Saudi Arabia and Yemen (NASA, December 1993) This south-southwest-looking
photograph shows the southwestern Arabian Peninsula, the Gulf of Aden, the Red
Sea, northern Somalia, the Afar Triangle and the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia.
The southwestern Arabian Peninsula, most of which is in Yemen, has a narrow
coastal plain (Tihamah) along the Red Sea about 30 to 80 km wide, interior
highlands, and mountains that descend to a great sandy desert. The coastal plain
is hot and virtually rainless with high humidity, alluvium and talus carried
down from the highlands, and little vegetation cover. The interior highlands, a
section of the uplifted Arabian Plateau rising more than 660 meters, annually
receive an average of 50 cm of precipitation, most falling between the months of
June and September. This area is the wettest part of the Arabian Peninsula with
numerous valleys and watercourses. Wadi Hadhramaut (east of center) is the
largest. The upper and middle highlands, Yemen’s best farmlands, have alluvial
soils and moisture from intermittent streams; the lower portions are uninhabited
and extremely dry. The eastern and northern highlands, which are in the rain
shadow, slope down into the great sandy expanse of the reddish southwestern Rub’
al Khali Desert with parallel northeast-southwest trending sand dunes. West and
southwest of the Arabian Peninsula and the Red Sea is the Danakil Depression,
part of the Great African Rift Valley; south of the peninsula, scattered clouds
cover portions of the Gulf of Aden and the coastal ranges of northern Somalia.
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