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The Importance of Plants in Islamic Culture
Mosaics in the Great Mosque of Damascus
Folio from the De Materia Medica of Dioscorides
With its origins in the arid climate of the Arabian Peninsula, it is no wonder that the Islamic world was fascinated by plants throughout history. Because the land could not sustain much plant life it became a task to bring vegetation into everyday life. Even when Islam expanded into regions that were not arid and had an abundance of plants, the desire to use plant motifs in art and architecture remained. Through manuscripts, ceramics, decorative arts and architecture, artists found ways to incorporate flora into the culture. Apart from their aesthetic beauty, plants also hold an important place in Islamic life through their association with Paradise and practical uses in medicine.
Because of the climate in the Arabian Peninsula, “Muslims have always appreciated the soothing impact of flowing water, the occasional greenery of isolated oases or indeed the colorful vegetation of artificially created walled gardens” (Echoes of Paradise). Artists looked to this love of plants and water as inspiration and used vegetal motifs in various art forms. These artists were also inspired, not only by nature itself but, by other cultures such as the the Byzantine and Sasanian empires (Department of Islamic Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art). The pillars from the Church of Saint Polyeuktos in Constantinople, shows the use of plants in architecture, combined with Sasanian artistic motifs and was also commissioned by a member of the Byzantine court (Williams). It was not until the development of the arabesque, a vegetal abstraction of interweaving lines, during the medieval period that Islamic artists developed their own vegetal motif (Department of Islamic Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art).
Religion played a particularly important role in the Islamic love of plants for there were many references to the gardens of Paradise in the Quran, specifically “the fountains, flowing waters and perfect temperate climate” (Clark, 23). The gardens of Paradise were discussed as a wonderful reprieve from the hot desert climate. Gardens and their pleasures were thought to be “a direct symbol of God’s mercy” (Clark, 24). Most of the visual depictions of the Paradise garden were abstracted depictions of general gardens, alluding to Paradise. There is, however, one, probable, representation of Paradise found in the mosaics of the Great Mosque of Damascus.
The Great Mosque of Damascus was built by the Umayyad Caliph al-Walid in Damascus. The mosaics within the mosque, attributed to Byzantine workers, “cover the prayer hall, the inner side of the perimeter walls and the court facades,” and depict “flowing rivers, fantastic houses, and richly foliate trees of variegated greens” all on a golden background (Great Mosque). The vibrant greens, in addition to gold mosaic in the background of the entirety of the composition, evoke a sense of lushness that one imagines would be in the gardens of paradise. The ornate buildings with their various pavilions near the flowing river and highly decorated columns create an idealized world. Inscriptions found throughout the building discuss the gardens of Paradise, leading scholars such as Finbar Flood to posit that these mosaics were direct representations of the gardens of Paradise as described in the Quran (Flood). Through the detailed depiction of a beautiful, natural environment, the artists that laid these mosaics demonstrated the importance of gardens, and by association, plants, in Islamic culture.
As stated earlier, the mosaics in the Great Mosque of Damascus are an exception to the typical depiction of gardens in Islamic art. Normally artists only alluded to the gardens of Paradise without making explicit references to it through inscriptions. Therefore, depictions of gardens became a popular motif among Islamic artists that spanned various art forms. Textiles, specifically carpets, often showed abstracted versions of gardens. The Garden Carpet from Iran, currently in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, depicts one of the most typical layouts of the Islamic garden, the four-fold garden known as the Chahar Bagh.
The four-fold garden incorporated many important factors of Islamic religion and culture. The number four was significant for it “encompases the four cardinal directions, the four elements and the four seasons” (Clark, 29). Additionally, when Muhammad discusses his ascent to heaven he “speaks of four rivers: one of water, one of milk, one of honey and one of wine” (Clark, 29). Within the Garden Carpet , the composition of the textile is divided symmetrically across the vertical and horizontal axis, leading to four equal divisions of the carpet, creating a four-fold garden. The four water channels are seen in the vertical green line and the horizontal orange line that run through the carpet, divided only by a central rectangle that is likely an allusion to the pavilions often found at the merging of the vertical and horizontal rivers. Within physical gardens, these four water channels provided much needed irrigation for straight lines were efficient in distributing water to the plants. The complex irrigation systems created by Islamic engineers allowed for the transportation of water throughout not only the gardens but also the dry landscape as well. This could “transform the desert from wasteland… to a prosperous landscape of small agricultural estates that gave forth enough food to sustain permanent residential communities” (Ruggles, 14). These irrigation systems were necessary to sustain Islamic cities but also provided opportunities to manipulate the natural environment for aesthetic pleasure through gardens.
With the complex system of irrigation required to build gardens, it is understandable that these environments were so revered in Islamic culture. This engineering feat allowed for plants to flourish in areas where plant life was unsustainable. That is one of the main reasons why gardens had a significant religious aspect to them.
