Located at the southeastern end of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west and Yemen to the southwest. Situated on the Arabian tectonic plate, the peninsula is considered a sub-continent of Asia, with a land area of 119,499 square miles. Bordered by the Arabian Sea, Oman strategically neighbours the oil and natural gas-rich Persian Gulf as well as the Oman Gulf, a valuable transport hub.
Oman is unique in its greatly contrasting landscapes; the region varies from desert to rocky mountains and from built-up cities to tranquil seas. While the 3,165km coastline is home to the capital city, Muscat, the Al Hajar mountains boast the highest range in the Arabian Peninsula. The range divides the low coastal area of Oman from its widespread deserts.
The Rub’ al Khali desert is found to the west of the mountain range. Consuming the southwest region and spreading 250,000 square miles across a total of four Arab states, this landform is considered the world’s largest continuous sand desert. Despite being 15 times smaller in area than the Sahara desert, the Rub’ al Khali is credited for containing as much as half the amount of sand as its rival. The extremes of this expansive sand area resulted in it once being among the most unexplored regions of the world, with British explorer Bertram Thomas attracting Western attention when he battled its elements in 1932 (followed by Mark Evans in 2016).
Ninety-three per cent of soils found in Oman are infertile. Alluvial deposits from the Al Hajar mountains provide the small area of the region’s most fertile land on the Batinah coastal plain. The organic matter content, slow soil formation rate and nutrient level (such as magnesium, potassium and phosphorous) of soil are all vital for efficient crop growth. Being located in a zone of arid climate, the soil here has high levels of salinity due to the widespread water scarcity issue experienced throughout Oman. These elements all contribute to prohibiting the effective growth of crops and have resulted in the 4.7 per cent decrease in agricultural land seen between 2006 to 2010.