Tectonics of the Arabian Plate

Tectonics of a Thousand-and-One Nights


The African, Arabian and Indian crustal plates have been marching northward to collide with Eurasia -- for about 20 million years in the case of Arabia, and for 50 million years in the case of India. The result has been a collage of plate pieces and mountain ranges that extend from the Pyrenees in the west, across southern Europe and the Middle East, through the Himalayas and the ranges of southeast Asia. Incorporated within that broad band are continental fragments that moved across the ocean and separately crashed into Eurasia; structures of some of those fragments have been reactivated during the present collision.


The collision zone between the Arabian and Eurasian plates is the principal subject of this Handbook. The western boundary of the Arabian plate is a transform fault zone -- the Dead Sea and East Anatolian faults -- where the adjacent plates grind past each other. Rifts of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden constitute the southern boundary, where Arabia and Africa are pulling apart. The Zagros and Makran mountain ranges mark the present collision zone. Blocks north and east of the collision zone (the Lut and Helmand blocks) arrived on the shores of Eurasia much earlier and are being jostled about during the current event; their boundaries are also described in this handbook.