(images via indiawaterportal, foreignpolicy.com, keyhole.com, and sharonchadha)
The desert is one of the best landscapes for finding ancient buildings. The arid climate lends itself to preservation, and there is little danger of serious decay or damage from flooding. At the same time, the sand is an ever-shifting geographic feature that can swallow whole towns both quickly (as in a violent sandstorm) or slowly (as it shifts over time). The elements of one of the world’s harshest climates can wreak havoc on anything man-made, even while providing the perfect climate for it to be preserved.
Mosque Minaret, Egypt
(image via monstersandcritics)
This 1100 year old mosque was discovered near the town of Al Burullus along Egypt’s Mediterranean coastline. Archaeologists discovered in only recently, and speculate that there could be an entire town buried beneath the sand. The minaret is believed to be 30 meters tall, but only the very tip is showing above the sand.
(image via penn state research)
The outpost of Arouane is located halfway between the legendary city of Timbuktu and the salt mines. Though the salt caravan’s travel infrequently these days, the town is still inhabited. However, the ever-shifting sands mean that the buildings are almost always partially buried.
(image via against time)
This ruined building in Ani, Turkey is part of the remnants of the country’s once strong Armenian population. Persecution and genocide caused many Armenians to move elsewhere (as far away as Los Angeles). Meanwhile, ruins like these dot the arid countryside.
American Ghost Towns
(image via snowfalcon)
The Berlin Ghost Town in Nevada is a reminder of the late 19th century gold rush. Located at the base of the Shoshone Mountains, the buildings were not covered by sand. Some still stand eerily intact amid the thriving desert shrubs. A mill and a hotel are the two largest remaining buildings in Berlin.
(image via sacred sites)
The pyramids at Meroe show the influence of the ancient Egyptian empire. A Nubian kingdom once had its capitol at Meroe. Pyramids and a city were built more than 2300 years ago. The city is now Sudan’s largest archaeological site, with the tombs almost completely unearthed but other parts of the city still hidden under the ever-shifting sands.
(image via thisfabtrek)
Telouet was inhabited until 50 years ago. Located high in the Atlas Mountains, it housed rulers who were loyal to the French colonial administration in Morocco. Because of this fact, and because slaves were used to serve the ruling family, little care has been taken to preserve these buildings which are being eroded by time and the harsh winds of the high desert.
(images via uiowa and sharon chadha)
The Sahel is the Sahara’s little sister. Located just below the Sahara, it is mostly characterized by semi-arid grasslands. Parts of the Sahel have fallen victim to desertification, with the sand from the Sahara literally blowing into the grasslands.
Namibian Ghost Town
(images via world of danescombe)
The town of Kolmanskop was built when diamond fever hit Namibia in the early 1900s. The town was quickly constructed a few miles inland from a major port. A mere 10 years after the first inhabitants moved in, people started leaving as diamond prices fell during World War I. By World War II, the town was completely deserted and the sand dunes started to reclaim the land.
(image via the purple journal)
Though sandstorms would probably never be fierce enough to swallow a huge city like Dubai, they can temporarily cause problems by creating low visibility and coating everything with a layer of dust.
(image via d3viant)
This church in northern Denmark was covered by a sand dune in the late 17oos. In its final days as a working church, parishioners actually had to dig their way in. The tower, the only part that is still visible, is in remarkably good shape and has become an easily recognizable landmark. This is also a good example of why shifting sands are not merely found in the desert.