Five Islands of the Arabian Peninsula

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Introduction

So why Arabian Peninsula and not the Middle East?

It's simple really, all of these islands are, of course, in the Middle East. However the M.E. encompasses more than the Arabian Peninsula as I'm sure you are aware. The Moyen-Orient, as the French call it, also includes Turkey, Iran, Egypt and a few other countries known as the Levant (see an earlier blog). So Arabian Peninsula it is.

Just a quick note before we start our journey, you may be wondering (or not, whatever!) why it has taken me so long to write another edition. Well, to put it simply, I've made a few quizzes of the Click variety, work has been hectic, and to be frank, I got a bit bored with writing blogs. I needed a short break to do something else. I've done that now, so here we are, I'm back, back in the New York groove as the 1975 hit by Hello goes. (Oh yeah, and I've got a new computer that replaces the old slow one I had before, and I had a birthday...60 years old/young now. The old man of JP !)

Tiran Island (Saudi Arabia)

So, in the last blog we left Africa, well this island used to belong to Egypt until relatively recently. The ownership officially changed in 2017 when the agreement was ratified by the Egyptian president.

Location of Tiran between Egypt and Saudi Arabia

Being situated at the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba this island, along with its sister, Sanafir, is of strategic importance. Egypt's blockade of the Straits of Tiran was one of the causes of the Six Day War with Israel in 1967. The island was briefly occupied by Israeli forces during the Suez Crisis and following the aforementioned Six Day War.

Tiran Island

The island was used as a toll station in the 5th century and was occupied by the Byzantine Empire around this time, although there were reports of the inhabitants refusing to pay their taxes.

The island was then uninhabited for many years apart from military personnel of whichever nation was claiming sovereignty at the time.

The recent transfer to Saudi Arabia follows an agreement between the two countries for the construction of the Saudi-Egypt Causeway, linking the two nations. The original proposal was for plans to be finalized by 2013, however nothing has been decided at time of writing (2022).

The island can be visited by organised boat trips from Sharm el-Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula. They are primarily for snorkel diving on the surrounding reefs but do spend around an hour on the island.

This YouTube video has some nice views of the island as well as the reefs.

Kamaran Island (Yemen)

With a population of around 2,200, Kamaran is Yemen's largest Red Sea island. It is in a strategic location at the southern end of the Red Sea.

Satellite view of Kamaran Island

The first record of occupation is by the Portuguese in 1513, although this was relatively short lived. It was then taken over by the Turks in the 19th century and used as a quarantine centre for pilgrims on their way to Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage.

Mosque from the Turkish era

During World War 1, there was debate within the British government about occupying the island. They eventually took over in 1915, however a formal possession was never declared. At the end of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey lost all its territory in the area and the island became part of the British Protectorate of Aden.

Following the British takeover, the islands infrastructure was greatly improved with better quarantine facilities, desalination plants, landing stage, and small railway and workshops. The islands population prospered immensely with the trade in quarantine services. The prosperity was cut short a few years later by the Saudi government taking more control over the Hajj pilgrimage and Kamaran being bypassed.

British Commissioner's residence
Barren landscape of Kamaran Island

The island became part of South Yemen in 1967, seized by North Yemen in 1972, but became part of the unified Yemen in 1990.

The island can be visited from Yemen, however you would need to charter your own boat, or convince a local tradesman to take you, as no scheduled services exist.

This website has some limited photographs of the island.

Masirah Island (Oman)

Also known as Mazeira Island, this landform is situated to the east of Oman in the Arabian Sea. It is quite a large island for this series being 95km or 59 miles long from north to south.

Map of Masirah Island

There are many archaeological sites dotted around the island from the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages with some studies finding artifacts from around 6000BC. It was occupied by the Portuguese navy in the 15th century.

In the 1930's the British established a military base on the island. The USA also had a base there during World War 2. The base was handed over to the Royal Air Force of Oman in the 1970's. However British and US presence continued with the island becoming a staging area, most recently, for aircraft involved in the conflict in Afghanistan in 2001.

