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This paper presents a collection of some of the available published information on geological and geotechnical characteristics of some Middle Eastern countries within the Arabian Peninsula. For each of the countries considered, a brief summary is given of the geological history, typical geotechnical profiles and typical geotechnical parameters, and if available, informa - tion on foundation design parameters. Such information may be helpful for preliminary design purposes, prior to a more detailed program of ground investigation being undertaken. Keywords Arabian Peninsula · Deep foundations · Geology · Geotechnical parameters · Settlement · Shallow foundations Introduction Dubai This paper presents some of the available published informa- Geology tion on geological and geotechnical characteristics of some Middle Eastern countries within the Arabian Peninsula The geology of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the (Fig. 1). Evans  has provided a summary of the geology Arabian Gulf Area, has been substantially influenced by the and the soil conditions for a number of countries in the Mid- deposition of marine sediments associated with numerous dle East, and some of the information below is taken from sea level changes during relatively recent geological time. this source, although more recent published information is With the exception of mountainous regions shared with now available on some areas, particularly Kuwait and Saudi Oman in the north-east, the country is relatively low-lying, Arabia. The major elements of the structural geology of the with near-surface geology dominated by deposits of Quater- Arabian Peninsula are the Arabian Shield, and the Arabian nary to late Pleistocene age, including mobile aeolian dune Shelf, and these, together with the interior platform, and sands, sabkha/evaporite deposits and marine sands. Dubai the basins, are summarized by Kent  and reproduced in is situated towards the eastern extremity of the geologically Fig. 2. Kent  has given a broad overview of the geology stable Arabian Plate and is separated from the unstable Ira- of the Middle East and has identified some typical geological nian Fold Belt to the north by the Arabian Gulf. It is believed profiles that are reproduced in Fig. 3. that a tilting of the entire Arabian Plate occurred during the In this paper, for each of the countries considered, a brief early Permian period, resulting in uplift in southern Yemen summary will be given of the geological history, typical geo- and depression to the north-east. Tectonic movements technical profiles and typical geotechnical parameters, and peripheral to folding of the Iranian Zagros Range during the if available, information on foundation design parameters. Plio-Pleistocene epoch probably contributed to the forma- tion of both the Arabian Gulf depression and the mountain- ous regions in the north-east of the UAE and Oman. Main stratigraphic units The main stratigraphic units encountered in Dubai are * Harry G. Poulos firstname.lastname@example.org described briefly below, and a typical geotechnical profile is illustrated in Fig. 4. Coffey Services Australia, Sydney, Australia Vol.:(0123456789) 1 3 51 Page 2 of 18 Innovative Infrastructure Solutions (2018) 3:51 Fig. 1 Arabian Peninsula Marine deposits The Marine Deposits generally occur in conglomeritic) and is encountered at levels ranging between two or three layers of medium dense and very loose to loose − 28 and − 72 m DMD. brown grey silty to very silty sand, with occasional cemented Calcareous/conglomeritic stratum This unit typically lumps and shell fragments. comprises very weak to weak calcareous siltstone/calcare- Calcarenite/calcareous sandstone This stratum typically ous conglomerate/conglomeritic sandstone/limestone. comprises weak to moderately weak fine grained Calcaren- Claystone/siltstone strata This stratum comprises very ite, interbedded with\cemented sand and with frequent shell weak to moderately weak grey slaystone interbedded with fragments. The Calcarenite is generally underlain by very reddish brown siltstone, between levels of about − 110 and weak to weak, thinly to thickly laminated, grey brown, fine − 130 m DMD occasional thin bands of up to thick gypsum grained calcareous Sandstone. may be encountered. Below approximately − 130 m DMD Calcareous sandstone/calcarenite/sandstone/sand The the stratum may be encountered as weak to moderately weak stratum typically comprises very weak to weak, fine grained siltstone with medium to widely spaced fractures. Calcarenite/calcareous Sandstone/Sandstone, interbedded The groundwater table is typically 1–3 m below ground with cemented sand. Bands of < 1 m up to approximately surface. 