Part of the Arabian Desert, the Rub al-Khali, meaning ‘empty quarter’ in Arabic, is the largest region of continuous sand in the world, and the driest. It lies in a structural basin and stretches across an area of roughly 250,000 square miles (650,000 square kilometers.) Rub al-Khali lies mainly in
4. Historical Role
There are raised and hardened areas comprising calcium carbonate, gypsum and clay that were shallow lakes 6,000 to 2,000 years ago. Fossil remains represent various fauna and flora at the site of the dried-up lakes. Chipped flint tools reveal human activity in the vicinity 3,000 to 2,000 years ago. Before desertification made regular navigation virtually impossible, trade caravans carried frankincense across Rub al-Khali until about 300 AD. It is also thought that a city called Ubam, or Iram, which once existed in the desert, depended on the trade. Camel tracks appear in satellite images, which are unidentifiable on the ground. The first journeys across Rub al-Khali by visitors were made by British explorers Bertram Thomas and St. John Philby in 1931 and 1932, respectively.
3. Modern Significance
Rub al-Khali has vast reserves of oil and natural gas beneath its sands. Al-Ghawar is the largest oil field in the world and was discovered in 1948 in the northeastern part of the sane sea. It stretches on a roughly north-south axis for 160 miles (260 kilometers) and contains billion and billions of barrels of oil. Another significant reservoir is Al-Shayba in the southeast near the United Arab Emirates and
2. Habitat and Biodiversity
The Empty Quarter inherently has the same type of hot desert climate typical of most of the
1. Environmental Threats and Territorial Disputes
In modern times, the primary geopolitical and socioeconomic disputes that arise in the Rub al-Khali are related to disagreements between governments and business from both Arabian nations and afar over the exploration and extraction rights of natural resources, particularly petrochemicals and water, in the region. In terms of environmental concerns, the Asiatic cheetahs were once widespread throughout the
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