Arabia is essentially a desert country comprising an area of roughly 1,000,000 square miles and inhabited for the most part by nomadic Bedouin tribes eking out a precarious pastoral existence by the breeding of camels, sheep and goats. Bounded on the north by Iraq, Syria and Transjordan (Palestine), it is enclosed on the other three sides by the sea—the Red Sea on the west, the Indian Ocean on the south and the Persian Gulf on the east. The land-surface of the peninsula enclosed within these limits slopes down steadily from the elevated mountain barrier, which runs down the whole length of its western side parallel with the Red Sea, to sea-level on the Persian Gulf, and the uniformity of this slope is only interrupted in the extreme south-eastern corner of the peninsula, where the mountains of the Oman district rear their crests to an elevation of 10,000 feet above sea-level. With the exception of this mountainous district and the similar district of the Yemen, Arabia is a barren country consisting of vast tracts of steppe-desert, sand-waste and mountainous wilderness. It is a country of insignificant rainfall (the Yemen and Oman excepted); here and there, scattered oases, or oasis-groups, are formed. The Taif district, for instance, in the Hejaz mountains above Mecca, the Qasim and Jebel Shammar provinces in Central Arabia and the Hasa province near the Persian Gulf are among the best examples of such districts, while El Medina, Taima, Riyadh, Jauf and Wadi Dawasir are but a few among the many large oases which occur frequently throughout the country.
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