Dhow sailing off the island.

Part of the island was used as a repeater station for the BBC's World Service, replacing a similar facility in Somalia.

The islands ferry

The island can be reached by ferry, see above photo, from the mainland town of Shannah, it sails six times daily. The only other way of getting to the island is by Omani military aircraft.

This travel website has an excellent report of a visit to the island.

Sir Bani Yas Island (United Arab Emirates)

This island is the largest of the UAE's natural islands and lies some 110 miles or 170 km to the southwest of the nation's capital, Abu Dhabi.

Sir Bani Yas 

The name, Sir Bani Yas, originates from the tribe that first inhabited the Abu Dhabi area. The first settlers arrived many thousands of years ago, archaeological sites have been found all over the island. A trading post from the Bronze Age and an early Christian monastery dating back to 600AD are the most significant finds.

One of the beaches
Arabian Oryx on the island

In 1971, the first president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed, chose the island as a retreat. Subsequently in 1977, he passed a law banning all hunting on the island and declared the area a reserve for endangered species including the Arabian Oryx.

Wild giraffe

The island is now home to many species including giraffe, oryx, ostrich, cheetah and hyena. The Arabian Oryx was extinct in the wild, but now there is a herd of over 400 beasts freely roaming around the island. The island however isn't closed off to tourism and there are several activities including game drives, nature trails and mountain biking.

Cruise ships call at a lagoon where a hotel and restaurants have been created on one side of the island along with bars and recreation facilities.

The only way to visit the island, unfortunately, is by being a guest of the Desert Islands Resort. They operate a complimentary water taxi transfer from the mainland at Jebel Danna Port. Or air taxis can be chartered to take you to the island's landing strip.

Here is a website describing the island with several photos. 

Al Khor Island (Qatar)

Also known as Purple Island, Al Khor is located about 50km or 30 mile north of the capital, Doha. It gets its alternative name from the dye industry that was there in around 1400BC.

The northern part of Al Khor Island

The earliest evidence of habitation dates back to 2000BC and the latest to about 1900AD. The island is currently uninhabited.

The island has mangroves, salt marshes, and sandy beaches.

The dye industry obtained colour from the Murex Snail and the island is the earliest known site of production of the dye. The dividers in this blog are the approximate colour of the dye.

Excavated site
Path on the island
Mangrove forest 
Salt marsh (with cat)

The island can be visited by foot via a causeway from a car park on the mainland on the outskirts of Al Khor town.

This YouTube video shows a visit to the island with stunning scenery.

Summary

What can I say in this summary? Well, I'm back in the blogging community again. I have been a little lapse as I said in the introduction, but hopefully I will now continue, albeit at a slightly slower pace. I may still make a stand-alone blog next rather than an "Islands series" blog, watch this space.


One of the problems of writing about smaller islands is the lack of material written about these islands. Many are uninhabited and have been for millennia, therefore they have no discernible history. This makes them quite hard to research. But not impossible, just difficult. It just takes a little longer.

The next stage in our island journey may be the Indian Sub-Continent and areas around this. This area encompasses Pakistan, India (obviously), Bangladesh, The Maldives and Sri Lanka. It also includes Nepal and Bhutan but seeing as they are landlocked, I probably won't include them, although I did include Botswana in one of the African blogs, so who knows.

For now, that's it, another islands blog finished, one step closer to the end of the series, still a long way to go yet though!

Until the next time, in the words of a 1930's English aristocrat, Toodlepip Old Bean !

22 Comments
+1
Level 69
Nov 26, 2022
Great blog! And good work picking them out — I only knew of Masirah Island.
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Level 60
Nov 26, 2022
Mariah island? Wait, no, it’s Masirah. Christmas is getting to me already
+1
Level 78
Nov 26, 2022
Thank you Qy !

