The Sahara Desert (Tunisia 2008)

The Sahara Desert is a great desert area in North Africa that extends from the Atlantic Ocean eastward past the Red Sea to Iraq. The entire desert, the largest in the world, is about 1600 km wide and about 5000 km long from east to west. The true Sahara begins to the south-west of the Salt lakes.  These great dunes are known as the Grand Erg Oriental and they are most certainly spectacular.  The Erg is a classic desert with rolling dunes, suitable only for Camels and four-wheel drive vehicles.

f/5.6; EP 1/400; ISO-64; Focal Length 27mm; Pattern metering; No Flash. The breeze had already begun to blow the sand and rub the prints out.

Tunisia’s terrain consists of mountains in north; a hot, dry central plain; and a semi-arid south which merges into the Sahara desert.  The central plateau region of the Sahara Desert runs for about 1600 km, about 1000 miles in a Northwest to Southeast direction.  The plateau itself varies in height, from about 600 to 750 m (about 1900 to 2500 ft).  Peaks in the several mountain ranges that rise from the plateau are from about 1800, to more than 3400 m (about 6000 to more than 11,200 ft) high.

Horrid, smelly creatures.

f/5; EP 1/400; ISO-64; Focal Length 9mm; Pattern metering; No Flash. I found the colour contrast between the desert dunes and the camels very striking.

Tourism is recovering after the end of combat operations in Iraq.  Tunisia is gradually removing barriers to trade with the European Union.  Broader privatization, further liberalization of the investment code to increase foreign investment, improvements in government efficiency, and reduction of the trade deficit are among the challenges ahead.

The chap driving my little pony and trap (I was 12 weeks pregnant so didn't want to risk a camel). This was taken on our photo stop.

f/5.6; EP 1/400; ISO-64; Focal Length 47mm; Pattern metering; No Flash. I probably shouldn't have but the artistic streak in me couldn't resist it. He really gave the image a sense of perspective and direction.

Following independence from France in 1956, President Habib Bourguiba established a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation; 98% of the present population are Islamic Arabs.  In recent years, Tunisia has taken a moderate, non-aligned stance in its foreign relations. Domestically, it has sought to defuse rising pressure for a more open political society.

f/7.1; EP 1/680; ISO-64; Focal Length 5mm; Pattern metering; No Flash. The sun was beginning to set and we were on our way back to the bus when I spotted this view. I had to get a shot of this. I took a view on high speed continuous mode but this was the best by a long shot.

The limits of the Sahara Desert are the Atlantic Ocean on the west, the Atlas Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea in the North, the Red Sea and Egypt in the east, and the Sudan and the valley of the Niger River in the south.  The total domain of the Sahara Desert is more than 9,000,000 sq. km, more than 3,500,000 square miles, of which 80,000 square miles consist of partially fertile oases.  The boundaries, however, are not clearly defined, and have been shifting for a thousand years.

Tunisia 2008

f/5.6; EP 1/420; ISO-64; Focal Length 75mm; Pattern metering; No Flash

From alpine vistas to the desert Erg, it seems almost improbable that one little nation could have so much charm. And yet at the same time as this is true, Tunisia is also religiously tolerant, gender liberal, wealthy and politically stable. Bathed in the pure light and colour of the Mediterranean sunshine, and tilted eastward towards Sicily and the Greek islands, Tunisia is the charmed child of an enchanted family.


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