Rub’ al Khali means “Empty Quarter” and this desert is the largest contiguous sand desert in the world, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. The desert covers some 650,000 square kilometres including parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. It is part of the larger Arabian Desert.
Along the middle length of the deserts are found residues indicating that here once were shallow lakes. These lakes existed during periods from 6,000 to 5,000 years ago and 3,000 to 2,000 years ago. The lakes are thought to have formed as a result of “cataclysmic rainfall” similar to present-day monsoon rains and most probably lasted for only a few years.
However, lakes in the Mundafen area in the southwest of the Rub’ al Khali show evidence of lasting longer, up to 800 years, due to increased runoff from the Tuwaiq Escarpment.
Evidence suggests that the lakes were home to a variety of flora and fauna. Fossils remains indicate the presence of several animal species, such as hippopotamus, water buffalo and log-horned cattle. In the Mleiha Archaeological Center in Sharja can be visited excavations of very ancient remains and structures of civilizations living here from the 12 000 year far Paleolithic Period to the Pre-Islamic Period inwhich the Sasanian had the most cultural influence.