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Rub al-Khali
Arabic: 'al-rub¢ 'al-khāliyy

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Rub al-Khali

Rub al-Khali, Saudi Arabia
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Rub al-Khali, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Tor Eigeland/Saudi Aramco World/PADIA

Rub al-Khali, Saudi Arabia
Rub al-Khali, Saudi Arabia

Rub al-Khali, Saudi Arabia
Rub al-Khali, Saudi Arabia

Largest sand desert in the world, empty quarter of the desert in the inland of the Arabian peninsula. Its area is about 650,000 km², being about 1000 west to east in the north, from north to south about 800 in its western side and 300 km in its eastern side. It is the largest continuous sand area in the world.
Rub al-Khali is one of three common names used in the West, the other two are Empty Quarter, which is a direct translation of Rub al-Khali, and Great Sandy Desert.
Rub al-Khali covers about a third of the peninsula, most of it belongs to Saudi Arabia, while the south of United Arab Emirates, the west of Oman and northwest of Yemen also belong to it.
To Rub al-Khali belongs several rich oil fields, like the Kidan fields, Shaybah and Ramalah, all in the Saudi corner near United Arab Emirates and Oman. Also, the Ghawwar Field, the largest in the world, discovered 1948, extends southward into the Rub al-Khali.
Rub al-Khali has no permanent settlements, but Bedouin tribes like the al-Murrah, live nomadic lives in its outskirts.
Rub al-Khali represents one of the most extreme areas in the world with summer temperatures shifting from below 0ºC at night to over 60ºC at noon. Dunes can reach heights of more than 300 metres.
There is little to nothing of vegetation and animal life. Still, in between there are pockets allowing some vegetation and animal life in the form of arachnids and rodents.
In ancient times, the Rub al-Khali was not as inhospitable, and allowed the passing of caravans dealing mainly in frankincense.

By Tore Kjeilen