Desert: It is an arid region characterized by extremely high or low temperatures and has scare vegetation. Depending on the temperatures, there can be hot deserts or cold deserts.
The Hot Desert – Sahara:
- It has an area of around 8.54 million sq. km
- The Sahara desert touches eleven countries. These are Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Sudan, Tunisia and W. Sahara.
- It is scorching hot and parch dry.
- It has a short rainy season.
- The temperatures during the day may soar as high as 50o C and the nights may be freezing cold with temperature nearing zero degrees.
Flora and Fauna:
- Vegetation in the Sahara desert includes cactus, date palms and acacia.
- Camels, hyenas, jackals, foxes, scorpions, many varieties of snakes and lizards are the prominent animal species living here.
- Bedouins and Tuaregs are the nomadic tribes rearing livestock such as goats, sheep, camels and horses.
- The Oasis in the Sahara and the Nile valley in Egypt supports settled population.
- Crops such as rice, wheat, barley and beans are also grown.
- Egyptian cotton, famous worldwide is grown in Egypt.
- The discovery of oil in Algeria, Libya and Egypt is constantly transforming the Sahara desert.
- Other minerals found here are iron, phosphorous, manganese and uranium.
The cold desert – Ladakh:
- Ladakh is a cold desert lying in the Great Himalayas on the eastern side of Jammu and Kashmir.
- The Karakoram range in the north and the Zaskar mountains in the south enclose it.
- Indus is the most important river which flows through Ladakh.
- The dry temperatures in summer are just above zero degree and the night temperatures well below -30O
- It is freezing cold in the winters when the temperatures may remain below -40O C for most of the time.
- Ladakh is also known as Khapa-chan which means snow land.
Flora and Fauna:
- Due to high aridity, the vegetation is sparse.
- Groves of willows and poplars are seen in the valleys.
- During the summers, fruit trees such as apples, apricots and walnuts bloom.
- Several species of birds are sighted in Ladakh. Robins, redstarts, Tibetan snowcock, raven and hoopoe are common.
- The animals of ladakh are wild goats, wild sheep, yak and special kinds of dogs.
- The Chiru or the Tibetan antelope is an endangered species. It is hunted for its wool known as Shahtoosh, which is light in weight and extremely warm.
- The people here are either Muslims or Buddhists.
- Some famous monasteries are Hemis, Thiskey, Shey and Lamayuru.
- In the summer season, the people are busy cultivating barley, potatoes, peas, beans and turnip.
- The national highway 1A connects Leh to Kashmir valley through the Zoji la pass.
- Manali – Leh highway crosses four passes, Rohtang la, Baralacha la, Lungalacha la and Tanglang la. The highway opens only between July and September when snow is cleared from roads.