Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/272

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white sand, closed in by high sandstone cliffs, beyond which lies the open desert. The oases of Sakaka and Kara are situated in a similar basin 15 m. to the east; the former a town of 10,000 inhabitants and somewhat larger than Jauf according to Huber.

A short distance south of Jauf the character of the desert changes abruptly from a level black expanse of gravel to the red sands of the Nafud. The northern edge of this great desert follows very nearly the line of the thirtieth parallel, along which The Nafud. it extends east and west for a length of some 400 m.; its breadth from north to south is 200 m. Though almost waterless, it is in fact better wooded and richer in pasture than any part of the Hamad; the sand-hills are dotted with ghada, a species of tamarisk, and other bushes, and several grasses and succulent plants—among them the adar, on which sheep are said to feed for a month without requiring water—are found in abundance in good seasons. In the spring months, when their camels are in milk, the Bedouins care nothing for water, and wander far into the Nafud with their flocks in search of the green pasture which springs up everywhere after the winter rains. A few wells exist actually in the Nafud in the district called El Hajra, near its north-eastern border, and along its southern border, between J. Shammar and Tema, there are numerous wells and artificial as well as natural reservoirs resorted to by the nomad tribes.

Owing to the great extent of the Nafud desert, the formation of sand-dunes is exemplified on a proportionate scale. In many places longitudinal dunes are found exceeding a day’s journey in length, the valleys between which take three or four hours to cross; but the most striking feature of the Nafud are the high crescent-shaped sand-hills, known locally as falk or falj, described by Blunt and Huber, who devoted some time to their investigation. The falks enclose a deep hollow (known as ka‘r), the floor of which is often hard soil bare of sand, and from which the inner slopes of the falk rise as steeply as the sand will lie (about 50°). On the summit of the falk there is generally a mound known as tas or barkhus composed of white sand which stands out conspicuously against the deep red of the surrounding deserts; the exterior slopes are comparatively gentle. The falks are singularly uniform in shape, but vary greatly in size; the largest were estimated by Huber and Euting at 1¼ m. across and 330 ft. deep. They run in strings irregularly from east to west, corresponding in this with their individual direction, the convex face of the falk being towards the west, i.e. the direction of the prevailing wind, and the cusps to leeward. In the south of the Nafud, where Huber found the prevailing wind to be from the south, the falks are turned in that direction. Though perhaps subject to slight changes in the course of years, there is no doubt that these dunes are practically permanent features; the more prominent ones serve as landmarks and have well-known distinctive names. The character of the vegetation which clothes their slopes shows that even superficial changes must be slight. The general level of the Nafud was found by Huber’s observations to be about 3000 ft. above sea-level; the highest point on the Jauf-Hail route is at Falk Alam, the rocky peaks of which rise 200 or 300 ft. above the surface of the sand. Other peaks cropping out of the Nafud are Jebel Tawil, near the wells of Shakik, and J. Abrak Rada, a long black ridge in the middle of the desert.

The high plateau which from. J. Hauran southward forms the main watershed of the peninsula is covered in places by deep beds of lava, which from their hardness have preserved the underlying sandstones from degradation, and now stand up considerably The Harra. above the general level. These tracts are known as harra; the most remarkable is the Harrat El Awerid, west of the Haj route from Tebuk to El Ala, a mountain mass 100 m. in length with an average height of over 5000 ft., and the highest summit of which, J. Anaz, exceeds 7000 ft. The harra east of Khaibar is also of considerable extent, and the same formation is found all along the Hejaz border from Medina to the Jebel el Kura, east of Mecca. The surface of the harra is extremely broken, forming a labyrinth of lava crags and blocks of every size; the whole region is sterile and almost waterless, and compared with the Nafud it produces little vegetation; but it is resorted to by the Bedouin in the spring and summer months when the air is always fresh and cool. In winter it is cold and snow often lies for some time.

Hejaz, if we except the Taif district in the south, which is properly a part of the Yemen plateau, forms a well-marked physical division, lying on the western slope of the peninsula, where that slope is at its widest, between the Harra and the Red Sea. Hejaz. A high range of granite hills, known as the Tehama range, the highest point of which, J. Shar, in Midian, exceeds 6500 ft., divides it longitudinally into a narrow littoral and a broader upland zone 2000 or 3000 ft. above the sea. Both are generally bare and unproductive, the uplands, however, contain the fertile valleys of Khaibar and Medina, draining to the Wadi Hamd, the principal river system of western Arabia; and the Wadi Jadid or Es Safra, rising in the Harra between Medina and Es Safina, which contain several settlements, of which the principal produce is dates. The quartz reefs which crop out in the granite ranges of the Tehama contain traces of gold. These and the ancient copper workings were investigated by Burton in 1877. The richer veins had evidently been long ago worked out, and nothing of sufficient value to justify further outlay was discovered. The coast-line is fringed with small islets and shoals and reefs, which make navigation dangerous. The only ports of importance are Yambu and Jidda, which serve respectively Medina and Mecca; they depend entirely on the pilgrim traffic to the holy cities, without which they could not exist.

