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Saudi Arabia's Harrat Khaybar Volcanic Field

It may come as a surprise to many but Saudi Arabia is home to several volcanoes and volcanic fields, most in the west and northwest of the country, such as Harrat Khaybar. Located north of Medina, Harrat Khaybar is known as probably one of the largest and most iconic volcanic fields in the Kingdom. Indeed, this natural wonder takes up an area of over 12,000 square kilometers and has a 100-kilometer north-south line of volcanic vent system, which according to scientists, is what has led to the formation of the volcanic field for the past 5 million years.

Harrat Khaybar has many volcanic vents –locations from which lava flows and pyroclastic material are erupted – such as scoria cones, lava domes, maars, basalt lava flows, and Jabar Qidr stratovolcano. In addition, scientists believe that its tuff cones (basically the top of volcanoes) were formed when magma came in contact with water and other volcanic elements, meaning that the weather over the field used to be wetter. Today though, the area in which Harrat Khaybar is located is arid, barely receiving any rainfall, making it uninhabitable to wildlife.

Harrat Khaybar is especially known for its lava flows, some older than others. There is a total of eight lava flows such as the 55-kilometer Habir lava flow, and others coming from Jabal Qidr, with the last recorded eruption dating between AD 600 and 700, which was during the time of Prophet Muhammad. Other reports state that lava was still flowing in this field until some 1,000 years ago. In addition, the field also features 400 stone structures on the edge of volcanoes dubbed "gates," due to how they look using satellite imagery, with some resembling what you would expect at a cattle ranch. These structures were believed to have been man-made, oldest of which dates back 7,000 years. They also varied in sizes, anywhere from 43 feet to 1,700 feet.

From its history to its geology, its size to its formations, Harrat Khaybar is indeed an impressive archaeological, volcanological, and cultural site, one that remains under-researched, a place full of mystery and home to layers of yet-to-be-uncovered history. 

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