The Sahara Desert is the third largest desert in the world after Antarctica and the Arctic; however, it has the distinction of being the largest hot desert in the world where rainfall is scanty and snowfall is almost non-existent, last experienced about forty years ago.
Geographically, the Sahara extends all the way from the Red Sea in the east of the African continent to the Mediterranean up north and stretches right up to the Atlantic Ocean in the west.
The vast area of nine million two hundred thousand square kilometres that Sahara covers includes large parts of countries like Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan, and Tunisia.
In this inhospitable and unforgiving land, temperatures can soar up to over 120 degrees F in the hottest months and drop by as much as 50 degrees in the night. The average annual temperature is, however, 86 degrees F.
The Saharan topography is constantly changing largely because of the wind factor and to a much lesser extent due to the scanty rain the desert receives in certain parts.
However, snowfall is rarely heard of in the Sahara Desert and when it did happen in the small town of Ain Sefra, Algeria, on December 19, this year, the metamorphosis to the landscape was nothing short of spectacular as is evident from the pictures taken by an amateur photographer, Karim Bouchetata.
“Everyone was stunned to see snow falling in the desert; it is such a rare occurrence,” Bouchetata said.
“It looked amazing as the snow settled on the sand and made a great set of photos. The snow stayed for about a day and has now melted away.”
It is only the second time, in living memory that snow has fallen in one of the world’s most hostile and unforgiving regions of the earth.
While snowfall is a relatively more common occurrence on the Saharan mountain ranges it is almost non-existent or extremely rare on the sand dunes.