Gardens were also able to be enjoyed in the secular realm. It was expensive to maintain gardens so they were therefore enjoyed especially by the rulers and court. As seen in Garden Gathering from 17th century Iran, currently on view in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, gardens provided an environment for pleasure in the Islamic world. As the lounging women exhibit, gardens were a place of relaxation. The lavish garments of the women lounging in the garden demonstrate their wealth, specifically the central figure that is sprawled out on a cushion, being waited on by the other women. Through the inclusion of these wealthy women and many of their beautiful vases, seen in the grass, this work shows the importance and prestige that was associated with gardens.
While currently housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the original location of these tiles speaks to the artistic exchange that occurred between gardens and art objects. These panels would most likely have been found on the wall of a garden pavilion, providing a mirror to the surrounding environment (Garden Gathering). The mirror-like quality in the display of the work is enhanced by the detail given to the trees and each individual flower found throughout the grass. The trees and various plants in this image are colored in a bright blue that, while not naturalistic, evokes a decorative aspect of the tiles and helps to unify the colors of the piece. Additionally, each individual flower is distinguished from the rest and there is some semblance of anatomical exactitude in the way in which each of the plants was painted. This shows the attention to detail that Islamic artists gave to plants and their inspiration from the natural world.
Gardens are perhaps the most obvious demonstration of the Islamic love for plants. Evoking an otherworldly sense of serenity and beauty, gardens allowed for rest, relaxation, and contemplations of Allah’s gifts of plants. Outside of the garden, however, plants did not have a religious significance (Vegetal Patterns). Instead, flowers and plants were appreciated throughout art and architecture for their aesthetic and medicinal qualities because the visual beauty found in plants and plant motifs translated well to other artistic media.
Architecture was an area which was greatly inspired by plants and demonstrated the high status given to plants in Islamic culture: “when flowers [were] not depicted naturalistically in Islamic art, they [were] often used in more or less fantastic arrangements intended to enhance the surface of a building or an artifact” (Echoes of Paradise). Most of the plant motifs used in Islamic art were inherited from other cultures and from nature itself: “Islamic designers [seemed] to have an endless and indigenous appetite for exploring the huge range of design possibilities offered by the natural variety in plant life” (Victoria and Albert Museum). Natural variety within plants was aided by the rise in trade routes throughout the Islamic world and beyond, leading to a prosperous exchange of different plant types (Ruggles, 29).
The Capital from Madinat al-Zahra, just outside of Córdoba, Spain, currently in the Victoria and Albert Museum, exemplifies the use of plant motifs in architecture and the influence that other cultures and nature had over Islamic architecture. Three levels of leaves are seen, evoking the tri-leveled acanthus leaves that were characteristic of Corinthian capitals. However, this capital shows the highly stylized version of the Corinthian capital typically found in Islamic architecture. The interweaving lines allude to vines along with the leaves that protrude from the general structure. Characteristic of Islamic architecture, holes were drilled into the column, creating a surface with multiple levels. Usage of plant motifs in architecture imitated this same type of usage in Roman capitals and further surrounded people with plant motifs.
The importance of plants in Islamic culture was exhibited not only in art, but also in medicine. Plant related texts became popular among the ruling class after crops, such as sugar-cane and cotton, were used as a taxable commodity (Ruggles, 29). Books on the science of agriculture became popular including calendars and almanacs that informed people of when to plant certain crops or flowers. These texts were followed by botanical dictionaries and treatises that gave accounts of various plants and their practical uses (Ruggles, 29). Dioscorides’s De Materia Medica is perhaps the most famous of these treatises.
Pedanius Dioscorides served as a physician in the Roman legions and “traveled widely collecting drugs and plants” (Riddle, 1). His encyclopedia on plants and their medical uses for human health was originally written in Greek and later translated into many languages including Arabic, as seen in the Folio from the De Materia Medica of Dioscorides from the 13th century Iraq, currently in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Each page from the De Materia Medica includes the name of the plant, a basic description of its uses, and a visual representation of the plant. Most of the pages include accurate depictions of the plants but some plants are unidentifiable based on the illustrations. Much of this visual inaccuracy was due to the way in which manuscripts were produced at that time: “A text was produced for oral delivery at first and then, if important and valuable enough, it would be copied down” (Ruggles, 31). Additionally, there was difficulty for the Arabic translators and artists who were transcribing the treatise. They had to solely rely on second hand depictions of the plants and then copy them into a new manuscript. Artistic liberties within the copied plant diagrams lead to confusion on the true appearance of many of the plants.
As seen in this folio, this plant, called Thamt, is depicted in such a way that it includes many of the typical characteristics of Islamic art. The plant is relatively symmetrical around the vertical axis and shown in blocks of red, yellow, and green. The inclusion of the painted image of the plant creates a juxtaposition of the utility of the informative inscription and the decorative nature of the illustration. This allows the viewer to learn from the manuscript while also appreciating its beauty.
