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Arabian Peninsula

Large peninsula in Western Asia

Top 10 Arabian Peninsula related articles

Coordinates: 23°N 46°E / 23°N 46°E / 23; 46

Arabian Peninsula
ٱلْجَزِيرَة ٱلْعَرَبِيَّة  (Arabic)
شِبْه ٱلْجَزِيرَة ٱلْعَرَبِيَّة  (Arabic)
Area3,237,500 km2 (1,250,000 sq mi)
HDI0.788 (2018)
CountriesBahrain[note 1]
Iraq[note 2]
Jordan[note 2]
Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates
Yemen[note 3]
Digital rendering of a satellite view of the Arabian Peninsula
Africa, Arabia, and Eurasia

The Arabian Peninsula[1] (/əˈrbiən .../; Arabic: شِبْهُ الْجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِيَّة‎, shibhu l-jazīrati l-ʿarabiyyah, "Arabian Peninsula" or جَزِيرَةُ الْعَرَب, jazīratu l-ʿarab, "Island of the Arabs")[2] is a peninsula of Western Asia, situated northeast of Africa on the Arabian Plate. At 3,237,500 km2 (1,250,000 sq mi), the Arabian Peninsula is the largest peninsula in the world.[3][4][5][6][7]

Geographically, the Arabian Peninsula includes Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Yemen, as well as the southern portions of Iraq and Jordan.[8] The biggest of these is Saudi Arabia.[9] The Peninsula, plus Bahrain, the Socotra Archipelago, and other nearby islands form a geopolitical region called Arabia, which is the largest region in the world without any permanent rivers.[10]

The Arabian Peninsula formed as a result of the rifting of the Red Sea between 56 and 23 million years ago, and is bordered by the Red Sea to the west and southwest, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the northeast, the Levant and Mesopotamia to the north and the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean to the southeast. The peninsula plays a critical geopolitical role in the Arab world and globally due to its vast reserves of oil and natural gas.

Before the modern era, the region was divided into primarily four distinct regions: the Central Plateau (Najd or Al-Yamama), the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean Coast (South Arabia or Hadhramaut), the Persian Gulf Coast and Gulf of Oman (Eastern Arabia or Al-Bahrain), and the Red Sea Coast (Hejaz or Tihamah). Eastern Arabia consists of the entire coastal strip of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Hejaz and Najd make up most of Saudi Arabia. South Arabia consists of Yemen, a sizable part of Saudi Arabia ('Asir, Jizan, and Najran) and (Dhofar) in Oman.

Arabian Peninsula Intro articles: 31


The geographical and political boundaries of the Arabian Peninsula

The Arabian Peninsula is located in the continent of Asia and is bounded by (clockwise) the Persian Gulf on the northeast, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman on the east, the Arabian Sea on the southeast, the Gulf of Aden, Guardafui Channel and Somali Sea on the south, the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait on the southwest and the Red Sea, which is located on the southwest and west.[11] The northern portion of the peninsula merges with the Syrian Desert with no clear borderline, although the northern boundary of the peninsula is generally considered to be the northern borders of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.[11]

The most prominent feature of the peninsula is desert, but in the southwest, there are mountain ranges, which receive greater rainfall than the rest of the peninsula. Harrat ash Shaam is a large volcanic field that extends from northwestern Arabia into Jordan and southern Syria.[12]

Political boundaries

The constituent countries of Arabia

The Peninsula's constituent countries are (clockwise from north to south) Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the east, Oman on the southeast, Yemen on the south, and Saudi Arabia at the center. The island country of Bahrain lies just off the east coast of the Peninsula.[11] Due to Yemen's jurisdiction over the Socotra Archipelago, the Peninsula's geopolitical outline faces the Guardafui Channel and the Somali Sea to the south.[13]

Six countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) form the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).[14]

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia covers the greater part of the Peninsula. The majority of the population of the Peninsula lives in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The Peninsula contains the world's largest reserves of oil. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are economically the wealthiest in the region. Qatar, the only peninsular country in the Persian Gulf on the larger peninsula, is home to the Arabic-language television station Al Jazeera and its English-language subsidiary Al Jazeera English. Kuwait, on the border with Iraq, is an important country strategically, forming one of the main staging grounds for coalition forces mounting the United States-led 2003 invasion of Iraq.


