Arabia is sparsely settled, and has no general government. A part of it is under Egyptian rule. The rest of the country, though nominally shared among an uncertain number of petty states, is really ruled by sheiks, or chiefs, in small bodies, subject to the larger rulers called sultans.

The country is chiefly a hot, desert plateau, of about 1,500 miles in length and 800 average width, with oases scattered over the deserts, in which dates, grapes, and other fruits grow. It was in this desert that the Israelites wandered on their way to the Holy Land ; and here, also, are the holy Mohammedan cities of Mecca and Medina, which yearly attract crowds of Moslem pilgrims.