Saudi Arabia: How Empty is the “Empty Quarter?”

“In empty wastes I could find the peace that comes with solitude.”  Wilfred Thesiger

The Rub Al Khali, otherwise known as Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter is a vast area of desert in Saudi Arabia that is primarily uninhabited. When you look at a map of Saudi Arabia, the Rub Al Khali covers more than one-fourth of the country. In economic terms, the Rub Al Khali lies above large oil and natural gas reserves and underground water aquifers. In 1948 the world’s largest conventional oil field, Al Ghawar, was discovered in the eastern portion of the Rub Al Khali.

However, the Rub Al Khali also has the potential to produce alternative energies.  With its clear skies and bright sun, Saudi Arabia can provide solar power.  Situated directly in the global “Sun Belt,” the area with the highest intensity of sun, Saudi Arabia is just beginning to anticipate its sustained future in the global energy market.

The Rub Al Khali with its healthy, pollution-free environment also has a promising future in tourism, both domestic and international. The Rub Al Khali offers a great opportunity to experience the life of the Saudi Bedu and the deep desert.  Saudi nationals and expat residents enjoy exploring the desert environment with extensive camping trips or simple picnics and barbecues on the fringes of the Rub Al Khali.

The name Rub Al Khali or Empty Quarter stemmed from the absence of villages, cities or any permanent residences.  The Arabian Bedouins commonly moved across the sands during the rainy seasons, traveling between good pastures to feed their herds.  Camel herders cross the sands with full knowledge of its geography, routes and tracks.  They know the Rub Al Khali like the veins on the backs of their hands.

The Rub Al Khali is a beautiful and constantly changing desert.  Its sands range in color from the white, tan and grays of the marine sands close to the Arabian Gulf areas to the deep red of the continental sands in areas close to the mountains with all shades of tawny brown in between.  Many types of dunes exist in this desert such as high crescent dunes, star dunes and linear dunes.

Fauna are rarely glimpsed by man in the desert, but many animals such as the rock hyrax, gazelle, hare, scorpion, dhub, skink, and others live there.  A portion of the Rub Al Khali has been selected as the Uruq Bani Ma’aredh wildlife reserve for the Arabian Oryx.

Desert Publisher has a magnificent table top photo book entitled “Rub Al Khali” which contains hundreds of photographs of the desert and the quiet inhabitants who live there.  Each page of this book is a special photographic journey into vast desert land that few will ever see.


(data about the Rub Al Khali extracted from “Rub Al Khali” published by Desert Publisher)

6 Responses

  1. It is absolutely amazing and breathtaking to fly over!

  2. i really hope it does not become touristy..usually when that happens everything gets ruined. But it is an amazing area thanks for sharing AB 🙂

  3. all i can think of is solar , solar, solar power. Hope ksa can harness that..

  4. My trip to Rub al-Khali was really a dream come true. We had a guided tour and the guide called our attention to the ants living in the sands. We only saw their burrows but this gave us an idea of the fact that the desert must be full of ants… 🙂

    BTW: Thanks for introducing this book… sounds interesting!

  5. I think after focusing their efforts in the hydrocarbon industry they will focus on solar. The only thing with solar technology in this region is the maintenance of the panels, due to wind, sand and dust.

  6. I actually just got back from a trip to the Rub! My blog post on my trip, with pictures is here:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: