The Sahel is a region defined as the stretch of land that separates the Savanna from the Sahara Desert in Africa. It includes countries of Senegal, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania. It is a mix of grasslands and thorn shrub-lands. Just like the plant life, the people that live in the Sahel are extremely diverse, with over 100 ethnic tribes living there today. The Sahel is truly an extraordinary place.
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The Sahel runs from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Horn of Africa. The term “Sahel” means “shore” in Arabic and refers to the diversity in the plant life from the wooded areas in the south to the gigantic desert known as the Sahara. The region has many advanced cities and kingdoms, and they rely mostly on the trade from across the Sahara. The Sahel is mostly flat, and the climate is hot and tropical. The maximum temperatures reach about 36°C, and the minimum is about 18°C. Most of the rain that falls in the Sahel comes between the months of May and September, after which follows a long dry season. There is little human presence in the dry areas, with about 1-5 persons per kilometer. Near the water areas, the population is greater, with around 50-100 persons per kilometer, but that is still a relatively low density. The geography of the the Sahel is not only varied, but fascinating.
There are many different ethnic groups in the Sahel region. Most of the peoples are involved with the agriculture, like the Wolof and Hausa and Mande. Others are nomadic like the Fulani and the Berbers. Islam is the religion of choice in much of the Sahel, but hundreds of smaller ethnic groups practice a wide variety of indigenous practices. Each ethnic group has unique rituals, and great care is put into the masks, drums, and wooden figures that are used in these amazing traditions. Some even use the five-string guitar. Most of the stories and tales that are passed down from generations come not from history books, but orally through spoken word. The stories are told to the children by the parents, and then the legacy of each group is passed on forever.
The colonization of the Sahel is also very intriguing. The Mali empire, which became rich from trading salt for gold, is a large part of the Sahel’s history. The empire became a huge power. By the 1200s, the Europeans had jumped in and started trading heavily with the people of Mali. As the Europeans saw the great amount of resources coming out of the Sahel, they decided to take control. By 1914, the Europeans ruled over all of the Sahel. The European’s colonization stirred up the Sahel in an unfortunate way, and many Africans struggled to get used to the dramatic change. Some Africans, on the other hand, benefited because of the educational opportunities.
The Sahel region has a very rich culture. In most households, the man is not the only one who supports the family. The men and the women work together to support the families. The languages that the people in the Sahel region are separated into three language groups: Nilo-Saharan, Congo-and the Afro-Asiatic. French is also a popular language.
The current state of some areas in the Sahel region is dire. For example, in Darfur there is evidence and accusations of genocide. The UN has made repeated attempts to try to step in, but so far have been unsuccessful in their goals. Climate change is also affecting the region, with major drought issues and extreme cases of deforestation and desertification. Thankfully, a lot of the land that is still intact has become protected to prevent further destruction. It is amazing that the people have still flourished in the S Kordofanian ahel, even when wars, climate problems, and social unrest are challenging their everyday lives.