The Arabian Peninsula



Arabia is the south-western peninsula of Asia, the largest peninsula on the map. Its area of 1,027,000 square miles holds an estimated population of only fourteen millions. Sū‘ūdi Arabia, with an area (exclusive of al-Rab‘ al-Khāli) of 597,000 square miles, claims some seven millions; al-Yaman five millions; al-Kuwayt, Qaṭar, the trucial shaykhdoms, ‘Umān and Masqaṭ, Aden and the Aden protectorate the rest. Geologists tell us that the land once formed the natural continuation of the Sahara (now separated from it by the rift of the Nile valley and the great chasm of the Red Sea) and of the sandy belt which traverses Asia through central Persia and the Gobi Desert. In earlier times the Atlantic westerlies, which now water the highlands of Syria-Palestine, must have reached Arabia undrained, and during a part of the Ice Age these same desert lands must have been pre-eminently habitable grasslands. Since the ice sheet never extended south of the great mountains in Asia Minor, Arabia was never made uninhabitable by glaciation. Its deep, dry wadi beds still bear witness to the erosive powers of the rainwater that once flowed through them. The northern boundary is ill-defined, but may be considered an imaginary line drawn due east from the head of the Gulf of al-‘Agabah in the Red Sea to the Euphrates. Geologically, indeed, the whole SyroMesopotamian desert is a part of Arabia.


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  1. 1.
    The highest measured point: Carl Rathjens and Hermann V. Wissmann, Südarabiens-Reise, vol. iii, Landeskundliche Ergebnisse (Hamburg, 1934), p. 2.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Philip K. Hitti 1970

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Princeton UniversityUSA

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