The beauty and detail found in the images of the plants, along with the information about their medical uses, is important on each page of the De Materia Medica . While this page, along with many others in the treatise describe the many uses of the plants, Dioscorides also wrote about important medical processes, such as the method of creating sour wine which was thought to be beneficial to digestion. Although Dioscorides wrote in Greek, the importance of his text is evident in the fact that it was translated into Arabic. The need for a translated version of the treatise shows the desire to learn more about plants and their uses in the Islamic world. In this way, Disocorides’s De Materia Medica , in its translated form, shows the importance of plants to Islamic culture.
The importance of plants permeated many levels of Islamic culture. Plants were revered for their healing properties, as seen in the De Materia Medica of Dioscorides. They were also symbolically important in religion for it was a miracle that vegetation could grow and flourish in such dry climates. Additionally, the importance of plants affected various Islamic art forms ranging from mosaics in the Great Mosque of Damascus, ceramics in the tiles from the Garden Gathering , textiles, as seen in the Garden Carpet , architecture in the Capital and manuscripts through the Folio . Through the use of plant motifs in all of these art forms, the pivotal role that plants played in Islamic culture is apparent.
Clark, Emma. The Art of the Islamic Garden . Ramsbury, Wiltshire: Crowood, 2004.
“Garden Gathering | The Met.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I.e. The Met Museum .
Department of Islamic Art. “Vegetal Patterns in Islamic Art.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art
History . New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/vege/hd_vege.htm (October 2001)
“Echoes of Paradise: The Garden and Flora in Islamic Art.”
Discover Islamic Art Virtual Exhibitions | Echoes of Paradise: The Garden and Flora in Islamic Art . Museum With No Frontiers, n.d. 05 Apr. 2017. Accessed through http://www.discoverislamicart.org/exhibitions/ISL/floral/?lng=en
Flood, Finbarr B. “Faith, Religion, and the Material Culture of Early Islam.” In Byzantium and
Islam: Age of Transition, 7th–9th Century . New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012. 244–258.
Labatt, Annie. Great Mosque of Damascus . The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2012
Riddle, John M. Dioscorides on Pharmacy and Medicine . Austin: U of Texas, 1985.
Ruggles, D. Fairchild. Islamic Gardens and Landscapes . Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania, 2008.
Victoria and Albert Museum, Digital Media [email protected] “Plant Motifs in Islamic
Art.” Victoria and Albert Museum, Digital Media [email protected] . Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2RL. Telephone +44 (0)20 7942 2000. Email [email protected], 31 Jan. 2013. 05 Apr. 2017.
Williams, Betsy. The Sasanians . The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2012. Accessed through
The Arabian Peninsula  ( / ə ˈ r eɪ b i ə n . / Arabic: شِبْهُ الْجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِيَّة , shibhu l-jazīrati l-ʿarabiyyah, "Arabian Peninsula" or جَزِيرَةُ الْعَرَب , jazīratu l-ʿarab, "Island of the Arabs")  is a peninsula of Western Asia, situated northeast of Africa on the Arabian Plate. At 3,237,500 km 2 (1,250,000 sq mi), the Arabian Peninsula is the largest peninsula in the world.     
|Area||3,237,500 km 2 (1,250,000 sq mi)|
|HDI||0.788 (2018) |
|Countries||Bahrain [note 1] |
Iraq [note 2]
Jordan [note 2]
United Arab Emirates
Yemen [note 3]
Geographically, the Arabian Peninsula includes Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Yemen, as well as the southern portions of Iraq and Jordan.  The biggest of these is Saudi Arabia.  The Peninsula, plus Bahrain, the Socotra Archipelago, and other nearby islands form a geopolitical region called Arabia, which is the largest region in the world without any permanent rivers. 
The Arabian Peninsula formed as a result of the rifting of the Red Sea between 56 and 23 million years ago, and is bordered by the Red Sea to the west and southwest, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the northeast, the Levant and Mesopotamia to the north and the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean to the southeast. The peninsula plays a critical geopolitical role in the Arab world and globally due to its vast reserves of oil and natural gas.
Before the modern era, the region was divided into primarily four distinct regions: the Central Plateau (Najd or Al-Yamama), the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean Coast (South Arabia or Hadhramaut), the Persian Gulf Coast and Gulf of Oman (Eastern Arabia or Al-Bahrain), and the Red Sea Coast (Hejaz or Tihamah). Eastern Arabia consists of the entire coastal strip of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Hejaz and Najd make up most of Saudi Arabia. South Arabia consists of Yemen, a sizable part of Saudi Arabia ('Asir, Jizan, and Najran) and (Dhofar) in Oman.
Important Population Centers
Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, is the most populous urban center in the Arabian Peninsula.
An estimated 86.2 million people live on the Arabian Peninsula. The region's high population is supported by a high immigration rate. It also has one of the most skewed population, with almost all the countries having more men than women. At about 75%, Qatar has the highest proportion of men in the world. Expatriates and immigrates account for a significant proportion of the peninsula’s population. In Qatar and the UAE, over 80% of their populations are expatriates.
