- Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula (in Arabic: شبه الجزيرة العربية "šibh al-jazīra al-Unicode|ʻarabīya" or جزيرة العرب "jazīrat al-Unicode|ʻarab") is a
peninsulain Southwest Asiaat the junction of Africaand Asiaconsisting mainly of desert. The area is an important part of the Middle Eastand plays a critically important geopolitical role because of its vast reserves of oil and natural gas.
The coasts of the peninsula are, on the west the
Red Seaand the Gulf of Aqaba, on the southeast the Arabian Sea(part of the Indian Ocean), and on the northeast, the Gulf of Oman, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Persian Gulf.
Its northern limit is defined by the
Iranianand Iraqimountain range of Zagroscollision zone, a mountainous uplift where a continental collisionbetween the Arabian Plateand Asia is occurring. It merges with the Syrian Desertwith no clear line of demarcation.
Geographically, the Arabian Peninsula includes the western regions of
Iraqand parts of Syria. Politically, however, the peninsula is separated from the rest of Asia by the Euphratesriver. The following countries are politically considered part of the peninsula:
Bahrain, an islandnation off the east coast of the peninsula.
United Arab Emirates
Yemen, the sole republic on the peninsula. With the exception of Yemen and Jordan, these countries (called the Arab Gulf states) are among the wealthiest in the world.
As of 2008, the estimated population of the Arabian Peninsula is 71,983,936. [ cite web|url=https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html|title=
The World Fact book|publisher= Central Intelligence Agency|access date=2008-08-12 |date=2007-08-07]
In his book, 'The Real Eve', Oppenheimer claims based on mitochondrial evidence in conjunction with the contemporary environment (ie glaciation, sea levels) corresponding to these
molecular clocktimelines that the very first humans to leave Africa crossed the virtually dry mouth of the Red Sea onto the Arabian peninsula. They travelled along the coastline of the peninsula before crossing into Southern Asia.
Until comparatively recent times knowledge of the Arabian Peninsula was limited to that provided by ancient Greek and Roman writers and by early
Arabgeographers; much of this material was unreliable. In the 20th century, however, archaeological exploration has added considerably to the knowledge of the area.
The earliest known events in Arabian history are migrations from the peninsula into neighbouring areas [Philip Khuri Hitti (2002), History of the Arabs, Revised: 10th Edition] . Around 3500 BC, Semitic-speaking peoples of Arabian origin migrated into the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in
Mesopotamia, supplanted the Summerians, as the Akkadians(see Babyloniaand Assyria). Some archeologists argue that another group of Semites left Arabia around 2500 BC during the Early Bronze Age Amoritesand settled along the Levantmixing in with the local populations there. These Amoriteseventually became the Arameansand Canaanitesof later times Bernard Lewismentions in his book The Arabs in History:
"According to this, Arabia was originally a land of great fertility and the first home of the Semitic peoples. Through the millennia it has been undergoing a process of steady desiccation, a drying up of wealth and waterways and a spread of the desert at the expense of the cultivable land. The declining productivity of the peninsula, together with the increase in the number of the inhabitants, led to a series of crises of overpopulation and consequently to a recurring cycle of invasions of the neighbouring countries by the Semitic peoples of the peninsula. It was these crises that carried the Assyrians, Aramaeans, Canaanites (including the Phoenicians), and finally the Arabs themselves into the Fertile Crescent." [ Bernard Lewis (2002), The Arabs in History, Oxford University Press, USA; 6New Ed edition, page 17]
The better-watered, higher portions of the extreme south-west portion of the Arabian Peninsula supported three early kingdoms. The first, the Minaean, was centered in the interior of what is now Yemen, but probably embraced most of southern Arabia. Although dating is difficult, it is generally believed that the Minaean Kingdom existed from 1200 to 650 BC The second kingdom, the Sabaean (see
Sheba), was founded around 930 BC and lasted until around 115 BC; it probably supplanted the Minaean Kingdom and occupied substantially the same territory. The Sabaean capital and chief city, Ma’rib, probably flourished as did no other city of ancient Arabia, partly because of its controlling position on the caravan routes linking the seaports of the Mediterranean with the frankincense-growing region of the Hadhramautand partly because a large nearby dam provided water for irrigation. The Sabaean Kingdom was widely referred to as Saba, and it has been suggested that the Queen of Shebamentioned in the Bible and the Quran, who visited King Solomonof Israel in Jerusalem in the 10th century BC, was Sabaean. The Himyarites followed the Sabaeans as the leaders in southern Arabia; the HimyariteKingdom lasted from around 115 BC to around AD 525. In 24 BC the Roman emperor Augustussent the prefect of Egypt, Aelius Gallus, against the Himyarites, but his army of 10,000, which was unsuccessful, returned to Egypt. The Himyarites prospered in the frankincense, myrrh, and spice trade until the Romans began to open the sea routes through the Red Sea.
In the 3rd century, The East African Christian Kingdom of Aksum began interfering in South Arabian affairs, controlling at times the western
Tihamaregion among other areas. The Kingdom of Aksum at its height extended its territory in Arabia across most of Yemenand southern and western Saudi Arabiabefore being eventually driven out by the Persians. There is evidence of a Sabaean inscription about the alliance between the Himyarite king Shamir Yuhahmid and Aksum under King `DBHin the first quarter of the 3rd century AD. They have been living alongside the Sabaeans who lived across the Red Sea from them for many centuries:
"Shamir of Dhu-Raydan and Himyar had called in the help of the clans of Habashat for war against the kings of Saba; but Ilmuqah granted . . . the submission of Shamir of Dhu-Raydan and the clans of Habashat." [Stuart Munro-Hay. "Aksum: A Civilization of Late Antiquity". Edinburgh: University Press. 1991. pp. 66.]
