Rub al-Khali

views updated


Sand desert with an area of 200,000 square miles (518,000 sq. km) shared by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Yemen; one of the largest sand deserts in the world.

Rub al-Khali (the Empty Quarter) has no permanent settlements and is separated from populated areas by wide gravel plains devoid of vegetation. The northern part is watered by occasional winter rains, while the southern part is sometimes watered by spillover of monsoon rains from the Indian Ocean. Al-Murra and al-Dawasir bedouin frequent the northern parts of the Empty Quarter, where their camels feed on bushes and grasses that grow in the sand. Al-Manasir (of Abu Dhabi) and al-Duru (of Oman) tribes roam the eastern regions while the al-Kathir and al-Rawashid of Oman and the alManahil and Saʿar of Yemen use the southern and western reaches. The Rub al-Khali's boundaries have been mostly demarcated. In 1974 the borders between Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. (Abu Dhabi) were agreed; in 1990 Saudi Arabia and Oman signed a border treaty; in 1992 Oman and the new Republic of Yemen reached an agreement; and in 2000 Saudi Arabia and Yemen finalized their land boundaries.


Schofield, Richard, ed. Territorial Foundations of the Gulf States. New York: St. Martin's, 1994.

eleanor abdella doumato
updated by j. e. peterson