5 m of medium dense to very dense, cemented sand with sandstone bands may occur within this stratum. Foundation design parameters Gypsiferous sandstone/sand This stratum typically com- prises very weak to weak, fine-grained gypsiferous sand- Alrifai  presents some data on unconfined compressive stone interbedded with cemented sand. strength (UCS) for relatively shallow strata, and the UCS Calcisiltite/conglomeritic calcisiltite This formation typi- values are low, generally between 1 and 3 MPa, with a con- cally comprises very weak to weak calcisiltite (occasionally siderable scatter in the data. 1 3 Innovative Infrastructure Solutions (2018) 3:51 Page 3 of 18 51 Fig. 2 Summary of structural geology of the Arabian Penin- sula  There is relatively little published information on foun- Kuwait dation design parameters for buildings in Dubai. Poulos and Davids  have presented some information on pile Geology design parameters employed for the design of the Emirates Towers. Alrifai  presents some data from a series of five Kuwait is part of the north-eastern Arabian Peninsula which load tests on bored piles with diameters ranging between rises gradually from the shores of the Arabian Gulf with 0.6 and 1.0 m, and length between about 12 and 18 m. gentle undulations towards the mountainous regions of the There were 4 tests in compression and one in tension, and western Najd and the Hijaz. The mainland slopes generally on the basis of these tests, Alrifai offered the following towards the sea at an average gradient of 1 in 500, the high- recommendations: est elevation being 270 m in the south-west corner. In the north, an extensive plain is strewn with a thin layer of gravel, 1. For design purposes, the ultimate skin friction values in while the south-eastern quarter is low lying, flat and sandy. Table 1 can be used for compression piles. Behind the Az Zawr escarpment, there is a highly calcare- 2. The ultimate skin friction for piles in tension is about ous crust on the ground surface, creating hard areas devoid 0.73 times that for compression. of sand. 3. For lateral loading, Young’s modulus E of the upper The upper sedimentary rocks of Kuwait were deposited sh strata can be estimated from the following empirical cor- in shallow seas or were laid by streams, with the posi- relation: E = 2.5 N MPa, where N = SPT–N value. tion of the shoreline changing frequently. Underneath the sh 4. Only a small amount of load is transferred to the pile recent deposits, rocks ranging from Miocene to Pleistocene base, and it was recommended that end bearing be occur to a maximum thickness of 1000 m. In north Kuwait, ignored for design. beneath the recent superficial deposits, lies the Dibdibba 1 3 51 Page 4 of 18 Innovative Infrastructure Solutions (2018) 3:51 Fig. 3 Some typical Middle East geological profiles  Fig. 4 Typical Dubai stratig- STRATUM DESCRIPTION BASE RL raphy mDMD 1 Marine Sand -1 2 Calcarenite, weak-very weak -7 3 Calcareous Sandstone, very weak-weak -24 4 Gypsiferous / Calcareous Sandstone, very weak-weak -28.5 5 Calcisiltite, occasionally congolmeritic, very weak-mod. weak -68.5 6 Calcisiltite, occasionally congolmeritic, very weak-weak -91 Claystone/siltstone, with gypsum layers, very weak - mod. 7 weak < -120 sequence, which ranges in thickness from 80 to 100 m the Al Zawr escarpment. This formation consists of sands from east to west across the country and from 100 m to and gravel underlain by consolidated sandstones, con- almost zero thickness between the northern boundary and glomerates and siltstones. Below the Dibdibba formation 1 3 Innovative Infrastructure Solutions (2018) 3:51 Page 5 of 18 51 Table 1 Summary of Stratum Elevation (MDMD) Ultimate skin friction (kPa) recommended ultimate skin friction values for Dubai Very dense/dense sands above Transition zone above rockhead 100 (maximum) deposits  rockhead (stratum 1) Upper sandstone (stratum 2) Rockhead to − 10 280 Conglomerate (stratum 3/4) − 10 to − 18 440 are the