The Sahara is the biggest desert in the world. It covers nearly a fourth of the whole African continent. It extends into 12 countries and stretches 3,500 miles (5,600 km) from east to west and 1,063 miles (1,700 km) north to south. Sahara is from the Arabic word meaning desert. This desert stretches from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, and it is larger than the Mediterranean Sea. Its very low rainfall does not encourage the growth of plants, although there are a few. Some animals also live in the desert, although they are primarily small nocturnal ones, and number of reptiles. The fruit of the date palm, which can ordinarily be found in and around oases, provides a little food for the people who make the desert their home.