Landforms of the Middle East
The Middle East is an area of many hot, dry deserts. But as you will read in this section, there are many bodies of water in the area.
OASIS: Have you ever seen a picture of an oasis? These are spots in the middle of a desert with palm trees and water. They are formed by underground springs or rivers. They have been important spots for trade in the desert because that's where people could stop and get water.
The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers
The Tigris and Euphrates rivers are usually discussed together. The Tigris River is about 1,180 miles long. It has its source in Turkey and then flows south until it meets up with the Euphrates River in Iraq. From there, the two rivers continue as one until they reach the Persian Gulf.
The Euphrates is about 1,700 miles long, and it, too, starts in Turkey. The word “Euphrates” comes from a word meaning fertile. This makes sense as the area around this river would be fertile for growing crops or for livestock. The Euphrates gets its water from the mountains of Turkey, and the river rises when the snow melts every year.
These rivers are home to many different plants and animals. The area is a wetland and has plants such as papyrus. Water buffalo, antelope, gazelle, and jerboa roam this area as well.
Mesopotamia is an ancient region of the world. The word Mesopotamian means the “land between two rivers.” This area is located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Today the countries of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria are part of Mesopotamia.
Two of these are not landforms — can you tell why?
The Arabian Desert
The Arabian Desert covers most of the Arabian Peninsula. It reaches from Yemen to Jordan. The Arabian Desert has a very dry climate. The most dry area in this desert gets about 1.38 inches of rain in an entire year!
There are not many plants or animals that live here. The temperatures can get pretty extreme, which makes it difficult for life to exist. In the summer the average temperatures are between 104 and 122 degrees. In the winter, the temperatures hover in the forties and fifties but can reach as low as 0 degrees.
Along the border between Saudi Arabia and Oman there is region of quicksand in the Arabian Desert. Quicksand is caused by underground water mixing with the soil. A small amount of water enters into a basin along this border, creating quicksand. Travelers in the desert need to watch out for this hazard.
One of the biggest threats to the Arabian Desert is off-road driving. People take their cars and trucks out into the desert to camp and to drive off-road. This practice, while popular, damages the habitats of the plants and animals that live there.