The late summer skies were clear over the Middle East in mid-September, 2013 when NASA’s Aqua satellite passed above the region. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying aboard captured this true-color picture of the region on September 11, 2013.
Black borderlines have been overlain on the image to delineate political boundaries. Saudi Arabia occupies the lower right corner of the image. Three major sand bodies make up about 1/3 of this country. The Great Nafud is made of red-stained sands covering about 60,000 square kilometers in the northern part of the country. To the south, mostly outside of the edges of the image, lies the Rub al-Khali, or Empty Quarter, which is a prolific source of sandstorms which blow across the region. A narrow, arch-shaped body of sand called Dahna connects the two major deserts, and in some areas is only up to 50 km. wide. Saudi Arabia is bounded by the Persian Gulf on the east, as well as the coastal countries of Qatar (south), Bahrain (an island nation) and Kuwait (north).
The Red Sea makes up the western boundary of Saudi Arabia. On the western bank of the Red Sea are Sudan (south) and Egypt. A small strip of green near the edge of the image marks the vegetation-rich banks of Egypt’s Nile River. The V-shaped piece of land at the north edge of the Red Sea is the Sinai Peninsula, with the Mediterranean Sea to the north of that.
To the east of the Sinai Peninsula and on the Mediterranean Coast, from south to north, lies the Gaza Strip, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and, in the north, Turkey. The West Bank lies inland east of Israel, then, moving eastward, Jordan, Iraq and Iran. In the northeast corner of the image, a bank of white clouds hides the blue waters of the Caspian Sea from view.