(2) General Features of Arabia.
Arabia, taking it as a whole, cannot be called a fertile country. Its general features are those of an elevated table-land, backed up by low mountains to the west, and gradually rising in the direction of the east and south, where we find it bordered by a second and loftier mountain range. The mountains, if we except Jebel Akhdar in Oman, are almost wholly barren on their sea side; but are occasionally fertile enough on their inner ranges especially in Yemen and the southerly districts. Their outlines are rugged and precipitous to a degree that, joined with the refraction of an over-heated atmosphere, gives them from a distance an appearance of being of a much greater height than they really are. Behind them lies an uninterrupted ring of sterile desert, broadest on the south and east, where it expands into a huge waste of burning sand; narrower towards the west and north, where it is more rocky in its character. Within this belt rises a series of table-lands, undulating in long slopes, and intersected with deep valleys; the former rich in pasturage, the latter in field and garden produce. This central plateau constitutes about one-third of the total superficies of the peninsula; the desert ring another third; the coast ranges make up the rest.
Physical Divisions of Arabia.
In describing Arabia, the ancients, whose knowledge on the subject was slight, were accustomed to lay down an imaginary tripartile division, founded on the natural qualities of those districts with which they were more or less acquainted; and accordingly portioned off Arabia into Petraea, Deserta, and Felix, or the Stony, the Desert, and the Happy; without, however, assigning any very distinct boundaries to these regions. More modern geographers, Eastern and European, have, with better but still inadequate information, either multiplied or confounded the main divisions of the peninsula. Much indeed of its surface is even now unknown to us, except by the uncertain hearsay of Arab narrators However, the ground-plan laid down by Neiburh, the most accurate and painstaking of travelers, is substantially correct, and has been so often confirmed, never invalidated, by later discoveries, that we may safely follows its indications.
Read the rest of this article:
Arabia - Table of Contents