Historical population
1950 9,481,713—    
1960 11,788,232+24.3%
1970 15,319,678+30.0%
1980 23,286,256+52.0%
1990 35,167,708+51.0%
2000 47,466,523+35.0%
2010 63,364,000+33.5%
2014 77,584,000+22.4%
2018 86,221,765+11.1%
Political Definition: Gulf Cooperation Council and Yemen
Sources:1950–2000[15] 2000–2014[16]
Historical population (Gulf 4)
1950 356,235—    
1970 1,329,168+273.1%
1990 4,896,491+268.4%
2010 11,457,000+134.0%
2014 17,086,000+49.1%
2018 18,675,440+9.3%
Population of 4 smallest (in area) GCC states with entire coastline in Persian Gulf: UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait
Sources:1950–2000[17] 2000–2014[16]

Though historically lightly populated, political Arabia is noted for a high population growth rate – as the result of both very strong inflows of migrant labor as well as sustained high birth rates. The population tends to be relatively young and heavily skewed gender ratio dominated by males. In many states, the number of South Asians exceeds that of the local citizenry. The four smallest states (by area), which have their entire coastlines on the Persian Gulf, exhibit the world's most extreme population growth, roughly tripling every 20 years. In 2014, the estimated population of the Arabian Peninsula was 77,983,936 (including expatriates).[18] The Arabian Peninsula is known for having one of the most uneven adult sex ratios in the world, with females in some regions (especially the east) constituting only a quarter of vicenarians and tricenarians.[19]


The ten most populous cities on the Arabian Peninsula are:

Rank City Population
1 Riyadh 7,231,447
2 Jeddah 4,610,176
3 Kuwait City 3,114,553
4 Sanaa 2,972,988
5 Dubai 2,878,344
6 Mecca 2,042,106
7 Sharjah 1,684,649
8 Muscat 1,549,729
9 Medina 1,488,782
10 Abu Dhabi 1,482,816
Source: 2020[20]


A caravan crossing Ad-Dahna Desert in central Saudi Arabia
Ras al-Jinz in southeastern Arabia (Oman), also known as the 'Turtle Beach'
AR-Arabian Plate, velocities with respect to Africa in millimeters per year

Geologically, this region is perhaps more appropriately called the Arabian subcontinent because it lies on a tectonic plate of its own, the Arabian Plate, which has been moving incrementally away from the rest of Africa (forming the Red Sea) and north, toward Asia, into the Eurasian Plate (forming the Zagros Mountains). The rocks exposed vary systematically across Arabia, with the oldest rocks exposed in the Arabian-Nubian Shield near the Red Sea, overlain by earlier sediments that become younger towards the Persian Gulf. Perhaps the best-preserved ophiolite on Earth, the Semail Ophiolite, lies exposed in the mountains of the UAE and northern Oman.

The peninsula consists of:

  1. A central plateau, the Najd, with fertile valleys and pastures used for the grazing of sheep and other livestock
  2. A range of deserts: the Nefud in the north,[21] which is stony; the Rub' al Khali or Great Arabian Desert in the south, with sand estimated to extend 600 ft (180 m) below the surface; between them, the Dahna
  3. Mountains[22][23][24]
  4. Stretches of dry or marshy coastland with coral reefs on the Red Sea side (Tihamah)
  5. Oases and marshy coast-land in Eastern Arabia on the Persian Gulf side, the most important of which are those of Al Ain (in the UAE, on the border with Oman) and Al-Hasa (in Saudi Arabia), according to one author[24]

Arabia has few lakes or permanent rivers. Most areas are drained by ephemeral watercourses called wadis, which are dry except during the rainy season. Plentiful ancient aquifers exist beneath much of the peninsula, however, and where this water surfaces, oases form (e.g. Al-Hasa and Qatif, two of the world's largest oases) and permit agriculture, especially palm trees, which allowed the peninsula to produce more dates than any other region in the world. In general, the climate is extremely hot and arid, although there are exceptions. Higher elevations are made temperate by their altitude, and the Arabian Sea coastline can receive surprisingly cool, humid breezes in summer due to cold upwelling offshore. The peninsula has no thick forests. Desert-adapted wildlife is present throughout the region.