- 1 Geography
- 1.1 Political boundaries
- 1.2 Population
- 1.2.1 Cities
- 1.3 Landscape
- 1.3.1 Mountains
- 1.4 Land and sea
- 2 Etymology
- 3 History
- 3.1 Pre-Islamic Arabia
- 3.2 Rise of Islam
- 3.3 Middle Ages
- 3.4 Modern history
- 3.4.1 Late Ottoman rule and the Hejaz Railway
- 3.4.2 The Arab Revolt and the foundation of Saudi Arabia
- 3.4.3 Oil reserves
- 3.4.4 Civil war in Yemen
- 3.4.5 Gulf War
- 3.4.6 Yemen Arab Spring
- 4 Transport and industry
- 5 Gallery
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The Arabian Peninsula is located in the continent of Asia and is bounded by (clockwise) the Persian Gulf on the northeast, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman on the east, the Arabian Sea on the southeast, the Gulf of Aden, Guardafui Channel and Somali Sea on the south, the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait on the southwest and the Red Sea, which is located on the southwest and west.  The northern portion of the peninsula merges with the Syrian Desert with no clear borderline, although the northern boundary of the peninsula is generally considered to be the northern borders of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. 
The most prominent feature of the peninsula is desert, but in the southwest, there are mountain ranges, which receive greater rainfall than the rest of the peninsula. Harrat ash Shaam is a large volcanic field that extends from northwestern Arabia into Jordan and southern Syria. 
Political boundaries Edit
The Peninsula's constituent countries are (clockwise from north to south) Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the east, Oman on the southeast, Yemen on the south, and Saudi Arabia at the center. The island country of Bahrain lies just off the east coast of the Peninsula.  Due to Yemen's jurisdiction over the Socotra Archipelago, the Peninsula's geopolitical outline faces the Guardafui Channel and the Somali Sea to the south. 
Six countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) form the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). 
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia covers the greater part of the Peninsula. The majority of the population of the Peninsula lives in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The Peninsula contains the world's largest reserves of oil. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are economically the wealthiest in the region. Qatar, the only peninsular country in the Persian Gulf on the larger peninsula, is home to the Arabic-language television station Al Jazeera and its English-language subsidiary Al Jazeera English. Kuwait, on the border with Iraq, is an important country strategically, forming one of the main staging grounds for coalition forces mounting the United States-led 2003 invasion of Iraq.
|Political Definition: Gulf Cooperation Council and Yemen|
Sources:1950–2000  2000–2014 
|Population of 4 smallest (in area) GCC states with entire coastline in Persian Gulf: UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait |
Sources:1950–2000  2000–2014 
Though historically lightly populated, political Arabia is noted for a high population growth rate – as the result of both very strong inflows of migrant labor as well as sustained high birth rates. The population tends to be relatively young and heavily skewed gender ratio dominated by males. In many states, the number of South Asians exceeds that of the local citizenry. The four smallest states (by area), which have their entire coastlines on the Persian Gulf, exhibit the world's most extreme population growth, roughly tripling every 20 years. In 2014, the estimated population of the Arabian Peninsula was 77,983,936 (including expatriates).  The Arabian Peninsula is known for having one of the most uneven adult sex ratios in the world, with females in some regions (especially the east) constituting only a quarter of vicenarians and tricenarians. 
The ten most populous cities on the Arabian Peninsula are:
|Source: 2020 |
Geologically, this region is perhaps more appropriately called the Arabian subcontinent because it lies on a tectonic plate of its own, the Arabian Plate, which has been moving incrementally away from the rest of Africa (forming the Red Sea) and north, toward Asia, into the Eurasian Plate (forming the Zagros Mountains). The rocks exposed vary systematically across Arabia, with the oldest rocks exposed in the Arabian-Nubian Shield near the Red Sea, overlain by earlier sediments that become younger towards the Persian Gulf. Perhaps the best-preserved ophiolite on Earth, the Semail Ophiolite, lies exposed in the mountains of the UAE and northern Oman.
The peninsula consists of:
- A central plateau, the Najd, with fertile valleys and pastures used for the grazing of sheep and other livestock
- A range of deserts: the Nefud in the north,  which is stony the Rub' al Khali or Great Arabian Desert in the south, with sand estimated to extend 600 ft (180 m) below the surface between them, the Dahna
- Stretches of dry or marshy coastland with coral reefs on the Red Sea side (Tihamah)
- Oases and marshy coast-land in Eastern Arabia on the Persian Gulf side, the most important of which are those of Al Ain (in the UAE, on the border with Oman) and Al-Hasa (in Saudi Arabia), according to one author 
Arabia has few lakes or permanent rivers. Most areas are drained by ephemeral watercourses called wadis, which are dry except during the rainy season. Plentiful ancient aquifers exist beneath much of the peninsula, however, and where this water surfaces, oases form (e.g. Al-Hasa and Qatif, two of the world's largest oases) and permit agriculture, especially palm trees, which allowed the peninsula to produce more dates than any other region in the world. In general, the climate is extremely hot and arid, although there are exceptions. Higher elevations are made temperate by their altitude, and the Arabian Sea coastline can receive surprisingly cool, humid breezes in summer due to cold upwelling offshore. The peninsula has no thick forests. Desert-adapted wildlife is present throughout the region.