MiecraftMan, I have a rule that no one mentions the C word before December, even Mariah!

+1
Level 60
Nov 26, 2022
Seems a reasonable rule, tell that to Costco
+3
Level 78
Nov 26, 2022
Or any retail outlet after Halloween !
+1
Level 67
Dec 1, 2022
Christmas!!!
+1
Level 78
Dec 2, 2022
Good job you waited til the 1st !!!
+1
Level 43
Nov 26, 2022
Although we are talking about Purple Island, Al Khor reminds me of Al Bayt Stadium, as we are in World Cup times! I thought England could be a kind of disappointment because of Nations League relegation, but the young generation is really well developed, and they got into a group where you find great players (Bale for Wales, Taremi for Iran, Pulisic for USA), but without a good teamwork. In England we find both of these elements, I just don't know why the relegation in Nations League, and why Maguire can be so bad, mainly in ManU

Anyways, I'm glad the series is back i wanna brazilllllll

+1
Level 78
Nov 26, 2022
Thanks MG, I don't follow football much so don't really know anything about players or Leagues. I saw the last 10 minutes of the USA-England game and was completely bored, it seemed such a dismal game. I may watch the final whoever is playing, unless I get a better offer, like cutting the grass or painting the fence!
+1
Level 43
Nov 26, 2022
You watched the wrong game. England scored 6-2 against Iran at the first round lol.

And they got relegated on Nations League in a group with Germany, Italy, and Hungary, i mean, italy would of course be relegated (although im descendent of italians lol)

England has such an attack (Bellingham, Saka, Sterling, Rashford, Foden, Kane), but the defense is almost useless.

+1
Level 73
Nov 26, 2022
Cutting the grass or painting the fence are surely better offers than watching the finals (unless Brazil plays in the final).

Now MG won't kill me

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Level 78
Nov 27, 2022
MG, you're wasting your time with me, I don't watch football hardly at all, it doesn't interest me. I know others enjoy it and that's their choice and I respect that, but much like religion, the followers should keep it to themselves. No offence meant my friend, just my opinions on football in general.
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Level 78
Nov 27, 2022
Aficionado, I agree, although I may spend the time researching another blog rather than cutting the grass or getting the paintbrush out. It is the start of winter in the UK after all.
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Level 43
Nov 27, 2022
Repeat, Aficionado 🔪

i love how im one of the few people who like football on JetPunk

+1
Level 73
Nov 26, 2022
I am actually surprised that tolling existed all the way back in the times of the Byzantine Empire! Anyway, this was a nice addition to the series. Really looking forward to the Indian Subcontinent one!!!

Also, a belated happy birthday to the 60 years young old man of JetPunk! 🙂

+1
Level 78
Nov 27, 2022
Tolling has been in place ever since man decided to travel, there's always someone that wants to make a bit of cash (or equivalent in goods or services). I had a quick google and it seems tolls began by the Germanic Tribes charging to travel over mountain passes in the 2nd century BC!

Oh, and thanks for the belated birthday wishes, much appreciated!

+1
Level 67
Dec 1, 2022
Nice blog as always toowise. Good to see the series back again.
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Level 78
Dec 2, 2022
Thank you !
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Level 67
Jun 27, 2023
Hello toowise, assuming this series won't have a Tasmanian edition, is there any chance I could make such a blog myself?
+1
Level 78
Jun 28, 2023
I hadn't planned a solely Tasmanian edition, although there may be a Australian one, or I may lump NZ in with it.

If you want to make an extra blog about the Tazzy islands then be my guest. I may steal one of yours to put in mine though...joking of course.

Looking forward to reading your blog. Hopefully you'll find a Thylacine whilst your there.

+1
Level 67
Jun 28, 2023
You can certainly steal and expand on one of my islands if you want to. I'll keep my eye out for a thylacine, but I've heard they're fairly elusive...
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Level 78
Jun 29, 2023
There have been sightings apparently, but I think that a certain amount of alcohol was involved.