Libyan Desert, desert, northeastern Africa, northeastern section of the Sahara, in eastern Libya, western Egypt, and northwestern Sudan. In Egypt, it is also known as the Western Desert. The arid region of sand dunes and stony plateaus rises to 1907 m (6256 ft) at the point where the borders of Libya, Egypt, and Sudan meet. Western Sahara, region in northwestern Africa. Formerly known as Spanish Sahara, it was an overseas province of Spain from 1958 until 1976, when it was partitioned between Mauritania and Morocco. Since 1979, it has been occupied entirely by Morocco. Western Sahara encompasses about 267,000 sq km (about 103,000 sq mi); it is bounded on the north by Morocco, on the northeast by Algeria, on the east and south by Mauritania, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean.
With a hot, arid climate, and composed mostly of rocky and sandy soils, the region is not suitable for sedentary agriculture, but some sheep, goats, and camels are raised by nomadic herders. The territory has rich deposits of phosphates, notably at Bu Craa; exploitation of the deposits began in the early 1970s. The population (1993 estimate) of the region is about 206,629, mostly Berbers and Arabs. The main towns are El Aaiún, or Laayoune, which was formerly the capital of Spanish Sahara, and Ad Dakhla, which was formerly Villa Cisneros.
Portuguese navigators visited the area near modern El Aaiún in 1434 but did not establish lasting settlements. Spain held the region from 1509 to 1524, when it was taken by Morocco, which thereafter ruled it for more than three centuries. In 1884 Spain established a protectorate over the coast from Cape Bojador to Cape Blanc; Franco-Spanish agreements in 1900, 1904, and 1920 extended the limits of the protectorate. Spain divided its possession into two separately administered districts, Río de Oro in the south and Saguia el Hamra in the north. The two were amalgamated in 1958 when the overseas province of Spanish Sahara was established.
In the early 1970s nationalists in Spanish Sahara sought independence for the territory, while Algeria, Mauritania, and Morocco laid claims to the area. In late 1975, as Morocco prepared to launch a massive nonviolent invasion of Spanish Sahara, Spain agreed to relinquish the area to Mauritania and Morocco. The Spaniards departed in February 1976; two-thirds of the territory was then occupied by Morocco and the rest by Mauritania. Algeria protested the partition and supported the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Río de Oro (Polisario Front), a nationalist group seeking to transform the former Spanish Sahara into an independent country. The Polisario staged several guerrilla raids into Mauritania and Morocco during 1976-1978. When Mauritania surrendered its portion and made peace with the Polisario in 1979, Morocco laid claim to all of Western Sahara and continued the war alone. The Polisario-backed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic received the recognition of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in February 1982, when it was admitted as a member. Between 1980 and 1987, as the war continued, Morocco constructed a wall of sand and rock 3 m (9 ft) high and almost 3200 km (2000 mi) long around Western Sahara that successfully limited Polisario's capability of attacking from Mauritania and southern Algeria.
Under a United Nations-sponsored peace plan, a truce took effect in Western Sahara in September 1991, and a referendum on self-determination was planned to follow. However, this referendum has been postponed repeatedly due to disagreements over the number of Western Saharan eligible voters.
Oases in the desert include Al Kufrah and Al Jaghbub, in Libya, and Siwa and Ba?rîyah, in Egypt. Major deposits of petroleum and natural gas underlie the northern edge of the desert, in Libya.
Nubian Desert, region in northeastern Sudan, bounded by the Nile River valley on the west and the Red Sea Hills on the east. Primarily a rocky sandstone plateau, the Nubian Desert is a poor, remote part of the Sahara. Although scattered towns and villages exist along the Nile, life in the desert's interior is precarious and generally limited to areas close to the desert's seasonal watercourses, or wadis. The climate is hot and dry with a brief rainy season during July and August. Rainfall is scanty and averages less than 15 mm (less than 0.6 in) annually in the northern town of Wâdî?alfâ’ on Lake Sudan (called Lake Nasser in Egypt) and no more than 40 mm (1.6 in) per year in the south near the town of ‘Atbarah. The average daily temperature in June, the hottest month, is about 45° C (about 110° F).
Economic activities in the Nubian Desert are restricted to subsistence agriculture and raising produce for sale at local markets. Farmers grow date palm and fruit trees, grains, and vegetables along the Nile and wherever else the desert's limited surface and groundwater resources will allow. Livestock, particularly goats, a...