- Flora and Fauna
- People, Language and Cultures
- Natural Resources
- Conservation and Threats
Located in southwestern Asia, the Arabian Desert covers a large part of the Arabian Peninsula. Islam originated here, in the largest country of the region – the modern day Saudi Arabia. Other countries that form part of the Arabian Desert region include Bahrain, Jordan, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The Arabian Desert sits atop a large oil deposit, making some of these countries major contributors to the global oil supply.
The desert is the primary geographical feature of the Arabian Peninsula. Parts of the desert receive enough rainfall for plants, shrubs and grasses to grow, but most of it remains hot and dry throughout the year. About a third of the desert features predominantly sandy terrain. Bare rock is the primary feature of other parts of this desert. Hills and mountains are also found in some locations within the desert.
Near and beneath the Arabian Gulf rests around half of the world’s supply of crude oil (also known as petroleum). Oil is a vital part of the economies of the countries that control access to this resource.
- Geography of the Arabian Desert: Britannica provides an in-depth overview of the Arabian Desert.
- Geography of the Arabian Peninsula: The Arabian Desert includes lava fields, plains, coasts, mountains and other geographical features.
- Arabian Peninsula: The Arabian Peninsula is surrounded by three separate bodies of water: the Arabian Sea, the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea.
- Arabian Peninsula: Oman and the United Arab Emirates: There are many habitats in the ecoregion of the Arabian Peninsula, including acacia savannah plains, coastal mangroves and high mountains. These habitats are home to many species and form important stopover points for migrating birds.
Arabian Desert Climate
Most of the Arabian Desert is north of the Tropic of Cancer; however, it is still typically classified as a tropical desert. During the summer, temperatures can reach up to 55 degrees Celsius. Away from the Arabian Gulf, in the desert’s interior, the weather is hot and arid. Areas near the gulf have high humidity during summer.
Typically, the desert only receives about four inches of rain per year, but annual rainfall amounts can range from no measurable rainfall at all to 20 inches. The sky is usually very clear. During the winter, the temperature drops significantly. The driest part of the desert is near Rub’ al-Khali.
- Arabia Was Once a Lush Paradise of Grass and Woodlands: Although today, much of the Arabian Peninsula is a desert, it once boasted a rich, temperate climate that made it habitable for early African migrants.
- Desert Climate: One aspect of the desert’s climate is the shamals, which are windy seasons that happen twice a year. Each lasts for around 40 days. The wind can go up to 30 miles per hour and cause massive sandstorms that alter the sand dunes.
- The Indian Summer Monsoon Keeps the Arabian Peninsula Hot and Dry: The Arabian Desert is so hot and dry in part because of how the Indian summer monsoon season affects regional weather patterns.
FLORA AND FAUNA
Most plants in the desert are xerophytic (plants that survive with limited water) or (halophytic plants that tolerate salt well). When rain falls in the spring, buried seeds bloom quickly. The gravel plains are green for a short period, but they are now too barren to support the horses named for the region.
In fact, Arabian horses are partly to blame for the condition of the terrain: Overgrazing led to large, barren tracts of desert. Camels can thrive here though, easily eating the halophytic plants growing in the region. Tamarisk trees that help prevent sand from moving into oases are also common in the region.
- Flora of the Arabian Peninsula: The Arabian Desert is home to a rich variety of plant life and this guide shows many of the things that grow in the region.
- Flowers in the Sand: The vegetation in the desert is important not only to the larger ecosystem but to the people who live there as well.
- Arabian Desert Plants: The third-largest desert in the world has roses, dates and juniper palms as part of its vegetation.
Many mammals, insects and reptiles live in the desert. Mantids are predatory insects that can camouflage themselves as pebbles, twigs or leaves before they attack. Other insects include fleas, beetles, ants and flies. Many scorpion species live here as well. Snakes, including the sand cobra, also make their home in the sand. Various migratory birds use the desert as a stopover in their travels. Gazelles, oryx and ibex are some of the mammals inhabiting the Arabian Desert.
- Middle Eastern Desert Animals: Deserts don’t have the same biodiversity as other habitats, but many types of mammals and reptiles live in the Arabian Desert.
