Qattara Depression

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Coordinates: 30°0′N 27°30′E / 30°N 27.5°E / 30; 27.5

The Qattara Depression (Arabic: منخفض القطارةMunḫafaḍ al-Qaṭṭārah) is a desert basin within the Libyan Desert of northwestern Egypt in the Matruh Governorate. The Depression, at 133 m below sea level, contains the second lowest point in Africa (The lowest being Lake Assal in Djibouti). The Depression covers about 19,500 km² (7,000 square miles), a size comparable to Lake Erie, and at its maximum is 220 km in length and 120 km in width. The bottom of the depression consists of a salt pan.

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Qattara Depression

Within the Depression there are saline marshes under the northwestern and northern escarpment edges, and extensive dry lakes (dry lake beds) that flood occasionally. The major oasis in the depression, Moghra oasis, is uninhabited and has a 4 km² brackish lake, including a Phragmites swamp. Salt marshes also occur and occupy approximately 300 km², although wind blown sands are encroaching in some areas. About one-quarter (26 percent) of the 19,500 km² area is occupied by dry lakes composed of hard crust and sticky mud, and occasionally filled with water.

Groves of Acacia raddiana represent the only permanent vegetation, growing in shallow sandy depressions. The Acacia groves vary widely in biodiversity and rely on runoff from the rainfall and groundwater to survive.

The Depression is an important habitat for the cheetah, with the largest number of recent sightings being in areas in the northern, western and northwestern part of the Qattara Depression, including the highly isolated, wild oases of Ein EI Qattara and Ein EI Ghazzalat and numerous Acacia groves both inside and outside the depression.

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