lower Fars conglomeratic sandstones, variegated Ismael et al.  present shallow borehole details along shale and thin fossiliferous limestones having a thickness a section 35 km long, running from Andalus in the west to of 60–120 m, and then the Ghar formation, which is about Salmiya in the east, and these are reproduced in Fig. 6. The 170 m thick and consists of partly cemented coarse pebbly first two strata listed above can be identified. Average SPT sandstones, with minor beds of shale near the base. values increase with depth from the surface to a depth of In south Kuwait, the strata above the Eocene are known about 7 m. as the Kuwait group. This is a thick bed of sandstones, Ismael [16, 17] has presented geotechnical data on near- sands and some shale, with a thickness that varies between surface cemented sand deposits Within the upper 3.5 m, the about 5 and 200 m. The upper part of the Eocene sequence, effective stress strength parameters were within the follow - the Dammam limestone, consists of about 200 m of soft ing ranges: c′ = 31–190 kPa, ϕ′ = 34.2°–38.7°. The compres- chalky limestone and hard dolomitic limestone, with a sion index ranged between 0.06 and 0.10, while the range of chert cap that may be up to 10 m thick in some areas. the recompression index was 0.013–0.028. Abdullah and Kamal  have reported the occurrence of sinkholes arising from the presence of karstic limestone Foundation design parameters underlying 35–40 m of overburden at an urbanized site in Kuwait. They present an analysis of the causes of these Limited published information exists on foundation perfor- sinkholes and discuss the consequences for future develop- mance in Kuwait. Al-Sanad et al.  summarize data on ments. Their investigations have identified similar condi- Young’s modulus obtained from pressuremeter tests (PMT), tions in other parts of the eastern coastline of the Arabian and plate load tests for a site in Kuwait City, and this data is Peninsula, which had experienced similar problems with reproduced in Fig. 7. The modulus values for r fi st loading of sinkholes. the plate were reasonably consistent with the PMT test data, Saleh et al.  give a more detailed description of the but significantly higher values were found from reloading geological origin of the coastal “sabkha” deposits in north- and cyclic loading tests on the plate. ern Kuwait. Sabkhas are coastal flat areas that extend above The results of some pile load tests carried out in Kuwait the high tide level and consist of evaporate-rich sediments. have been presented by Ismael and Al-Sanad  and Ismael These salt-bearing soils can be leached, resulting in a reduc- [13, 17–18]. Typically, the skin friction values for relatively tion in strength, penetration resistance and bearing capacity, short bored piles in cemented sands are between 80 and and an increase in permeability, void ratio and compress- 107 kPa, and are larger than those for driven piles (about ibility . 60 kPa), a characteristic that is not uncommon in soils with Saleh et al.  provide a generalized stratigraphic profile a relatively high carbonate content. For the short piles tested, which is reproduced in Fig. 5. there seems to be little difference between the values for compression and uplift, although for longer more compress- ible piles, it would be expected that the skin friction in uplift Geotechnical profiles would be less than the value for compression. It was also found that, for small groups of bored piles at relatively close Saleh et al.  identify the following lithologic units within spacings, the group efficiency factor was greater than 1, and the coastal areas of Kuwait: for a 4-pile group at 3-diameter spacing, an efficiency factor exceeding 1.9 was observed. (a) Loose aeolian sand; Ismael  presented the results of lateral loading tests (b) Laminated gypsum and mud/silty sand; on single pile sand small pile groups. The piles were rela- (c) Mud/silty sand; tively short (up to about 5 m) and located in cemented silty (d) Quartzose oolitic sand, silt and mud; sands. Parabolic p–y curves were obtained and it was found (e) Alternating oolites, pellets and shell layers; that ignoring the cohesion of the cemented sand resulted (f) Gravelly sand and silt; in an over-conservative prediction of load–deflection char - (g) Cross-bedded sandstone. acteristics. However, for short piles, extensive