Geography of Saudi Arabia: Introduction

Geography of Saudi Arabia: Introduction Last updated on Saturday 24th April 2010

Occupying four-fifths of the Arabian peninsula, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Middle East. In south-western Asia, the country is at the crossroads of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa.

On the west it is bordered by the Red Sea and on the east by the Arabian Gulf. To the south there are borders with Yemen and the Sultanate of Oman. To the east lie the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the island state of Bahrain. In the north Saudi Arabia has borders with Kuwait, Iraq and Jordan.

The country's area is estimated to be some 2,331,000 sq km (900,000 sq mi). "Estimated" is the correct word, as only the borders in the north, the border with Qatar and a part of the border with Yemen are precisely demarcated.

There is a 7000 sq km (2700 sq mi) neutral zone between Saudi Arabia and Iraq in which no permanent structures or military establishments may be put; bedouin from both countries have access to the area. The zone is divided equally according to a 1975 agreement.

Between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, there is also a divided zone covering about 5770 sq km (2230 sq mi). Saudi Arabia administers the south-ern half but the oil revenues from the area is split between the two countries.

The country has a varied topography including -- besides the well-known deserts -- a green, mountainous area in its south-western corner.

Despite appearances, there is considerable life in the desert, especially after winter rains. Plants such as desert camomile, scarlet pimpernel, heliotrope and wild iris are common as well as small animals such as lizards, porcupines, hedgehogs and rabbits.

Saudi Arabia's terrain is varied but on the whole it presents a barren and harsh appearance with salt flats, gravel plains and sand dunes but few lakes or permanent streams. In the south of the country is the famous Empty Quarter (in Arabic, Rub al Khali), the largest continuous sand desert in the world. It is linked to another large sandy desert, the Nafud, in the north of the country. In the south-west, there are mountains rising to over 9,000 feet and rain is not uncommon there.

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