Dubai Transect Landscape

…empty quarter zones Dubai…

Dubai Municipality sits in the Coastal Zone. Al Ain is an oasis in the Desert Zone. The oasis is supplied by rare monsoon remnants, from the Gulf of Oman, captured by the Hajar Mountains in the Mountain Zone.

I wanted to understand a little more about the larger landscape into which the Dubai Municipality sits. Dubai Municipality is just a narrow, but intensely built, strip along the edge of the Gulf. From the above satellite image–it is hardly visible.

The landscape transect distance from Dubai, at the Gulf coastal edge, above on the left, across to the right to the Gulf of Oman is 100km.

Many times, I drove that transect through the Dubai Emirate on a main road, identifying essentially three distinct landscape eco-zones:

A Dutch doctor, a General Practitioner, Marijcke Jongbloed, lived in the United Arab Emirates for twenty years. She surveyed, 1983-2003, the landscape of the UAE. She compiled her findings in a book entitled, The Comprehensive Guide to the Wild Flowers of the United Arab Emirates. She photographed each plant in its natural habitat, annotated a location map and commented on how the plant was used by humans (ethnobotany). Best reference I found for plants in the UAE.

…sand or sun…but no water…

Aladdin? A lamp? No, it’s the Empty Quarter and it’s full of sand and genies…No!! It’s full of djinnis and gnomes and surfs and a whole lot of people…but the humans only live along the edges, right? No, no, no…it is nothing…nothing but a mirage.


Mirage…dream, dream, dream…when I want you in my arms, when I want you and all your charms…whenever I want you, all I have to do is dream…the Empty Quarter…dream.


(dream, courtesy of The Everly Brothers)


Maps: Ports and Dhows

Ports and dhows are why the edges of the Empty Quarter are…not empty.

Empty Quarter: exotica

…info flow…

Dhows still ply the Arabian Peninsular waters today, albeit with diesel engines in their holds.

On the edges of the Rub al Khali, dhows have always carried information and goods along what we all have known as the ‘Spice Route’.

For millennia, dhows traversed these barely habitable edges of the Arabian Peninsula and the Empty Quarter creating at the ports, point concentrations for massive flows–massive flows of information and exotic goods–which exotic goods you ask?  Let your dreams be your guide.


Dhows have always bounced port by port along the edges of the Empty Quarter.

Little wonder why Westerners have been attracted inland from these ports…inland in the southern Arabian Peninsula to discover something richer than mirage–to explore what must be mysterious history, paths, journeys, routes–answers in the shifting sands of the Empty Quarter.