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Enchanting Saudi Arabia

Updated: May 20


Saudi Arabia. Photo Credit: Unsplash/Jeremiah Del Mar

A Word or Two About Saudi Arabia

 

Saudi Arabia is a land of contrasts, where ancient traditions meet modern technologies. It is a country often associated with tales of high adventure and captivating mystery. Let's look at what makes Saudi Arabia so unique and intriguing!

 

Saudi Arabia sits on the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It has a landmass of about 830,110 square miles (2,150,000 square kilometers), making it the fifth largest country in Asia. It is also the second largest country in the Arab world and the largest in Western Asia. Saudi Arabia hosts diverse ecosystems, including mangroves, coastal vegetated ecosystems, and unique saline habitats. Did you know that this country is known for its mangrove ecosystem? Along the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf coasts, blue carbon ecosystems like mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes act as carbon sinks. Additionally, Saudi Arabia's unique sabkha ecosystems support halophytic plants.


Many used to think that Saudi Arabia was mostly a barren desert region with little wildlife, but they were wrong!


The Camel: The Sacred Symbol Of All That Is Arab

 

Saudi Arabia designated 2024 as the Year of the Camel in celebration of its national symbol. Also called the "beast of burden," the camel has held a deep-rooted presence in the hearts of all Saudis. It played and still plays a significant role as a traditional source of livelihood. The camel is expressed in Saudi art, craft, literature, and in the daily lives of the people.

 

The camel is the Saudis’ best friend, source of food, and spiritual companion. It is very similar to what the American bison was to the American Indians since ancient times in North America.



 

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Flora of Saudi Arabia

 

The flora of Saudi Arabia consists of 2,285 species distributed across the country. Most of the species grow on mountains and meadows. Only 2.5% of the plant species are endemic to the country despite the size of Saudi Arabia.

 

The Desert Rose is one example of a flowering plant species in the dogbane family. It is native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Saudi Arabia. It is an evergreen succulent shrub that can grow to 3-9 feet (1-3 meters) in height. There are several other species.


Mammals of Saudi Arabia

 

Saudi Arabia is home to 78 mammal species. The list includes the grey wolf (threatened species) , honey badger, red fox, and caracal. The striped hyena is also one of them. However, a long time ago, this mammal had a large presence in the country, but its number is dwindling. Experts are working hard to control the downward spiral.


The disappearing striped hyena in Saudi Arabia. Photo Credit: unsplash.com/Rohit Varma

Leopards of Saudi Arabia

 

Once found in large numbers, Arabian leopards are now likely reduced to fewer than 50 in the wild. Some experts believe they may already be extinct. The reasons are the same: they were hunted for sport and began preying on livestock due to the decline of prey species in their range.

 

The Arabian Oryx

 

The Arabian Oryx is a medium-sized antelope with a distinct shoulder bump, long, straight horns, and a tufted tail. These animals are native to the desert regions of the Arabian Peninsula. Unfortunately, the oryx were hunted in the wild almost to extinction in the early 1970s as a source of food. They were also hunted in huge numbers because of erroneous belief that the long horns of the oryx possessed magical properties! However, through rigorous breeding programs in zoos and private reserves, the oryx was brought back from the brink of extinction and reintroduced into the wild, where they are now thriving.

 

Birds of Saudi Arabia

 

Saudi Arabia is home to about 432 bird species. It is encouraging to know that since 2017, many species of birds which had disappeared have been sighted again in various regions of the country. Some of them include See-See Partridge, Black-throated Thrush, Blanford’s Lark, Black Scrub Robin, and Eversmann’s Redstart.


The Saker Falcon is the national bird of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, and Yemen and has been integral to Arab heritage and culture for over 9,000 years. They are the national emblem of many Arabic countries, including Mongolia, which we discussed in our earlier blog. Some of the other bird species include the peregrine falcon, golden eagle, osprey, sparrow, mallard duck, starling, and barn owl.


Reptiles and Sea Critters of Saudi Arabia

 

There are around 103 species of reptiles, 7 species of amphibians, and 9 freshwater species of fish in Saudi Arabia. They include the green sea turtle, Dugong, Hawksbill Sea turtle, Brahminy Blind snake, Saharan horned viper, Puff adder, Veiled chameleon, and many types of lizards, snakes, skinks, and more. The freshwater fish list includes species like largemouth bass, walleye, catfish, crappie, northern pike, and trout.


Did You Know?

·      A sabkha ecosystem is a coastal, mudflat or sandflat area in which evaporated saline minerals accumulate as the result of semiarid to arid climate. Sabkhas are gradational between land and intertidal zone within restricted coastal plains just above normal high-tide level.

·      Halophytic plants are adapted to growing in salty environments and accumulate high concentrations of salt in their tissues. Halophytes have been studied for their potential applications in agriculture, medicine, and industry. They can be used as model plant species for studying abiotic stress tolerance and for improving the salt tolerance of crop plants through genomic and molecular tools. 

·      Abiotic stress tolerance: Abiotic stress, particularly soil salinity, drought, and extreme temperature, is a leading cause of crop loss. As water resources decline and desertification intensifies in response to climate change, such losses are likely to worsen.


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