Syrian Desert

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Syrian Desert,

Arabic Badiyat Ash Sham, arid wasteland, SW Asia, between the cultivated lands along the E Mediterranean coast and the fertile Euphrates River valley. It extends N from the Nafud Desert in Saudi Arabia and comprises W Iraq, E Jordan, and SE Syria. The famous Arabian horses are raised along the edges of the desert, which in the north is crossed by oil pipelines and by a motor route from Damascus to Baghdad. Several nomadic tribes inhabit the desert. Palmyra and other oases served as staging posts on ancient Mediterranean-Mesopotamian trade routes.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Syrian Desert


(Badiyat al-Sham), a desert in western Asia; located in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Area, approximately 1 million sq km.

The Syrian Desert is essentially a flat plateau, which gradually decreases in elevation—from 800 to 500 m—toward the northeast, where it gives way to the Euphrates River valley. Inselbergs, with elevations of 1,000–1,100 m, are not uncommon. The desert is composed primarily of Cretaceous and Paleogenic limestones, marls, and cherts, with basalt surfaces in places. It has many enclosed depressions, sometimes of karstic origin, with solonchaks and takyrs. Isolated sand areas and hammadas occur.

The climate of the Syrian Desert is subtropical, continental, and dry, with warm winters and hot summers. In Tadmor (formerly Palmyra), on the northern edge of the desert, the average January temperature is 6.9°C, and the average July temperature, 29.2°C; annual precipitation is about 100 mm, with the maximum in winter. Spring and early summer bring the khamsin. The Syrian Desert has no natural outlet for surface drainage. Ephemeral streams occasionally flow through dry river channels (wadis); water can be obtained at a few wells. The sparse and widely spaced vegetation consists of shrubs, sub-shrubs, ephemeral grasses, and desert lichens, which grow on coarse soils of the sierozem type. Groves of tamarisk grow along the channels of the ephemeral streams. The nomads of the desert raise sheep, goats, and camels.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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