The Namib is a coastal desert in southern Africa.
The Namib occupies an area of around 80,950 square kilometers (31,200 square miles).
From the Atlantic coast eastward, the Namib gradually ascends in elevation, reaching up to 200 kilometres (120 mi) inland to the foot of the Great Escarpment (a major topographical feature in Africa).
The Namib is the oldest desert in the world, having endured arid or semi-arid conditions for an estimated 55 to 80 million years.
This desert contains some of the world’s driest regions, with only western South America’s Atacama Desert to challenge it for age and aridity benchmarks.
Annual precipitation ranges from 2 millimetres (0.079 in) in the most arid regions to 200 millimetres (7.9 in) at the escarpment, making the Namib the only true desert in southern Africa.
The desert geology consists of sand seas near the coast, while gravel plains and scattered mountain outcrops occur further inland.
The sand dunes, some of which are 300 metres (980 ft) high and span 32 kilometres (20 mi) long, are the second largest in the world after the Badain Jaran Desert dunes in China.
The Namib is divided into three successive north–south-trending strips: the very narrow coastal region along the Atlantic, strongly subject to marine influences – the Outer Namib, occupying the rest of the western half of the desert – and the Inner Namib, constituting the eastern portion. The boundaries between them consist of broad transition zones.
Temperatures along the coast are stable and generally range between 9-20 °C (48-68 °F) annually, while temperatures further inland are variable—summer daytime temperatures can exceed 45 °C (113 °F) while nights can be freezing.
Fogs that originate offshore from the collision of the cold Benguela Current and warm air from the Hadley Cell create a fog belt that frequently envelops parts of the desert. Coastal regions can experience more than 180 days of thick fog a year.
Owing to its antiquity, the Namib may be home to more endemic species than any other desert in the world.
The Namib is home to a variety of animal species. The plains and the dunes of the Inner Namib support large numbers of several varieties of antelope, especially gemsbok (oryx) and springbok, as well as ostriches and some zebras. Elephants, rhinoceroses, lions, hyenas, and jackals are found in the northern Namib, especially along the rivers that flow from the interior highlands to the Atlantic. The dunes of the Outer Namib provide habitats for various types of insects and reptiles, especially beetles, geckos, and snakes.
The Namib Desert is also home to a number of unusual species of plants and animals that are found nowhere else in the world. One of these is Welwitschia mirabilis, a shrub-like plant that grows just two long leaves continuously throughout its lifetime. These leaves may grow to be several meters long and over time become gnarled and twisted from the desert winds. They are the longest-lived leaves of any member of the plant kingdom. It is estimated that the largest of these plants are about 2,500 years old.
Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan surrounded by high red dunes. It is located in the southern part of the Namib Desert in the Namib-Naukluft National Park of Namibia. The name “Sossusvlei” is of mixed origin and roughly means “dead-end marsh”. Vlei is the Afrikaans word for “marsh”, while “sossus” is Nama for “no return” or “dead end”. Sossusvlei owes this name to the fact that it is an endorheic drainage basin (i.e., a drainage basin without outflows) for the ephemeral Tsauchab River.
The Namib is almost totally uninhabited, except for a small number of scattered towns.
It is important because of the trade routes that cross it, its mineral deposits, the fisheries of the bordering sea, and its increasing utilization for recreational purposes.
The Namib Desert is one of the 500 distinct physiographic provinces of the South African Platform physiographic division.
The name “Namib” is from a word in the Nama language that means “vast place.”
Country Namibia is named after this desert.
The large, arid Namib Desert has resulted in Namibia being the second least densely populated country in the world, after Mongolia.
In 2019 the Namibian-German artist Max Siedentopf created an installation in the Namib consisting of a ring of large white blocks atop of which sit six speakers attached to a solar-powered MP3 player configured to continuously play the 1982 song “Africa” by the American band Toto. The exact location of the installation has not been disclosed.