Hard desert meets soft desert.
The Sahara is another of those magical words (like Marrakesh! ) that triggers a desire to be there in all its sandy majesty, alone in the great nowhere, living the dream, perhaps on a camel or perhaps on wheels.
But for normal mortals the camel experience will mean traveling with either a guide or a tour group, and may not last very long. Driving a hire car on the other hand is the accepted way to see the desert under your own steam.
The first is doing it in your own regular car, or a hired, regular non-4WD vehicle. This will limit you to driving along the edge of the Sahara (as seen in the photo above) and requires a little care, mostly to avoid chipping the paintwork with flying gravel. A car with a bit of ground clearance is useful, but again, not essential.
However, driving into the serious sand is a different matter altogether and will require not only a desert-prepared 4WD vehicle but some experience in sand driving too, so it’s not to be taken lightly. Equipment preparation is vital, with large quantities of water being the number one essential, closely followed by sand ladders/mats to help you out of sand drifts and perhaps a satellite phone to summon assistance. Needless to say this is also costly and time-consuming so most amateurs either stick to driving along the desert boundary or hire a professional driver with desert-prepared jeep.