(12) Arabia - Nejd (cont.) Great Southern Desert. Dahna, or: Roba el Kahliveh / Rub' al Khali ["Empty Quarter"].
The Great Southern Desert
Beyond Hareek, or "Burning," as the name means, to the south, as also behind Wadi Dowasir and its nieghbourhood, lies the great Arab desert or Dahna, "The red" as the Arabs call it, - a vast extent of sand, said to cover nearly 50,000 square miles, and only jotted here and there at far intervals by a few clustered bushes or dwarf palms, indicative of moisture below the surface, else wholly desolate. Its surface is ribbed into huge sand waves, the principal ones being from north to south,-that is, at right angles to the prevailing wind, which is here the east; but these main waves are again crossed, intersected, and jumbled with other less regular undulations, the work of more variable breezes.
But neither here nor elsewhere in Arabia do those clouds or columns of moving sand, the terror of caravans, appear, that have been fabled by travelers and poets. Tracks are indeed speedily covered and effaced, to the great annoyance and occasional danger of the wayfarer; but neither he nor his beast run the least risk of being thus buried alive. Hunger, and still more, thirst, are sufficient guardians of a region, to which, however, Arab fancy has attributed the additional protection of evil spirits and monsters of death.
This greater desert, the "Roba el Khaliyeh" or "Empty Space" of geographers -- the "Dahna" or "Crimson" of modern Arabs, so called from the prevailing colour of its heated sands, -- extends to Yemen and Hadramaut on the south-west, south, and south-east, and to Oman on the east. It is separated, however, from the northern half of the waste-ring that girdles Nejd by the continuation of Wadi Dowasir and Shahran, up to the mountains of Tayef, near Mecca; and this is the only line by which the plateau of Nejd can be reached from the coast without actually crossing the sandy or stony wilderness. Lying as it does on or within the tropics, the heat of this great desert is said to be fearful by day, and, owing to the general low level, to be scarcely mitigated at night. But it is never traversed in its full width, not even by Bedouins; and little or no credit can be attached to the relations of those who pretend to have explored it, and to have found wonders in its recesses.
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