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Natural UAE


Sabkha Matti extends some 80 kilometres inland from the Arabian Gulf coast of the UAE, ultimately crossing into Saudi Arabian territory. It covers an area of several hundred square kilometres and marks the course and delta area of a former river. This river was a tributary of the Euphrates, at a time when the Arabian Gulf was dry, and originated far inland in the Arabian peninsula during a rainier period. The fossil record here from the Miocene epoch, around seven million years ago, includes specimens of such riparian and aquatic species as crocodile and hippopotamus. The extinct fossil rodent Abudhabia baynunensis was described from fossil teeth found in this area.

Gravel river terraces are clearly identifiable in this area, in some instances now with a covering of sand. Any dunes in this area suffer from a shortage of sand supply and are consequently of small size. A feature of the area is sand drifts building in the lee of bushes, of Haloxylon and Zygophyllum, for example. Some sand migration is apparent with isolated dunes of a barchanic configuration being found locally. Historically, the sabkha prevented travel parallel to the coast without recourse, alternatively, to sea voyages or to detours far inland.

Wildlife is this area is yet to be surveyed intensively, but is known to include wintering houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii). Temperatures in winter can drop to less than ten degrees Celsius, added to which is a wind-chill from north-west winds coming out of far colder northern areas.

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