The Saudi Arabia Desert is a vast ocean of wilderness stretching from the border of Yemen to the Arabian Gulf and from Oman to Jordan and Iraq encompassing an area of over 2,330,000 square kilometers. The Saudi Arabia desert is so enormous and so desolate that is a vast wilderness of sand and barren land. At the center of this wilderness is the Rub’al Khali or the Empty Quarter. It is the biggest continuous body of sand anywhere in the world covering an area of 500,000 square kilometers. The climate is extremely dry and the temperature varies from the extreme heat of the day to the freezing cold of the night. The temperature varies from 40-50 C in summer to 5-15 C in winter.
Some of the animals which have adapted to desert survival, like the Gazelles, Oryx, Sand cats, and Spiny-tailed lizards are found here. Some of the species which had become extinct in the region were reintroduced and are under the protection of the government in wildlife reserves. Overgrazing in the area by livestock, off-road driving, and destruction of natural habitats by human beings are main threats to the region.
Geographically speaking and considering the terrain, the Saudi Arabia desert is considered impassable due to the extremely dry environment and scarce vegetation. But in spite of it being an inhospitable and difficult terrain, the Saudi Arabia Desert has proved to be an excellent commercial passageway between the Middle East and North Africa. What appears to be a barren area is a rich source for natural resources predominantly oil and natural gas. Vast reserves of groundwater have been exploited and used for irrigation. The earliest inhabitants in this region were the Bedouins, who were nomads and who used the Saudi Arabia Desert for camel breeding.
In some parts of the Saudi Arabia Desert you will find brackish salt flats, the most prominent among them being the quick sands of Umm al Samim. These quick sands can be very treacherous and if one is not careful, he could just disappear into it. In some of the areas you will find long stretches of ghaf woodlands which provide shade and nesting habitat for the birds. Desert animals survive on the moisture from the desert plants and also from the morning dew. They reduce their need for water by staying hidden during the day and emerging only during the nights. The National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development has taken up the job of protection of the wild life species, especially those on the verge of extinction, by setting up a wildlife reserve. The reserve provides habitat to over 250 species of plants, 50 species of birds, and 22 species of animals.
One of the most amazing and wonderful sights in the deserts following heavy rains is the new vegetation springing up from the dormant seeds. Certain plants like the cacti, acacia and tamarind have adapted themselves to the harsh desert conditions. The Tourism department of Saudi Arabia and private tour operators arranges desert tours which are extremely interesting and exhilarating. A visit to the Saudi Arabia desert would be worth your while – so do not miss it.