nehst_logo Running the Sahara

The expedition began on November 2, 2006, in St. Louis, Senegal, which was the first French colonized city in Africa. The route to the next destination of Nema, Mauritania, is approximately 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) and encompasses everything from track, to sandy roads, pavement, and trail.

From Nema, the expedition carried on to Tombouctou, Mali, covering 300 miles (500 kilometers) of remote desert roads and track. Commonly known as "Timbuktu," it is well off the beaten track, yet still holds an appeal to Westerners, capturing the imagination of travelers and adventurers for generations. Founded over 800 years ago by the Tuareg desert peoples, no other city remains as synonymous with the fabulous, the lonely, and the remote.

The journey continued over 650 miles (1,100 kilometers) off-piste to Agadez, Niger, over remote desert and sand dunes of the Western Sahara. Notorious for its extreme heat and remoteness, expert Tuareg guides helped navigate this portion of the desert, along with support from camels and four wheel drive vehicles. An estimated two million nomads live in this desolate region, of whom about half are Arab and the balance are descended from pre-Arab inhabitants (the Berbers, Tuareg, Toubou, and Fulani.) Agadez is the center of the Sahara, a town of mostly Muslim population, landmarked by a tall Mosque.

The historical salt route from Agadez to Bilma, Niger, is 350 miles (550 kilometers) and took the expedition through the Tenere region, full of changing terrain and intense heat. From desert and sand dunes to mountains, it follows camel tracks, gravel roads, and nomad markings eastward in 130-degree-Fahrenheit temperatures, passing the famed "Arbre de Tenere," a monument for the last standing tree that once stood in Tenere. The expedition passed through Bilma, a small oasis town on the northeast side of Niger.

Heading northeast towards Al Katrun, a military outpost on the Libyan border usually requires a guide to assist in navigating the land mines. The 450-mile (750-kilometer) route to Al Katrun, a combination of track, trail, and old road, winds through a wide expanse of desert and mountains.

The expedition then passed through mountains to Sebha, Libya, over 150 miles (250 kilometers) of track and roads. From Sebha, one can get across the Ramlat Dawada area, with eleven multicolored lakes surrounded by red sand. Sebha's own main attraction is its connection to Gadhafi, being the birthplace of his political awakening.

Ajdabiya, Libya, was the next stop along the route, approximately 450 miles (750 kilometers) from Sebha, the junction of two important routes: the coastal route from Tunisia to Egypt, and the desert caravan route from the oases of Jaly and al-Ujlah. There are mostly track desert roads leading to this beautiful city, which was greatly developed during the Fatimid period.

From Ajdabiya, the route continued 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) to Tobruk, Libya—the center of many important battles in the Second World War. Captured by British and Australian forces in 1941, it was taken by Axis forces in 1942, and was then recaptured on November 11 and remained in Allied hands thereafter.

Cairo, Egypt, is 500 miles (800 kilometers) from Tobruk and is steeped in history. The path there follows ancient trade routes, passing Alexandria and the Qait Bey Fort—one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Cairo, Egypt's capital city, has many cultural sites to explore: the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, the Citadel (which contains the Mohammed Ali Mosque), and the Pyramids of Giza.

The expedition ended on February 20, 2007, at the Red Sea, just below the Suez Canal, 120 miles (200 kilometers) from Cairo. The Suez Canal revolutionized the trade route from Europe to Asia and has survived three wars, having been dug and re-dug countless times by many rulers and kings.

Logo: H2O Africa Foundation
The charitable component of Running the Sahara: a clean water initiative supporting the water crisis in Africa.
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