The sedimentary and evaporative environment that has prevailed on the southern shores of the Arabian (Persian) Gulf region, has produced salt encrusted flat areas known as ‘sabkha’, along the coast and in some nearby depressions.

In this paper the morphology, development, mineralogy and hydrology of coastal sabkhas have been briefly reviewed. Geotechnical properties and problems associated with sabkha deposits have been described.

The authors' general view of sabkha as cemented and uncemented layers of varying thickness and properties has been confirmed by a limited field study in terms of pits and boreholes carried out near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Calcium carbonate and more recent diagenetic minerals such as gyp-sum serve as the primary cementing agents.

Laboratory experiments aimed at simulating the development of cementation in sabkha material, by chemically precipitating calcium carbonate and calcium sulphate within pluviated sand samples, have shown that marked increase in static penetration resistance is exhibited with the addition of 2-5% precipitate (by weight of sand) as compared to uncemented sands. The results also demonstrate the potential advantages of using static cone pentrometers in the field to assess the strength and layering of sabkha.

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