Geography

The Kingdom occupies about 80 percent of the Arabian peninsula. In 2000 Saudi Arabia and Yemen signed an agreement to settle their long-running border dispute. A significant length of the country’s southern borders with the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, are not precisely defined or marked, so the exact size of the country remains unknown.

The Saudi government’s estimate is 2,217,949 km2 (856,355 sq mi). Other reputable estimates vary between 1,960,582 km2 (756,985 sq mi) and 2,240,000 km2 (864,869 sq mi). The kingdom is commonly listed as the world’s 14th largest state.

Saudi Arabia’s geography is varied. From the humid western coastal region (Tihamah) on the Red Sea, the land rises from sea level to a peninsula-long mountain range (Jabal al-Hejaz) beyond which lies the plateau of Nejd in the center.

The southwestern ‘Asir region has mountains as high as 3,000 m (9,843 ft) and is known for having the greenest and freshest climate in all of the country, one that attracts many Saudis to resorts such as Abha in the summer months. The east is primarily rocky or sandy lowland continuing to the shores of the Persian Gulf.

The geographically hostile Rub’ al Khali (“Empty Quarter”) desert along the country’s imprecisely defined southern borders contains almost no life.

Mostly uninhabited, much of the nation’s landmass consists of desert and semi-arid regions, with a dwindling traditional Bedouin population. In these parts of the country, vegetation is limited to weeds, xerophytic herbs and shrubs.

Less than two percent of the kingdom’s total area is arable land. Population centers are mainly located along the eastern and western coasts and densely populated interior oases such as Hofuf and Buraydah. In some extended areas, primarily the Rub’ al-Khali and the Arabian Desert, there is no population whatsoever, although the petroleum industry has constructed planned communities there.

Saudi Arabia has no permanent year-round rivers or lakes; however, its coastline extends for 2,640 km (1,640 mi) and, along the Red Sea, harbors world-class coral reefs, including the Gulf of Aqaba.

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