According to NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite data (2003–2013) analysed in a University of California, Irvine (UCI)-led study published in Water Resources Research on 16 June 2015, the most over-stressed aquifer system in the world is the Arabian Aquifer System, upon which more than 60 million people depend for water.  Twenty-one of the thirty seven largest aquifers "have exceeded sustainability tipping points and are being depleted" and thirteen of them are "considered significantly distressed". 
A plateau more than 2,500 feet (760 m) high extends across much of the Arabian Peninsula. The plateau slopes eastwards from the massive, rifted escarpment along the coast of the Red Sea, to the shallow waters of the Persian Gulf. The interior is characterised by cuestas and valleys, drained by a system of wadis. A crescent of sand and gravel deserts lies to the east.
There are mountains at the eastern, southern and northwestern borders of the peninsula. Broadly, the ranges can be grouped as follows:
- Northeast: The Hajar range, shared by the UAE and northern Oman 
- Southeast: The Dhofar Mountains of southern Oman,  contiguous with the eastern Yemeni Hadhramaut
- West: Bordering the eastern coast of the Red Sea are the Sarawat,  which can be seen to include the Haraz Mountains of eastern Yemen,  and the 'Asir and Hijaz Mountains of western Saudi Arabia,  the latter including the Midian in northwestern Saudi Arabia 
- Northwest: Aside from the Sarawat, the northern portion of Saudi Arabia hosts the Shammar Mountains, which include the Aja and Salma subranges 
- Central: The Najd hosts the Tuwaiq Escarpment  or Tuwair range 
From the Hejaz southwards, the mountains show a steady increase in altitude westward as they get nearer to Yemen, and the highest peaks and ranges are all located in Yemen. The highest, Jabal An-Nabi Shu'ayb or Jabal Hadhur    of the Haraz subrange of the Sarawat range, is about 3,666 m (2.278 mi) high.   By comparison, the Tuwayr, Shammar and Dhofar generally do not exceed 1,000 m (0.62 mi) in height. 
Not all mountains in the peninsula are visibly within ranges. Jebel Hafeet in particular, on the border of the UAE and Oman, measuring between 1,100 and 1,300 m (3,600 and 4,300 ft),   is not within the Hajar range, but may be considered an outlier of that range.
Jebel Hafeet on the border of Oman and the UAE, near the city of Al Ain. It can be considered an outlier of Al Hajar Mountains. 
The northeastern Hajar Mountains, shared by Oman and the UAE, as seen from the desert of Sharjah
The Dhofar mountainous region in southeastern Oman, where the city of Salalah is located, is a tourist destination known for its annual khareef season
The Hadhramaut Mountains of eastern Yemen, contiguous with the Omani Dhofar range, as seen from the city of Al-Mukalla
Terraced fields in the Harazi subrange of the Sarawat Mountains in western Yemen
Jabal Sawdah of the 'Asir range in southwestern Saudi Arabia, near the border with Yemen
The Faifa mountains in the Asir Region, southwestern Saudi Arabia.
The Midian Mountains of Tabuk Province, in northwestern Saudi Arabia, near the border with Jordan
The Aja subrange of the Shammar Mountains in the region of Ha'il, northern Saudi Arabia
The Tuwaiq Escarpment or Tuwayr mountainous region in the Najd, southwest of the Saudi capital city of Riyadh
Land and sea Edit
Most of the Arabian Peninsula is unsuited to agriculture, making irrigation and land reclamation projects essential. The narrow coastal plain and isolated oases, amounting to less than 1% of the land area, are used to cultivate grains, coffee and tropical fruits. Goat, sheep, and camel husbandry is widespread elsewhere throughout the rest of the Peninsula. Some areas have a summer humid tropical monsoon climate, in particular the Dhofar and Al Mahrah areas of Oman and Yemen. These areas allow for large scale coconut plantations. Much of Yemen has a tropical monsoon rain influenced mountain climate. The plains usually have either a tropical or subtropical arid desert climate or arid steppe climate. The sea surrounding the Arabian Peninsula is generally tropical sea with a very rich tropical sea life and some of the world's largest, undestroyed and most pristine coral reefs. In addition, the organisms living in symbiosis with the Red Sea coral, the protozoa and zooxanthellae, have a unique hot weather adaptation to sudden rise (and fall) in sea water temperature. Hence, these coral reefs are not affected by coral bleaching caused by rise in temperature as elsewhere in the indopacific coral sea. The reefs are also unaffected by mass tourism and diving or other large scale human interference. However, some reefs were destroyed in the Persian Gulf, mostly caused by phosphate water pollution and resultant increase in algae growth as well as oil pollution from ships and pipeline leakage. [ citation needed ]
The fertile soils of Yemen have encouraged settlement of almost all of the land from sea level up to the mountains at 10,000 feet (3,000 m). In the higher reaches, elaborate terraces have been constructed to facilitate grain, fruit, coffee, ginger and khat cultivation. The Arabian peninsula is known for its rich oil, i.e. petroleum production due to its geographical location. [ citation needed ]
During the Hellenistic period, the area was known as Arabia or Aravia (Greek: Αραβία ). The Romans named three regions with the prefix "Arabia", encompassing a larger area than the current term "Arabian Peninsula":
- Arabia Petraea ("Stony Arabia"  ): for the area that is today southern modern Syria, Jordan, the Sinai Peninsula and northwestern Saudi Arabia. It was the only one that became a province, with Petra as its capital.