According to NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite data (2003–2013) analysed in a University of California, Irvine (UCI)-led study published in Water Resources Research on 16 June 2015, the most over-stressed aquifer system in the world is the Arabian Aquifer System, upon which more than 60 million people depend for water.[25] Twenty-one of the thirty seven largest aquifers "have exceeded sustainability tipping points and are being depleted" and thirteen of them are "considered significantly distressed".[25]

A plateau more than 2,500 feet (760 m) high extends across much of the Arabian Peninsula. The plateau slopes eastwards from the massive, rifted escarpment along the coast of the Red Sea, to the shallow waters of the Persian Gulf. The interior is characterised by cuestas and valleys, drained by a system of wadis. A crescent of sand and gravel deserts lies to the east.


The Haraz Mountains in western Yemen include Arabia's highest mountain, Jabal An-Nabi Shu'ayb or Jabal Hadhur[26][27][28] near Sanaa[22][23]

There are mountains at the eastern, southern and northwestern borders of the peninsula. Broadly, the ranges can be grouped as follows:

From the Hejaz southwards, the mountains show a steady increase in altitude westward as they get nearer to Yemen, and the highest peaks and ranges are all located in Yemen. The highest, Jabal An-Nabi Shu'ayb or Jabal Hadhur[26][27][28] of the Haraz subrange of the Sarawat range, is about 3,666 m (2.278 mi) high.[22][23] By comparison, the Tuwayr, Shammar and Dhofar generally do not exceed 1,000 m (0.62 mi) in height.[24]

Not all mountains in the peninsula are visibly within ranges. Jebel Hafeet in particular, on the border of the UAE and Oman, measuring between 1,100 and 1,300 m (3,600 and 4,300 ft),[34][35] is not within the Hajar range, but may be considered an outlier of that range.

Land and sea

Coconut palms line corniches of Al-Hafa, Oman
Red Sea coral reefs

Most of the Arabian Peninsula is unsuited to agriculture, making irrigation and land reclamation projects essential. The narrow coastal plain and isolated oases, amounting to less than 1% of the land area, are used to cultivate grains, coffee and tropical fruits. Goat, sheep, and camel husbandry is widespread elsewhere throughout the rest of the Peninsula. Some areas have a summer humid tropical monsoon climate, in particular the Dhofar and Al Mahrah areas of Oman and Yemen. These areas allow for large scale coconut plantations. Much of Yemen has a tropical monsoon rain influenced mountain climate. The plains usually have either a tropical or subtropical arid desert climate or arid steppe climate. The sea surrounding the Arabian Peninsula is generally tropical sea with a very rich tropical sea life and some of the world's largest, undestroyed and most pristine coral reefs. In addition, the organisms living in symbiosis with the Red Sea coral, the protozoa and zooxanthellae, have a unique hot weather adaptation to sudden rise (and fall) in sea water temperature. Hence, these coral reefs are not affected by coral bleaching caused by rise in temperature as elsewhere in the indopacific coral sea. The reefs are also unaffected by mass tourism and diving or other large scale human interference. However, some reefs were destroyed in the Persian Gulf, mostly caused by phosphate water pollution and resultant increase in algae growth as well as oil pollution from ships and pipeline leakage.

The fertile soils of Yemen have encouraged settlement of almost all of the land from sea level up to the mountains at 10,000 feet (3,000 m). In the higher reaches, elaborate terraces have been constructed to facilitate grain, fruit, coffee, ginger and khat cultivation. The Arabian peninsula is known for its rich oil, i.e. petroleum production due to its geographical location.

Arabian Peninsula Geography articles: 182