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Geography of the Middle East
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Geography of the Middle East

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  • Note that this PowerPoint will focus on the desert environment in the Arabian Peninsula, where Islam got its start. Large-scale farming and cities do exist,, but they were not an important part of the landscape in the 600s.
  • Northern hemisphere because numbers get bigger going north. Eastern hemisphere because numbers get bigger going east.
  • The An Nafud--sometimes called the Great Nafud because An Nafud is the term for desert--covers about 55,000 square kilometers at an elevation of about 1,000 meters. Longitudinal dunes--scores of kilometers in length and as much as ninety meters high, and separated by valleys as much as sixteen kilometers wide--characterize the An Nafud. Iron oxide gives the sand a red tint, particularly when the sun is low. Within the area are several watering places, and winter rains bring up short-lived but succulent grasses that permit nomadic herding during the winter and spring.
  • Note Roman ruins.
  • Dubai lies directly within the Arabian Desert. However, the topology of Dubai is significantly different from that of the southern portion of the UAE in that much of Dubai's landscape is highlighted by sandy desert patterns, while gravel deserts dominate much of the southern region of the country.[29] The sand consists mostly of crushed shell and coral and is fine, clean and white. East of the city, the salt-crusted coastal plans, known as sabkha , give way to a north-south running line of dunes. Further east, the dunes grow larger and are tinged red with iron oxide.
  • The Rub al Khali is one of the truly forbidding sand deserts in the world and, until the 1950s, one of the least explored. The topography of this huge area, covering more than 550,000 square kilometers, is varied. In the west, the elevation is about 600 meters, and the sand is fine and soft; in the east, the elevation drops to about 180 meters, and much of the surface is covered by relatively stable sand sheets and salt flats. In places, particularly in the east, longitudinal sand dunes prevail; elsewhere sand mountains as much as 300 meters in height (!!!) form complex patterns. Most of the area is totally waterless and uninhabited except for a few wandering beduin tribes. This is where the race in the movie Hidalgo was supposed to have been run.
  • The Rub al Khali is one of the truly forbidding sand deserts in the world and, until the 1950s, one of the least explored. The topography of this huge area, covering more than 550,000 square kilometers, is varied. In the west, the elevation is about 600 meters, and the sand is fine and soft; in the east, the elevation drops to about 180 meters, and much of the surface is covered by relatively stable sand sheets and salt flats. In places, particularly in the east, longitudinal sand dunes prevail; elsewhere sand mountains as much as 300 meters in height (!!!) form complex patterns. Most of the area is totally waterless and uninhabited except for a few wandering beduin tribes. This is where the race in the movie Hidalgo was supposed to have been run.
  • In geography, an oasis (plural: oases) is an isolated area of vegetation in a desert, typically surrounding a spring or similar water source. The location of oases has been of critical importance for trade and transportation routes in desert areas. Caravans must travel via oases so that supplies of water and food can be replenished. Thus, political or military control of an oasis has in many cases meant control of trade on a particular route.
  • As students will see when they do “A Camel’s Diary,” the camel is ideally adapted for travel in the desert. Briefly, these adaptations include storage of fat in the hump; ability to drink massive amounts of water at one time without getting sick; eyelashes that keep out sand; nostrils that can be closed to keep out sand; foot pads that spread out like snow shoes; and the ability to withstand very high temperatures before perspiring (and thus losing body moisture). Though camels don’t store water in their humps, there is a story of the great general Khalid who, during Islam’s early wars of expansion, was ordered by the caliph Abu Bakr to make a 200-mile forced march across the desert to join another army fighting in Syria, which trip might have taken a week or more. Khalid allowed his camels to drink as much as they possibly could, and then he slaughtered them at various points along the journey in order to give his horses the water from the camels’ stomachs. Note that the camel no longer exists in the wild anywhere except in Australia.
  • The Arabian horse developed in a desert climate and was prized by the nomadic Bedouin people, often being brought inside the family tent for shelter and protection. This close relationship with humans has created a horse breed that is good-natured, quick to learn, and willing to please. But the Arabian also developed the high spirit and alertness needed in a horse used for raiding and war. Fiery war horses with dished faces and high-carried tails were popular artistic subjects in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, often depicted pulling chariots in war or for hunting. Following the Hijra in A.D. 622 (also sometimes spelled Hegira), the Arabian horse spread across the known world of the time, became recognized as a distinct, named breed, and played a significant role in the History of the Middle East and of Islam. By A.D. 630, Muslim influence expanded across the Middle East and North Africa. By A.D. 711, Muslim warriors had reached Spain, and controlled most of the Iberian peninsula by 720. Their mounts were of various oriental types, including both Arabians and the Barb horse of North Africa. Muslim invaders reached as far north as France, where they were stopped by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732.