- Arabia Deserta ("Desert Arabia"): signified the desert interior of the Arabian peninsula. As a name for the region, it remained popular into the 19th and 20th centuries, and was used in Charles M. Doughty's Travels in Arabia Deserta (1888).
- Arabia Felix ("Fortunate Arabia"): was used by geographers to describe what is now Yemen, which enjoys more rainfall, is much greener than the rest of the peninsula and has long enjoyed much more productive fields.
The Arab inhabitants used a north–south division of Arabia: Al Sham-Al Yaman, or Arabia Deserta-Arabia Felix. Arabia Felix had originally been used for the whole peninsula, and at other times only for the southern region. Because its use became limited to the south, the whole peninsula was simply called Arabia. Arabia Deserta was the entire desert region extending north from Arabia Felix to Palmyra and the Euphrates, including all the area between Pelusium on the Nile and Babylon. This area was also called Arabia and not sharply distinguished from the peninsula. 
The Arabs and the Ottoman Empire considered the west of the Arabian Peninsula region where the Arabs lived 'the land of the Arabs' – Bilad al-Arab (Arabia), and its major divisions were the bilad al-Sham (Syria), bilad al-Yaman (the Land of the southern Peninsula), and Bilad al-Iraq and modern-day Kuwait (the Land of the River Banks).  The Ottomans used the term Arabistan in a broad sense for the region starting from Cilicia, where the Euphrates river makes its descent into Syria, through Palestine, and on through the remainder of the Sinai and Arabian peninsulas. 
The provinces of Arabia were: Al Tih, the Sinai peninsula, Hedjaz, Asir, Yemen, Hadramaut, Mahra and Shilu, Oman, Hasa, Bahrain, Dahna, Nufud, the Hammad, which included the deserts of Syria, Mesopotamia and Babylonia.  
The history of the Arabian Peninsula goes back to the beginnings of human habitation in Arabia up to 130,000 years ago.  However, a Homo sapiens fossilized finger bone was found at Al Wusta in the Nefud Desert, which indicates that the first human migration out of Africa to Arabia might date back to approximately 90,000 years ago.  Nevertheless, the stone tools from the Middle Paleolithic age along with fossils of other animals discovered at Ti's al Ghadah, in northwestern Saudi Arabia, might imply that hominids migrated through a "Green Arabia" between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago.  Acheulean tools found in Saffaqah, Riyadh Region reveal that hominins lived in the Arabian Peninsula as recently as 188,000 years ago.  However, 200,000-year-old stone tools were discovered at Shuaib Al-Adgham in the eastern Al-Qassim Province, which would indicate that many prehistoric sites, located along a network of rivers, had once existed in the area. 
Pre-Islamic Arabia Edit
There is evidence that human habitation in the Arabian Peninsula dates back to about 106,000 to 130,000 years ago.  The harsh climate historically [ when? ] prevented much settlement in the pre-Islamic Arabian peninsula, apart from a small number of urban trading settlements, such as Mecca and Medina, located in the Hejaz in the west of the peninsula. 
Archaeology has revealed the existence of many civilizations in pre-Islamic Arabia (such as the Thamud), especially in South Arabia.   South Arabian civilizations include the Sheba, the Himyarite Kingdom, the Kingdom of Awsan, the Kingdom of Ma'īn and the Sabaean Kingdom. Central Arabia was the location of the Kingdom of Kindah in the 4th, 5th and early 6th centuries AD. Eastern Arabia was home to the Dilmun civilization. The earliest known events in Arabian history are migrations from the peninsula into neighbouring areas. 
The Arabian peninsula has long been accepted as the original Urheimat of the Semitic languages by a majority of scholars.    
Rise of Islam Edit
The seventh century saw the rise of Islam as the peninsula's dominant religion. The Islamic prophet Muhammad was born in Mecca in about 570 and first began preaching in the city in 610, but migrated to Medina in 622. From there he and his companions united the tribes of Arabia under the banner of Islam and created a single Arab Muslim religious polity in the Arabian peninsula.
