Last Updated on June 14, 2022

The desert landscape can take on different aspects depending on the prevailing erosion and deposition processes. Rocky deserts, also called hamada, consist of vast expanses of rocks that the wind has stripped of all debris produced by meteoric degradation; pebbly deserts, called serir or reg, derive from ancient alluvial deposits from which the wind has removed the finer debris component. The name “hamada” (or “hammada”) comes from Arabic and means “rock”.

Hamada rocky desert near Taghit, Algeria


The hamada has higher temperature ranges than the other desert types, while common to all is the rapidity of the soil in changing from cold to hot as the sun appears and disappears.

Vegetation, except for the presence of oasis-generating surface water, consists mainly of shrubs, brushwood and thistles. The hamada is more suitable for the passage of mechanical means of transportation rather than that of animals.

The nature of the hamada leads it to be the least humid of the deserts, making it the most hostile to human life. The soil structure is permeable and water is quickly absorbed. The most common rocks in the hamada are limestone, sandstone, basalt and crystalline rocks (such as granite and gneiss).

Rocky Deserts of the World

The largest hamada is found in the western Sahara desert. It is the most widespread form of desert in the Sahara; in fact, it occupies about 70 percent of its area. One of the most important examples of hamada is the Tinrhert rocky plateau in Algeria. Other rocky deserts are present in the middle east, such as the Negev desert in Israel or parts of the Arabian desert in Qatar, as well as certain areas of the Lut desert in Iran.

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