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Dubai Desert - Rub' al Khali

The Empty Quarter (Arabic: Rub' al Khali الربع الخالي), is the largest sand desert in the world, encompassing the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula, including southern Saudi Arabia, and areas of Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The desert covers some 650,000 square kilometers (250,000 square miles), more than the combined land areas of Holland, Belgium and France.
Still largely unexplored, and virtually uninhabited, the desert is a thousand kilometers (600 miles) long, and 500 km (300 mi) wide. Even the Bedouins only skirt the edges of the desert. Nonetheless, tour companies do exist that offer GPS-equipped excursions into the desert. The first documented journeys made by Westerners to the Empty Quarter were those made by Bertram Thomas in 1931 and St. John Philby in 1932.
With summer temperatures ranging from below freezing at night to over 60 degrees Celsius (140 F) at noon, and dunes taller than the Eiffel Tower - over 330 meters (1000 ft) - the desert may be the most forbidding environment on Earth. However, as nearly everwhere else, life flourishes. Arachnids, rodents and plant life can all be found throughout the Empty Quarter. As an ecoregion, it falls within the Arabian Desert and East Sahero-Arabian xeric shrublands.

Desertification has increased through the millennia. Before desertification made the caravan trails leading across the Rub' al Khali so difficult, the caravans of the frankincense trade crossed now virtually impassable stretches of wasteland, until about 300 AD. See for example the lost city of Ubar, which depended on such trade.

Geologically, the Empty Quarter is one of the most oil-rich places in the world. Vast oil reserves have been discovered underneath the sand stacks. Sheyba, in the middle of the desert, is a major Arab light crude oil-producing site in Saudi Arabia. Also, Ghawwar Field, the largest oil field in the world, extends southward into the northernmost parts of the Empty Quarter.

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