The Namib Desert is a desert in Namibia and southwest Angola which forms part of the Namib-Naukluft National Park. The name "Namib" is of Nama origin. The desert occupies an area of around 80 900 km² (31 200 square miles), stretching about 1000 miles (1,600 km) along the Atlantic Ocean coast of Namibia. Its east-west width varies from 30 to 100 miles (50-160 km).
The Namib Desert also reaches into southwest Angola. It is one of the 500 distinct physiographic provinces of the South African Platform physiographic division. Having endured arid or semi-arid conditions for at least 55 million years, it is considered to be the oldest desert in the world after the Atacama Desert in Chile. The Namib's aridity is caused by the descent of dry air of the Hadley Cell, cooled by the cold Benguela current along the coast. It has less than 10 mm (0.4 inches) of rain annually and is almost completely barren.
Although the desert is largely unpopulated and inaccessible, there are year-round settlements at Sesriem, close to the famous Sossusvlei and a huge group of sand dunes, which at more than 300 meters high are among the tallest sand dunes in the world.
The Namib desert is an important location for the mining of tungsten, salt and diamonds. Access is by light aircraft from Windhoek (the capital of Namibia, about 480 km north-east of the centre of the desert), Swakopmund and Walvis Bay at the north end of the desert, or overland on gravel roads.
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