National Geographic

The Unseen Side Of Sahara

95 percent of Libya is desert. The southwestern region, called Fezzan, is the heart of the Sahara and almost entirely inhospitable. Although ancient tribes inhabited this area, especially during more lush seasons, the harsh winds, oppressive sunlight and freezing nights make it no place for the faint of heart. In the October issue of National Geographic magazine, photographer George Steinmetz used an ultralight paraglider to show this region of the Sahara as it's never been seen before.

  • Waw an Namus is a volcanic field in the southern area of Libya, in the heart of the Sahara. Water from rains that fell millennia ago pools in the crater. Winds carried black ash from the last eruption 12 miles out across the desert.
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    Waw an Namus is a volcanic field in the southern area of Libya, in the heart of the Sahara. Water from rains that fell millennia ago pools in the crater. Winds carried black ash from the last eruption 12 miles out across the desert.
    Photos by George Steinmetz/National Geographic
  • Pushed to and fro by alternating winds, the dune waves in some places of the Sahara resemble water, hence the name Murzuq Sand Sea.
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    Pushed to and fro by alternating winds, the dune waves in some places of the Sahara resemble water, hence the name Murzuq Sand Sea.
  • These rock formations in the Akakus Mountains were carved only by sand and strong winds. A drying climate forced ancient people to retreat.
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    These rock formations in the Akakus Mountains were carved only by sand and strong winds. A drying climate forced ancient people to retreat.
  • There's still some water in the Sahara. Date palms and reeds line the shore of Umm al Maa, one of about a dozen salty pools in the Ubari Sand Sea — mere reminders of the ancient Lake Megafezzan.
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    There's still some water in the Sahara. Date palms and reeds line the shore of Umm al Maa, one of about a dozen salty pools in the Ubari Sand Sea — mere reminders of the ancient Lake Megafezzan.
  • Carefully chosen light and dark stones mark the isolated grave of a herder who died between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago. As rainfall dwindled, Fezzan's inhabitants congregated around scattered oases.
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    Carefully chosen light and dark stones mark the isolated grave of a herder who died between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago. As rainfall dwindled, Fezzan's inhabitants congregated around scattered oases.

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