Oman; a bit of Geography


Map (Google Earth) of Oman with main geographical features
The Sultanate of Oman is situated in the south-eastern quarter of the Arabian Peninsula. Isolated by a large desert area (the Rub Al Khali or Empty Quarters) from the rest of the peninsula, it always depended on the seas that literally engulf it, from the Strait of Hormuz in the north with the Gulf of Oman to the north-east and the Arabian Sea to the south-east. With some 3150 km of coastline at the crossroads of trade routes of the ancient civilisations of the Middle and Far East (Egypt, Mesopotamia and India), it is not surprising that its inhabitants developed a strong link with the sea. Omani seafarers, such as the legendary Sinbad, have been trading and shipping its natural resources already since the earliest of times.
The Sultanate's land borders are with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the west, the Republic of Yemen to the south and the United Arab Emirates to the north-west. The country includes the mountainous Ras Musandam in the north, with its massive cliffs jutting between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, strategically overlooking the Strait of Hormuz. This part of the country is separated from the rest of Oman by territory of the United Arab Emirates.

The total land area of the sultanate is approximately 309,500 km2 and as such it is the third largest country of the Arabian Peninsula, comparable in size to the United Kingdom.

Nature divides the country into three distinctly different terrains; a mountain range in the North (the Al Hajar range) and one in the South (the Qara (Dhofar) range, the eastern extension of the Hadraumaut range of Yemen) which separate a narrow, relatively fertile coastal plain, from the large desert plateau in the interior.

The majority of Oman’s population - 55% of a total of about 2.3 million people (2003, Oman statistical yearbook) lives in the narrow northern coastal belt of up to 19 km wide between the Hajar Mountains and the Gulf of Oman, the fertile ‘belly’, or Batinah Coast of Oman, including the Muscat capital area. A similar narrow coastal belt in the south, in Dhofar, receives more rain than anywhere else in Oman and homes about 9% of the population of the Sultanate. The eastern part of Oman’s coastline is famous for its rich sea life supported by upwelling nutritient-rich cold water.
The interior open desert, which makes up some 82% of the country, consists mainly of gravel plains and areas of sand dunes that everybody associates with a ‘classical’ desert.

 

The largest of these are the dune fields of the Sharqiya Sands (informally known as the Wahiba Sands) along the eastern coast of Central Oman and the huge sand desert of, the Ar Rub al Khali (the Empty Quarter) which forms the natural border with Saudi Arabia.
The Al Hajar mountain range dominates the northern coastline with the peaks of Jabal Al Akhdar in the western Hajar exceeding 3000 metres (Jabal Shams). The mountain flanks dip gently to the south-west, to the interior. The many oasis towns in this part of the country are true islands of green date groves surrounded by the arid mountains. The eastern flank of the mountains towards the Gulf of Oman is characterised by steep and impressive rock faces. The northern Hajar Mountains include the dark Samail ophiolites, originally ocean-floor lavas, underlying igneous rocks and overlying deep sea sediments that were thrusted over this part of the Arabian Peninsula some 80-90 million years ago. The central parts of the Hajar Mountains consist of sedimentary rocks, including massive limestones in the Eastern Hajar range, which host the second largest cave of the world.
The desert plateau of Central Oman is bounded to the south by another range of coastal mountains, known as the Qara range. The Qara Mountains are about half the height of the northern Hajar Mountains, with Jabal Dhofar reaching 1675m. The thick limestones of the Qara range are literally riddled with cave systems.
The largest island in Oman waters is Masirah in the southeast, but the country includes also quite a number of small rocky islands along its long coastline in both the north and south. Many of the sand beaches along its eastern coast, particularly near Ras Al Had and Masirah Island host some 90% of the giant green turtle’s nesting population on the Arabian Sea coast.
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          Number of visits since 12 October 2006

@ J. Schreurs 03/11/09