  • A gazelle is an antelope of the genus Gazella . Gazelles are known as swift animals; they are able to reach high speeds for long periods of time. Gazelles are mostly found in the grasslands and savannas of Africa, but they are also found in southwest Asia. They tend to live in herds and will eat less coarse, easily digestible plants and leaves. Early caliphs in Islam would site their palaces on the edge of the desert so as to be near good areas for gazelle hunting.
  • Spiny-tailed lizards are primarily herbivorous, but occasionally eat insects, especially when young. They spend most of their waking hours basking in the sun, hiding in underground chambers at nighttime or when danger appears. They tend to establish themselves in hilly, rocky areas with good shelter and accessible vegetation. The spiny-tailed lizard is considered a delicacy in some parts of the Middle East.
  • The Arabian oryx is a medium-sized antelope weighing 65 - 75 kg (140 - 170 lb). Prior to its extinction in the wild, it is believed to have occurred in flat and undulating gravel plains intersected by shallow wadis and depressions, and the dunes edging sand deserts, with a diverse vegetation of trees, shrubs, herbs , and grasses. The Arabian oryx eats mainly grasses. Herbs , seedpods, fruit, fresh growth of trees, tubers and roots also form part of its diet. It can go for weeks without drinking water. The Arabian oryx apparently digs shallow depressions in soft ground under trees and shrubs for resting. The Arabian oryx lives in nomadic herds that follow the rare rains, and it is able to utilize effectively the fresh plant growth that occurs after a rainfall. The normal group size is 8 - 20 animals, but herds of up to 100 have been reported. A herd contains all ages and both sexes. Such herds probably stay together for a considerable time. Oryx are very compatible with one another - the low frequency of aggressive interactions allows animals to share scattered shade trees under which they may spend 8 of the daylight hours in the summer heat.
  • The Sand Cat ( Felis margarita ) is a small wild cat distributed over African and Asian deserts. It lives in those arid areas that are too hot and dry even for the Desert Cat: the Sahara, the Arabian Desert, and the deserts of Iran and Pakistan. It usually lives up to 13 years. The length averages almost 50 cm (20 in), plus a 30 cm (12 in) tail, and the weight averages about at 2.7 kg (6 lbs). The paws are covered with long hairs in order to protect the skin against the hot sand. The Sand Cat can survive in temperatures ranging from -5 to +52 degrees Celsius. In the daytime the Sand Cat hides under rocks. At night it hunts for rodents, lizards and insects. Since the Sand Cat obtains all the water it needs from eating its prey, it stays mostly far away from watering points. Sand cats congregate only for mating so numbering them is a difficult task. It seems however that its number has been declining in the Arabian desert following a rarefaction of its prey. In 2007, the first four kittens born in captivity are being raised at the Al Ain Zoo in the United Arab Emirates as an effort to preserve the local fauna.
  • Striped Hyenas are largely scavengers, but will also eat small animals, fruit and insects. Larger subspecies are known to hunt animals as large as wild boar. They are nomadic, moving from water hole to water hole, but never straying more than 6 miles from one. Striped hyenas hunt in solitude but do congregate in small family groups. Like many other animals of hot climates, their ears radiate heat. The striped hyena live in the tropical savanna, grasslands, Semi-desert, scrub forest, and woodland. The striped hyenas habit of feasting on the kills of other predators inevitably results in some form of confrontation, ranging from threatening posturing to downright violence. In Africa the striped hyena is invariably dominated in feeding disputes against the larger apex carnivores such as lions and spotted hyena. Disputes against lone predators such as leopards and cheetahs are more difficult to predict, the outcome usually depending on who intimidates who first. In India and the Middle East, the striped hyena will sometimes enter conflict with wolves. Though individually stronger, the hyenas solitary nature puts it at a disadvantage against the more social wolf.
