A few weeks ago Armadilo wrote on another thread: "I remember with certain nostalgia when in this forum we mostly talked about
"wind sand and stars ..." routes and interesting details of the great books Sahara Overland and Mauritania avec 2cv"
I've dwelt on the comment. It is no doubt true that overlanding in the Sahara is at its most difficult now since the troubles of the 1990s.
But where in the deep Sahara is it possible to travel at the moment?
Most would agree that Libya, Niger and northern Mali are clearly difficult and basically no-go areas for western overlanders.
Algeria, in places (e.g. west of the Trans-Sahara highway) is secure, although seeing other vehicles in the distance on piste will no doubt stop the heart. And seeing vehicles driving into camp at night would be even worse.
Egypt, esp the Gilf, assuming Egypt holds steady for the moment, would seem to be the preferred place. There is a hint of relaxation of the escort rules. But I do worry about what might be near the Libyan border though.
In June I spent some time flying at low level (200 feet above ground) over Mauritania and Mali. The aircraft covered a lot of ground at low level and the birds-eye view provided a perspective on the desert that I have not had before. An hour long stint at low level would be equal to three or four days of driving - maybe more when corridors of sand dunes crossed the flight path. As a result, it became possible to work out where in the desert a quiet overlanding trip could happen.
Parts of northern Mauritania are just completely empty. On one of the last flights we flew at low level from 26N to 22 N along 9 W and then back again, slightly further to the west. Except for one set of vehicle tracks we saw nothing but desert the whole way.
A few degrees further east and there were hundreds of vehicle tracks, several individual tented camps, a large semi-permanent camp, lots of grass, camel herders and some groups of 100 or so camels. The striking thing was how different this all was from the empty transect along 9W. The trick would be finding one's way to the empty bits with permission from the military and without being spotted going in.