The great central province of Nejd occupies all inner Arabia between the Nafud and the southern desert. Its northern part forms the basin of the Wadi Rumma, which, rising in the Khaibar harra, runs north-eastward across the whole Nejd. width of Nejd, till it is lost in the sands of the eastern Nafud, north of Aneza. The greater portion of this region is an open steppe, sandy in places and in others dotted with low volcanic hills, but with occasional ground water and in favourable seasons furnishing support for a considerable pastoral population. Its elevation varies from about 5000 ft. in the west to 2500 ft. in the east. In Jebel Shammar, Kasim and Wushm, where the water in the wadi beds rises nearly to the ground level, numerous fertile oases are found with thriving villages and towns.

Jebel Shammar, from which the northern district of Nejd takes its name, is a double range of mountains some 20 m. apart, rising sharply out of the desert in bare, granite cliffs. J. Aja, the western and higher of the two ranges, has a length of about 100 m. from north-east to south-west, where it merges into the high plateau extending from and continuous with the Khaibar harra. The highest point, J. Fara, near its north-eastern extremity, is about 4600 ft. above sea-level, or 1600 ft. above the town of Hail, which, like most of the larger villages, lies along the wadi bed at the foot of J. Aja. The town, which has risen with the fortunes of the Ibn Rashid family to be the capital of Upper Nejd, is at the mouth of the valley between the twin ranges, about 2 m. from the foot of J. Aja, and contained at the time of Nolde’s visit in 1893 about 12,000 inhabitants.

The principal tributaries of the W. Rumma converge in lower Kasim, and at Aneza Doughty says its bed is 3 m. wide from bank to bank. Forty years before his visit a flood is said to have occurred, which passed down the river till it was blocked by sand-drifts at Thuwerat, 50 m. lower down, and for two years a lake stood nearly 100 m. long, crowded by waterfowl not known before in that desert country. Below this its course has not been followed by any European traveller, but it may be inferred from the line of watering-places on the road to Kuwet, that it runs out to the Persian Gulf in that neighbourhood.

East of Kasim the land rises gradually to the high plateau culminating in the ranges of Jebel Tuwek and J. Arid. The general direction of these hills is from north-west to south-east. On the west they rise somewhat steeply, exposing high cliffs of white limestone, which perhaps gave Palgrave the impression that the range is of greater absolute height than is actually the case. J. Tuwek in any case forms an important geographical feature in eastern Nejd, interrupting by a transverse barrier 200 m. in length the general north-easterly slope of the peninusla, and separating the basin of the W. Rumma from that of the other great river system of central Arabia, the Wadi Dawasir. The districts of Sudēr and Wushm lie on its northern side, Arid in the centre, and Aflaj, Harik and Yemama on its south, in the basin of the W. Dawasir; the whole of this hilly region of eastern Nejd is, perhaps, rather a rolling down country than truly mountainous, in which high pastures alternate with deep fertile valleys, supporting numerous villages with a large agricultural population. The W. Hanifa is its principal watercourse; its course is marked by an almost continuous series of palm groves and settlements, among which Deraiya the former, and Riad the present, capital of the Ibn Saūd kingdom are the most extensive. Its lower course is uncertain, but it probably continues in a south-east direction to the districts of El Harik and Yemama when, joined by the drainage from Aflaj and the W. Dawasir, it runs eastward till it disappears in the belt of sandy desert 100 m. in width that forms the eastern boundary of Nejd, to reappear in the copious springs that fertilize El Hasa and the Bahrein littoral.

As regards the unexplored southern region, Palgrave’s informants in Aflaj, the most southerly district visited by him, stated that a day’s march south of that place the Yemen road enters the W. Dawasir, up which it runs for ten days, perhaps Unexplored region of S. Nejd. 200 m., to El Kura, a thinly peopled district on the borders of Asir; this accords with the information of the French officers of the Egyptian army in that district, and with that of Halévy, who makes all the drainage from Nejran northward run to the same great wadi. Whether there be any second line of drainage in southern Nejd skirting the edge of the great desert and following the depression of the W. Yabrin must remain a matter of conjecture. Colonel Miles concluded, from his enquiries, that the low salt swamp, extending inland for some distance from Khor ed Duwan, in the bay east of El Katr, was the outlet of an extensive drainage system which may well be continuous with the W. Yabrin and extend far into the interior, if not to Nejran itself.

East of Nejd a strip of sandy desert 50 m. in width extends almost continuously from the great Nafud to the Dahna. East of this again a succession of stony ridges running parallel to the coast has to be crossed before El Hasa. El Hasa is reached. This province, which skirts the Persian Gulf from the mouth of the Euphrates to the frontiers of Oman, is low and hot; its shores are flat, and with the exception of Kuwet at the north-west corner of