Sand dunes of up to 250 feet can be found in the Arabian Desert.
Known as the Empty Quarter in the Arabian Peninsula, the Arabian Desert is a vast sea of sand covering much of the peninsula and stretching into the Persian Gulf states. Covering an area of approximately 900,000 square miles, the desert crosses the borders of eight nations. It features a number of opportunities for adventurous travelers to explore one of the world’s largest deserts and most remote regions, although access to the majestic desert in certain countries is restricted.
The Arabian Desert occupies much of southern Jordan, also known as the Wadi Araba and the Southern Desert. The desert features sand dunes, oases and weathered escapements, and is the home of the Bedouin. Visitors can ride through the Wadi Rum Protected Area by camel, visiting places of T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, or explore the Wadi Rum on a four-wheel drive excursion with local Bedouin drivers and camp in a tent in Diseh.
The main ecological feature of Southern Iraq is the Arabian Desert. Iraq’s southern desert is known as Al-Hajarah in the west of the vast region and Al-Dibdibah in the east. Al-Hajarah is a rocky desert with wadis, ridges and depressions, while Al-Dibdibah is a sandy desert with scrub vegetation. Elevations range between averages of 300 and 1,200 feet, with the highest point being the 3,119-foot Mount Unayzah, near Iraq’s borders with Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Kuwait’s main geological feature is the Arabian Desert, which occupies much of the country. Located on the Persian Gulf between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the country is largely a city-state with most activities centered in the capital city. With the exception of the Kazamah desert cliffs, much of Kuwait features uninhabited desert plains and oases.
Oman is home to the lost city of Ubar referenced in the Bible, Koran and “Arabian Nights.” Some of the highest elevations of the Arabian Desert are found in the southwest of the country, including the 8,464-foot Mount Al-Sham, and in the Yemen Plateau, which features elevations of above 7,000 feet. In Oman’s Sharqiya region is the Wahiba Sands, which can be explored on four-wheel drive vehicles with tour operators from Muscat, the Omani capital. Visitors to Wahiba can experience traditional Bedouin life and stay in a desert camp.
The Arabian Desert occupies most of Qatar, located on a small peninsula surrounded by the Persian Gulf. One of the deserts highlights in the country is Biz Zekreet, a limestone escarpment in the Arabian Desert surrounded by beaches. Few visitors to these beaches means travelers can quietly enjoy the Gulf’s shallow waters. Travelers can camp on the beach or near the escarpment under acacia trees. Visitors can also see camel races in Al-Shananiya west of Doha, Qatar’s capital city, from October to May.
In addition to being known as the Empty Quarter, the Arabian Desert is referred to the Rub al-Khali or the Abode of Silence in Saudi Arabia. Permission is needed from the Ministry of Interior to explore the desert by off-road vehicle, or authorized tours can be arranged from Jeddah. Visitors can view the desert’s towering dunes without a permit by driving between Najran to Sulayyil, but regular patrols prevent visitors from sneaking into the desert. Visitors with four-wheel drive vehicles can also see dunes up to several hundred kilometers long at the ‘Urq Bani Ma’arid Protected Area.
United Arab Emirates
Despite its location in the Arabian Desert, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E). has built modern cities such as Dubai and Adu Dhabi, thanks to the advent of air conditioning, desalination plants and modern transportation. Visitors to the U.A.E. can enjoy desert safaris, and go hiking and camping in the Hajar Mountains, the highest mountain range in the eastern Arabian Peninsula. Despite being in the Arabian Desert, the country’s largest city, Dubai, also features a beautiful coastline and beaches.
Yemen is located in the southwestern corner of the Arabian Desert. Much of the country’s interior and its border with Saudi Arabia and Oman is occupied by the desert. Yemen is home to Mount Al-Nabi Shu’ayab, the highest point in the Arabian Desert, at 12,336 feet. Traveling to Yemen, particularly its interior, can be difficult given political unrest, according to the U.S. Department of State. Exploring many parts of the Arabian Desert also requires a Bedouin guide.