  • Dung beetles refer to those beetles which feed partly or exclusively on feces. All of these species belong to the superfamily Scarabaeoidea; most of them to the subfamilies Scarabaeinae and Aphodiinae of the family Scarabaeidae. As most species of Scarabaeinae feed exclusively on feces, that subfamily is often dubbed true dung beetles . There are dung-feeding beetles which belong to other families, such as the Geotrupidae (the earth-boring dung beetle ). The Scarabaeinae alone comprises more than 5,000 species.[1] Many dung beetles, known as rollers , are noted for rolling dung into spherical balls, which are used as a food source or brooding chambers. Other dung beetles, known as tunnellers , bury the dung wherever they find it. A third group, the dwellers , neither roll nor burrow: they simply live in manure.
  • Clothing Clothing helps reduce fluid loss and gives protection from sunburn, as well as warmth at night and a barrier against insect bites and thorns. In the desert it should be light and loose fitting, with air space between the garments and the body to provide insulation. Copy the flowing, layered garments of the Arab world. Trousers give more protection from insects than shorts(and guard against serious burns on the legs if forced into daytime exposure). Cover the head and feet. White reflects heat; dark colors absorb it. Any hat with a piece of cloth attached to the back will give some protection to the head and back of the neck but it is better to copy the headgear of desert peoples. You need a piece of material about 120cm (4ft) square, a smaller piece, such as a handkerchief, and a piece of cord or cloth (a tie is ideal) to keep them in position. Make the handkerchief into a wad on top of the head. Fold the large cloth diagonally, place it over the handkerchief, the long edge forward. Tie cord or cloth around the head to secure them. Allowed to fall freely this will protect from the sun, trap pockets of air, take advantage of breezes and protect from sandstorms. At night wrap it around the face for warmth.
  • Clothing Clothing helps reduce fluid loss and gives protection from sunburn, as well as warmth at night and a barrier against insect bites and thorns. In the desert it should be light and loose fitting, with air space between the garments and the body to provide insulation. Copy the flowing, layered garments of the Arab world. Trousers give more protection from insects than shorts(and guard against serious burns on the legs if forced into daytime exposure). Cover the head and feet. White reflects heat; dark colors absorb it. Any hat with a piece of cloth attached to the back will give some protection to the head and back of the neck but it is better to copy the headgear of desert peoples. You need a piece of material about 120cm (4ft) square, a smaller piece, such as a handkerchief, and a piece of cord or cloth (a tie is ideal) to keep them in position. Make the handkerchief into a wad on top of the head. Fold the large cloth diagonally, place it over the handkerchief, the long edge forward. Tie cord or cloth around the head to secure them. Allowed to fall freely this will protect from the sun, trap pockets of air, take advantage of breezes and protect from sandstorms. At night wrap it around the face for warmth.
  • Tents The bedouin people, who live in the desert, are nomadic herders. They need housing that they can put up and take down easily.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Arabia: Birthplace of Islam
    • 2. Location
    • 3. The Arabian Peninsula.
    • 4. Western or eastern hemisphere? Northern or southern hemisphere?
    • 5. Deserts
    • 6. The Nafud Desert.
    • 7. The Syrian Desert.
    • 8. The desert outside Dubai.
    • 9. The Rub’ Al-Khali: the Empty Quarter.
    • 10. Extreme daily temperatures: below freezing at night up to 122° F during the day
    • 11. Water
    • 12. A desert oasis.
    • 13. The Arabian Sea.
    • 14. The Red Sea. Clearly not red.
    • 15. The Persian Gulf.
    • 16. Transportation
    • 17. CARS
    • 18. More efficient: camels, the “ship of the desert.”
    • 19. Also: the Arabian horse.
    • 20. Wildlife
    • 21. Gazelle
    • 22. Spiny-tailed lizard: them’s good eatin’!
    • 23. Oryx
    • 24. Sand cat
    • 25. Striped hyena
    • 26. Dung beetle
    • 27. Camels and dinosaurs: traditional enemies
    • 28. Plant life
    • 29. Requirements: • Xerophytic (do well in dry regions) • Halophytic (do well in salty soil) mustard date palm no cacti saltbush
    • 30. Cultural adaptations
    • 31. Clothing is adapted to the environment and religious customs.
    • 32. Bedouin tent: easy to put up and take down.
    • 33. So long, and thanks for visiting our homeland! Salaam!

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