Geological transformation of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Khursheed Dinshaw (India)

In this article, I will briefly deal with the fascinating and relatively recent geological transformation of the Sharjah region of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Sharjah needs no introduction in terms of it being a popular tourist destination, especially for families. However, very few know how it was formed and subsequently transformed. In this article, I hope to explain this fascinating aspect of Sharjah.

From the beginning

At the beginning of the Miocene Period, 23 Ma, Arabia finally split from Africa along the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden became a separate plate. This new plate moved in a northerly direction and collided with, and was subducted under, the Eurasian continent (Fig. 1). The Strait of Hormuz also closed as the remains of the Tethys Ocean formed a rapidly subsiding basin in which thick layers of salt were deposited. Large scale folding and faulting took place in the UAE producing hills of folded rock, such as Jebel Fai’yah and Jebel Hafit.

Fig. 1. Granite from continental drift.

In the eastern part of the UAE, uplift of the Al-Hazar Mountains began. This continued into the Pliocene Period, from 5 to 2 Ma. In the late Miocene and Pliocene, the Sharjah region finally rose above sea level and the landscape we see today was formed.

When the region known as Sharjah rose above sea level, it allowed the area to be covered by the moving sands of the Rub’al Khali Desert. The sands come from rocks worn down and transported by wind, heat and rain along the southern edge of the Arabian Peninsula. When the sea level was lower, most of the Arabian Gulf was dry land. Large sand dunes developed on the floor of the Gulf. Until 8,000 years ago and sand could be blown across from Saudi Arabia by way of Qatar and the Great Pearl Bank area to form the desert in Abu Dhabi. Other important sources included sand deposited beneath the sea. This was blown ashore when the Arabian Gulf dried out. Sand also came from local sources, such as the erosion of Al-Hazar Mountains on Sharjah’s east coast.

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