
Officers led by Captain Amadou Sanogo seized power on 22 March, accusing the elected government of not doing enough to halt the rebellion in the north
Officers led by Captain Amadou Sanogo seized power on 22 March, accusing the elected government of not doing enough to halt the rebellion in the north.
Earlier, international bodies rejected a call from Tuareg rebels for their newly named region of Azawad to be recognized as independent.
The secular National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) is one of two main groups fighting a rebellion in the north.
Ansar Dine, an Islamist group, has also made gains and has started to impose Sharia law in some towns.
Rights group Amnesty International has warned of a major humanitarian disaster in the wake of the rebellion.
Ecowas is preparing a force of up to 3,000 soldiers which could be deployed to stop the rebel advance.
France’s Defence Minister, Gerard Longuet, said France could provide assistance to the force, including transport, Reuters news agency reports.
The Tuareg people inhabit the Sahara Desert in northern Mali, as well as several neighboring countries and have fought several rebellions over the years.
They complain that they have been ignored by the authorities in the capital, Bamako.
Tuareg rebels have taken control of the Malian garrison town of Gao, including the largest military base in the north of the country.
Capt. Amadou Sanogo, whose troops seized power in a coup last week, said in a statement that his soldiers had ceded control to avoid fighting in residential areas.
There are reports of casualties but no figures have been given.
The loss of Gao is a serious blow to the coup leaders.
They deposed the president in protest at what they saw as the poor conduct of the fight against the Tuareg rebels.
Tuareg rebels have taken control of the Malian garrison town of Gao
The historic city of Timbuktu is now the only major northern town that remains under the control of the Malian army.
Rebel sources say they are already positioned in its outskirts and residents fear fighting could erupt soon.
Regional group Ecowas has put 2,000 troops on standby in case of a possible intervention in Mali.
It has threatened to close land borders, freeze assets and impose a financial blockade if the army does not stand down before Monday.
The rebels took Gao hours after another town, Kidal, fell to them.
Witnesses reported heavy gunfire coming from the main military camp in Gao and helicopters engaging rebel fighters.
Before the coup, Malian forces had struggled to drive back the rebels and officers had complained that the army needed more equipment to fight.
Capt. Amadou Sanogo has asked for foreign help to fight the rebels but has been condemned over the coup.
Members of the military leadership are in neighboring Burkina Faso for talks with President Blaise Compaore, who is mediating in the crisis.
Separatist rebels seeking to carve out a desert homeland began a rebellion in the West African state in January.
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) want an independent north while a smaller, Islamist group called the Ansar Edine wants to impose Sharia law.
Azawad is the Tuareg name for their home region in the Sahara Desert.
The Tuaregs have launched several rebellions over the years, complaining that the government in Bamako ignores them.
The conflict has been fuelled by the return of Tuareg fighters from Libya last year after fighting for the late Muammar Gaddafi or his opponents.
It appears these fighters are heavily armed with looted weapons.
Analysts say the rebels have taken advantage of Mali’s military coup to move swiftly across the north.