- Wildlife in the Arabian Desert: The United Arab Emirates is known for its falconry, so much so that UNESCO placed falconry on its Representative List of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2012.
- Arabian Oryx: The oryx is hunted by humans and jackals and can live up to 20 years in captivity.
People, Language and Cultures
The earliest humans in the Arabian Desert lived around 2.6 million years ago. There are rich archeological sites throughout the region, with many of them located near Rub’ al-Khali. The Saudi government has sponsored archeological digs that have revealed Paleolithic relics. The predominant language is Arabic. Islam is the most common religion in the region.
- Culture, Traditions, and Art: The Islamic religion has played a major part in shaping the culture and art of the region.
- The Nomadic Tribes of Arabia: The Bedouins predated the introduction of Islam into the Arabian Desert and they are one of the tribes still living in the area.
- In the Footsteps of the Bedouins: The Bedouins are known for their hospitable nature, resourcefulness and long history in the desert.
- Culture and Art: Saudi Arabia: As far back as 3000 B.C.E., the region was involved in trade with other areas and those influences helped shape the local culture.
- Arabian Peninsula, 8000-2000 B.C.E.: The Met discusses the ancient history and art of the Arabian Peninsula.
From historic hamlets to Dubai, one of the most modern cities in the world, the Arabian Peninsula is home to a wide range of settlements. Home to the world’s tallest skyscraper, Dubai is a bustling
coastal city, as are Abu Dhabi, Kuwait City and other major metropolitan areas in the region.
Large cities have also been built in the middle of the Arabian Desert, such as Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Due to concerns about conservation and climate, more cities in the region are being planned to be sustainable and powered by clean energy.
- The Top Ten Cities to Visit in the Arabian Peninsula: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Jeddah are some of the top cities tourists enjoy visiting in this region.
- Dubai Travel Guide: Dubai is one of the top travel destinations in the world.
- In the Arabian Desert, a Sustainable City Rises: Sustainability is of increased importance in a desert and the city of Masdar was planned to be one of the most sustainable cities humans have ever constructed.
- Saudi Arabia Building 100-Mile-Long “Linear” City: Saudi Arabia is constructing a string of connected communities that stretch from the Red Sea to the northwest edge of the nation. The city is going to be powered by clean energy.
Oil and natural gas are the main exports of the Arabian Peninsula. Both are found in abundant supply across the region. The abundance of these resources led to the formation of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which coordinates petroleum pricing and controls the world’s largest supply of oil. The wealth derived from oil also funds the governments and royal families of the region.
- What Role Have Natural Resources Played in the Politics and Economy of the Middle East? The rich natural resources of the Middle East have played an important part in the region’s development.
- Arabs, Islam, and Oil: Oil and the Islamic religion have both played vital roles in the creation and development of the culture of the region.
- The Natural Environment: The ecosystems, natural resources and climate of the region are all interdependent.
- Saudi Arabia’s Oil Reserves: For more than 50 years, experts have tried to gauge how much oil lies under the Arabian Desert. The answer is of extreme importance to the global economy.
Conservation and Threats
The Arabian Desert faces many ecological threats, including global warming, rising temperatures and dwindling rainfall. Other issues of concern include overgrazing by livestock and wild animals, poaching and off-road driving. Many animals that live here, including the Arabian oryx and sand gazelle are considered threatened.
- Water in Crisis: The Middle East: Running out of water is a real threat in some parts of the desert.
- Water Resources: Where water falls and how it travels over and through the ground is vital knowledge for those who live in the desert.
- An Overview of Wetlands of Saudi Arabia: Values, Threats, and Perspectives: Saudi Arabia’s wetlands are highly susceptible to global warming.
- Human Responses to Climate and Ecosystem Change in Ancient Arabia: Humans have had to cope with changing climate patterns throughout history.
The Arabian desert is a true marvel, from its geography to its wildlife, from its cultural heritage to its futuristic cities. So if you’re planning on visiting, Bayut is provides accommodations throughout the UAE, including Dubai & Abu Dhabi – which, as we’ve covered in the “Settlements” chapter: are among the most sought-after destinations in the region!