The ruins of
Siraf, a legendary ancient port, are located on the north shore of the Iranian coast on the Persian Gulf. The Persian Gulf was a boat route between the Arabian Peninsula and Indiamade feasible for small boats by staying close to the coast with land always in sight. [cite web
title=The Seas of Sindbad
accessdate=2006-12-11] The historical importance of Siraf to ancient trade is only now being realised. Discovered there in past archaeological excavations are ivory objects from east
Africa, pieces of stone from India, and lapisfrom Afghanistan. Sirif dates back to the Parthian era. [cite web
title=Foreign Experts Talk of Siraf History
publisher=Cultural Heritage News Agency
There is a
lost cityin The Empty Quarterknown as Aram of the Pillars and Thamud. It is estimated that it lasted from around 3000 BC to the first century AD. The Arabian Peninsula is also one of the few places that comprise the Cradle of Humanity.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabiacovers the greater part of the peninsula. The majority of the population of the peninsula live in Saudi Arabiaand in Yemen. The peninsula contains the world's largest reserves of oil. It is home to the Islamic holy cities of Meccaand Medina, both of which are in Saudi Arabia. The UAEand Saudi Arabiaare economically the wealthiest in the region. Qatar, a small peninsula in the Persian Gulf on the larger peninsula, is home of the famous Arabic-language television station Al Jazeeraand its English-language subsidiary Al Jazeera English. Kuwait, on the border with Iraq, was claimed as an Iraqi province and invaded by Saddam Husseinduring the first Persian Gulf War; it is an important country strategically, forming one of the main staging grounds for coalition forces mounting the invasion of Iraqin 2003.
The peninsula is one of the possible original homelands of the
Proto-Semitic languageancestors of all the Semitic-speaking peoples in the region — the Akkadians, Arabs, Assyrians, Babylonians, Hebrews, etc. Linguistically, the peninsula was the cradle of the Arabic language(spread beyond the peninsula with the Islamic religionduring the expansion of Islambeginning in the 7th century AD) and still maintains tiny populations of speakers of Semiticlanguages such as Mehriand Shehri, remnants of the language family that was spoken in earlier historical periods to the East of the kingdoms of Shebaand Hadramoutwhich flourished in the southern part of the peninsula (modern-day Yemenand Oman).
Geologically, this region is perhaps more appropriately called the "Arabian subcontinent" because it lies on a
tectonic plateof its own, the Arabian Plate, which has been moving incrementally away from northeast Africa(forming the Red Sea) and north into the Eurasian plate(forming the Zagros mountains). The rocks exposed vary systematically across Arabia, with the oldest rocks exposed in the Arabian-Nubian Shieldnear the Red Sea, overlain by earlier sediments that become younger towards the Persian Gulf. Perhaps the best-preserved ophioliteon Earth, Semail ophiolite, lies exposed in the mountains of the UAE and northern Oman.
The peninsula consists of:
# a central plateau, known as
Nejd, with fertile valleys and pastures used for the grazing of sheepand other livestock.
# a range of deserts, the
Nefudin the north, stony; the Rub' Al-Khalior Great Arabian Desert, in the south, with sand estimated to extend 600 ft. below the surface; and between them, the Dahna.
# stretches of dry or marshy coastland with coral reefs on the
Red Seaside ( Tihamah).
# ranges of mountains, primarily paralleling the
Red Seaon the western (e.g. Asirprovince) and southeastern end (Oman). The highest, Jabal Al-Nabi Sho'aib in Yemen, is 3666 m high.
Arabia has few lakes or permanent rivers. Most are drained by ephemeral watercourses called
wadis, which are dry except during the rainy season. Plentiful ancient aquifersexist beneath much of the peninsula, however, and where this water surfaces, oasesform (e.g. Al-Hasaand Qatif, two of the worlds largest oases) and permit agriculture, especially palm trees, which allowed the peninsula to produce more dates than any other region in the world. The climate being extremely hot and arid, the peninsula has no forests, although desert-adapted wildlife is present throughout the region.
A plateau more than 2,500 feet 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 Gulf. The interior is characterised by "cuestas" and valleys, drained by a system of "wadis". A crescent of sand and
graveldeserts lies to the east.
Land and sea
Most of the Arabian Peninsula is unsuited to settled 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 exotic fruits. Goats, sheep, and camels are widespread throughout the region.
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. In the higher reaches elaborate terraces have been constructed to facilitate crop cultivation.
Transport and industry
The extraction and refining of oil and gas are the major industrial activities in the Arabian Peninsula. The region also has an active construction sector, with many cities reflecting the wealth generated by the oil industry. The service sector is dominated by financial and technical institutions, which, like the construction sector, mainly serve the oil industry. Traditional handicrafts such as carpet-weaving are found in rural areas.
* [http://www.digitalscarab.com Global Nomads] - Multi-media website documenting the current perspective of living in a diverse Oil Company Expatriate Community.
* [http://www.swaen.com/antique-map-image-of.php?id=31 High resolution scan of old map of Arabia]
Ancient history of Yemen
Iram of the Pillars
European exploration of Arabia
Rub' al Khali( desert)
Arabian Desert and East Sahero-Arabian xeric shrublands
History of the Jews in the Arabian Peninsula
Kingdom of Aksum
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