Many secrets buried under the sands of the Rub’ al Khali

Published: Updated:
Enable Read mode
100% Font Size

“The Yabrin oasis was attributed to the oasis located on the northern part”, thus said Yakout al Hamaoui in reference to the Rub' al Khali desert.

A number of archaeologists believed that the ancient civilization of Ād described by the Qur'an as “Erum of the pillars, the like of which was never created on the land” is buried under the sands of this desert, but it has not been discovered as yet.


Geology expert Hamoud al-Shanti said that what makes the Rub’ al Khali so unique is not solely its aesthetic forms in the sand dunes but the presence of groundwater.


He told that Rub’ al Khali encompasses a lot of wealth, most notably petrol, gas and groundwater.

Al Shanti said: “Rub’ al Khali is a site that is rich in geological formations. It is known for its many oases, water fountains and a predominance of sand dunes. Several geological studies conducted on Rub’ al Khali have affirmed the existence of human settlements that lived near water basins where arrow heads were found which confirms the practice of fishing, and that humans dwelt at the site continuously over the years.”

He said that the recent bounteous rainfall as a result of the Mekunu cyclone, has not been experienced in Rub’ al Khali for the past 30 years or more. The water will permeate the sand and the groundwater slowly over the years due to gravity.

Al-Shanti pointed out that there are many sand types in Rub al Khali which echo the identity of the place and the history of the human settlements.

empty quarter
empty quarter

The site is a world of secrets buried under the sand. The studies also included probing the meteoroites that fell in Rub’ al Khali, the caves, the marshes and all available geological factors. The Saudi government has not spared any effort to explore and conduct possible studies in an attempt to discover its secrets.

In an interview with Al Arabiya, geological expert Dr. Abdullah al-Amri said that the current water in the Rub’ al Khali is located in geological formations in the south-eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula. It covers a very large area. All streams of water come from the Arabian Shield and from the north of Saudi Arabia, from Wadi al-Rummah and several valleys.

oasis dunes
oasis dunes

Water at the hollow of Rub’ al Khali

Rub’ al Khali comprises deep springwater which is over 5,000 to 10,000 years' old, called the non-renewable groundwater or deep water.

Al Amri emphasized: “We conducted a study three years ago to explore water resources in Rub’ al Khali. We found two types of water, including water near the surface which in a short period of time ends up evaporating, like the water that is currently present after the recent hurricane. The other type of water is located in deep geological formations that are 4km deep below the surface of earth, rain is abundant in Rub’ al Khali in a location situated at 500 kilometers from the city of Harb.”

He pointed out that exploratory studies in Rub’ al Khali have proved that the desert has immense water resources, but a large proportion of existing water contains a high amount of sulphur.

empty quarter saudi
empty quarter saudi

In the past, it was believed that the Rub’ al Khali is a running river which was a common idea. Geophysical studies have revealed deep waterways, some of them still exist to this day while others perished.

Some of the sites are rich in water, while others contain formations and layers of oil and gas.

Water presence becomes stronger in the south-east border of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman, which are water-rich locations because of moist water swales, since runoff water is inclined to flow according to the different slopes which are inclined towards the east or south east direction.

oasis empty quarter
oasis empty quarter

After Cyclone Mekunu

On the effects of the water left by the cyclone, al-Amri said: “At this point the water is lying on top of the ground and it would take years for it to reach the underground. The water in Rub al Khali is mostly formed during the ice age that covered the whole world 10,000 years ago which is now lying at the bottom of the sand dunes.”

Despite the harshness of the natural environment in this region and the lack of human activity, it is rich in oil, natural gas, radioactive metals, glass sand and solar energy. The experimental wells drilled in the east and southeast of the desert of the Empty Quarter shows that the water is abundant in the Eocene limestone formations which are the same water-bearing layers as in al-Ahsa.

Top Content Trending