Muhammad established a new unified polity in the Arabian peninsula which under the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates saw a century of rapid expansion of Arab power well beyond the Arabian peninsula in the form of a vast Muslim Arab Empire with an area of influence that stretched from the northwest Indian subcontinent, across Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, southern Italy, and the Iberian Peninsula, to the Pyrenees.
With Muhammad's death in 632 AD, disagreement broke out over who would succeed him as leader of the Muslim community. Umar ibn al-Khattab, a prominent companion of Muhammad, nominated Abu Bakr, who was Muhammad's intimate friend and collaborator. Others added their support and Abu Bakr was made the first caliph. This choice was disputed by some of Muhammad's companions, who held that Ali ibn Abi Talib, his cousin and son-in-law, had been designated his successor. Abu Bakr's immediate task was to avenge a recent defeat by Byzantine (or Eastern Roman Empire) forces, although he first had to put down a rebellion by Arab tribes in an episode known as the Ridda wars, or "Wars of Apostasy". 
Following Muhammad's death in 632, Abu Bakr became leader of the Muslims as the first Caliph. After putting down a rebellion by the Arab tribes (known as the Ridda wars, or "Wars of Apostasy"), Abu Bakr attacked the Byzantine Empire. On his death in 634, he was succeeded by Umar as caliph, followed by Uthman ibn al-Affan and Ali ibn Abi Talib. The period of these first four caliphs is known as al-khulafā' ar-rāshidūn: the Rashidun or "rightly guided" Caliphate. Under the Rashidun Caliphs, and, from 661, their Umayyad successors, the Arabs rapidly expanded the territory under Muslim control outside of Arabia. In a matter of decades Muslim armies decisively defeated the Byzantine army and destroyed the Persian Empire, conquering huge swathes of territory from the Iberian peninsula to India. The political focus of the Muslim world then shifted to the newly conquered territories.  
Nevertheless, Mecca and Medina remained the spiritually most important places in the Muslim world. The Qur'an requires every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it, as one of the five pillars of Islam, to make a pilgrimage, or Hajj, to Mecca during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah at least once in his or her lifetime.  The Masjid al-Haram (the Grand Mosque) in Mecca is the location of the Kaaba, Islam's holiest site, and the Masjid al-Nabawi (the Prophet's Mosque) in Medina is the location of Muhammad tomb as a result, from the 7th century, Mecca and Medina became the pilgrimage destinations for large numbers of Muslims from across the Islamic world. 
Middle Ages Edit
Despite its spiritual importance, in political terms Arabia soon became a peripheral region of the Islamic world, in which the most important medieval Islamic states were based at various times in such far away cities as Damascus, Baghdad, and Cairo.
However, from the 10th century (and, in fact, until the 20th century) the Hashemite Sharifs of Mecca maintained a state in the most developed part of the region, the Hejaz. Their domain originally comprised only the holy cities of Mecca and Medina but in the 13th century it was extended to include the rest of the Hejaz. Although, the Sharifs exercised at most times independent authority in the Hejaz, they were usually subject to the suzerainty of one of the major Islamic empires of the time. In the Middle Ages, these included the Abbasids of Baghdad, and the Fatimids, Ayyubids and Mamluks of Egypt. 
Modern history Edit
The provincial Ottoman Army for Arabia (Arabistan Ordusu) was headquartered in Syria, which included Palestine, the Transjordan region in addition to Lebanon (Mount Lebanon was, however, a semi-autonomous mutasarrifate). It was put in charge of Syria, Cilicia, Iraq, and the remainder of the Arabian Peninsula.   The Ottomans never had any control over central Arabia, also known as the Najd region.
The Damascus Protocol of 1914 provides an illustration of the regional relationships. Arabs living in one of the existing districts of the Arabian peninsula, the Emirate of Hejaz, asked for a British guarantee of independence. Their proposal included all Arab lands south of a line roughly corresponding to the northern frontiers of present-day Syria and Iraq. They envisioned a new Arab state, or confederation of states, adjoining the southern Arabian Peninsula. It would have comprised Cilicia – İskenderun and Mersin, Iraq with Kuwait, Syria, Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate, Jordan, and Palestine. 
In the modern era, the term bilad al-Yaman came to refer specifically to the southwestern parts of the peninsula. Arab geographers started to refer to the whole peninsula as 'jazirat al-Arab', or the peninsula of the Arabs. 
Late Ottoman rule and the Hejaz Railway Edit
In the beginning of the 20th century, the Ottomans embarked on an ambitious project: the construction of a railway connecting Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire and the seat of the Islamic Caliphate, and Hejaz with its holiest shrines of Islam which are the yearly pilgrimage destination of the Hajj. Another important goal was to improve the economic and political integration of the distant Arabian provinces into the Ottoman state, and to facilitate the transportation of military troops in case of need.
The Hejaz Railway was a narrow gauge railway (1,050 km (650 mi)) that ran from Damascus to Medina, through the Hejaz region of Arabia. It was originally planned to reach the holy city of Mecca, but due to the interruption of the construction works caused by the outbreak of World War I, it eventually only reached Medina. It was a part of the Ottoman railway network and was built in order to extend the previously existing line between Istanbul and Damascus (which began from the Haydarpaşa Terminal).
The railway was started in 1900 at the behest of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II and was built largely by the Turks, with German advice and support. A public subscription was opened throughout the Islamic world to fund the construction. The railway was to be a waqf, an inalienable religious endowment or charitable trust. 
The Arab Revolt and the foundation of Saudi Arabia Edit
The major developments of the early 20th century were the Arab Revolt during World War I and the subsequent collapse and partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. The Arab Revolt (1916–1918) was initiated by the Sherif Hussein ibn Ali with the aim of securing independence from the ruling Ottoman Empire and creating a single unified Arab state spanning from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen. During World War I, the Sharif Hussein entered into an alliance with the United Kingdom and France against the Ottomans in June 1916.
These events were followed by the foundation of Saudi Arabia under King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud. In 1902, Ibn Saud had captured Riyadh. Continuing his conquests, Abdulaziz subdued Al-Hasa, Jabal Shammar, Hejaz between 1913 and 1926 founded the modern state of Saudi Arabia. The Saudis absorbed the Emirate of Asir, with their expansion only ending in 1934 after a war with Yemen. Two Saudi states were formed and controlled much of Arabia before Ibn Saud was even born. Ibn Saud, however, established the third Saudi state.
Oil reserves Edit
The second major development has been the discovery of vast reserves of oil in the 1930s. Its production brought great wealth to all countries of the region, with the exception of Yemen.
Civil war in Yemen Edit
The North Yemen Civil War was fought in North Yemen between royalists of the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen and factions of the Yemen Arab Republic from 1962 to 1970. The war began with a coup d'état carried out by the republican leader, Abdullah as-Sallal, which dethroned the newly crowned Muhammad al-Badr and declared Yemen a republic under his presidency. The Imam escaped to the Saudi Arabian border and rallied popular support.
The royalist side received support from Saudi Arabia, while the republicans were supported by Egypt and the Soviet Union. Both foreign irregular and conventional forces were also involved. The Egyptian President, Gamal Abdel Nasser, supported the republicans with as many as 70,000 troops. Despite several military moves and peace conferences, the war sank into a stalemate. Egypt's commitment to the war is considered to have been detrimental to its performance in the Six-Day War of June 1967, after which Nasser found it increasingly difficult to maintain his army's involvement and began to pull his forces out of Yemen.
By 1970, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia recognized the republic and a truce was signed. Egyptian military historians refer to the war in Yemen as their Vietnam. 
Gulf War Edit
In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait.  The invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi forces led to the 1990–91 Gulf War. Egypt, Qatar, Syria and Saudi Arabia joined a multinational coalition that opposed Iraq. Displays of support for Iraq by Jordan and Palestine resulted in strained relations between many of the Arab states. After the war, a so-called "Damascus Declaration" formalized an alliance for future joint Arab defensive actions between Egypt, Syria, and the GCC member states. 
Yemen Arab Spring Edit
The Arab Spring reached Yemen in January 2011. 
People of Yemen took to the street demonstrating against three decades of rule by President Ali Abdullah Saleh. 
The demonstration lead to cracks in the ruling General People's Congress (GPC) and Saleh's Sanhani clan.  Saleh used tactic of concession and violence to save his presidency. 
After numerous attempt Saleh accepted the Gulf Cooperation Council mediation. He eventually handed power to Vice President Hadi. He was sworn in as President of Yemen on 25 February 2012. He launched a national dialogue to address new constitution, political and social issues.
Saudi Arabia launched a military intervention in Yemen in March 2015.  The famine in Yemen is the direct result of the military intervention and blockade of Yemen. 
The extraction and refining of oil and gas are the major industrial activities in the Arabian Peninsula. The region also has an active construction sector, with many cities reflecting the wealth generated by the oil industry. The service sector is dominated by financial and technical institutions, which, like the construction sector, mainly serve the oil industry. Traditional handicrafts such as carpet-weaving are found in rural areas of Arabia. [ citation needed ]
The old city of Sanaa, Yemen. Peninsular Arabs trace their lineage to Qahtan, who was reportedly based in Yemen. 
A map of the peninsula made in 1720 by the German publisher Christoph Weigel
This video was taken by the crew of Expedition 29 on board the ISS on a pass from Western Europe to the peninsula
Ain Zubaydah was built to water the pilgrims in Mecca
The facade of a tomb with its details and architectural elements.
Qasr al Farid, tomb in Archeological site Mada'in Saleh, Al-`Ula, Saudi Arabia