wetting and 1 3 51 Page 6 of 18 Innovative Infrastructure Solutions (2018) 3:51 Fig. 5 Generalized stratigraphic column for coastal areas in Kuwait  disturbance caused softening and partial loss of cementa- clays, marls and shales of Tertiary age. These are overlain tion of the near-surface soils, and it was recommended that by Quaternary and Recent deposits, which are typically a reduction of 30–40% in the cohesion be allowed for to less than 10 m thick and consist of gravelly sands, weakly reflect this effect. cemented, with local patches containing secondary gypsum. A summary of the Tertiary geological strata of Qatar is presented in Table 2. The Simsima Limestone of the Upper Qatar Damman forms the surface of almost all of Qatar and com- prises chalky limestone with varying thicknesses of dolo- Geology mitic limestone. This deposit is generally surface-hardened over most of its outcrop, but may also contain irregular The Qatar peninsula is geologically a part of the Arabian pockets of clay in the Doha area. Gulf basin, between the stable Arabian Shield of western The Lower Damman deposits generally comprise chalky Saudi Arabia and the mobile south-western Iranian belt. limestone with a shale layer (Midra Shale) present in the The structure of Qatar consists of an anticlinal arch with a southern two-thirds of Qatar. A reduction in calcium carbon- north–south axis running through the centre of the country. ate and an increase in magnesium carbonate are apparent in The geological succession consists of a sequence of shal- the transition between the Lower Damman and the underly- low water marine limestones and dolomites with interbedded ing Rus Formation. 1 3 Innovative Infrastructure Solutions (2018) 3:51 Page 7 of 18 51 Fig. 6 Typical shallow geotechnical profiles in Kuwait  Table 2 Typical tertiary geological succession in Qatar Epoch Formation Member Pliocene/Miocene Upper Dam – Lower Dam – Eocene Upper Damman Abarug Dolo- mitic Lime- stone Abarug Marl Simsima Dolo- mite and Lime- stone Lower Damman Dukhan Alveolina Lime- stone Midra and Saila Shales Fhaihil Velates Fig. 7 Data on Young’s modulus in Kuwait City  Lime- stone Rus Formation – Palaeocene Umm Er Radhuma – 1 3 51 Page 8 of 18 Innovative Infrastructure Solutions (2018) 3:51 The Rus Formation can be divided into two provinces at geotechnical profile in Doha at the site of a high-rise build- the centre of Qatar, a carbonate facies and a sulphate facies. ing is shown in Fig. 8. Below the Simsima Limestone and In the latter (in which Doha is situated), the typical deposi- the Midra Shale, the uniaxial compressive strength of the tional cycle (about 5 m thick) is typically as follows: various strata is low to very low, even at depths in excess of 100 m. Greenish clay 1.0 m thick Gypsum with clay/marl 3.3 m thick Limestone 0.7 m thick. Foundation design parameters The sulphate facies of the Rus Formation was deposited Poulos  has described the design process for a tall build- in a subsiding area of relatively rapid and turbid evaporitic ing in Doha, Qatar. This high-rise tower is still under con- sedimentation. Typically, the core recovery during drilling struction and will be in excess of 400 m tall, with 74 storeys may reduce from about 80% in the Damman Formation to and three basement levels. It is founded on a pile-supported less than 50% in the gypsum-bearing Rus Formation. In the raft, with piles extending 40–50 m below the base of the raft. northern region of Qatar, the Rus Formation may be about A low-rise podium area is to be located adjacent to the tower. 30 m thick, but increases to the order of 100 m thick towards A total of 23 boreholes were drilled at the site, to depths the west and south-east. of up to 120 m. The in situ testing consisted of the following: The underlying Umm Er Radhuma Formation contains limestone and dolomite. SPT tests in upper superficial deposits and at some lower levels where the rock was weak and core recovery was Geotechnical profiles poor. Geophysical investigations, including cross-hole tomo- There is little or no published information on geotechni- graphic imaging, downhole seismic surveys, a 750 point cal profiles and properties for sites in Qatar. A typical microgravity survey and a 6-line resistivity survey. Fig. 8 Typical Geotechnical profile in Doha, Qatar 1 3 Innovative Infrastructure Solutions (2018) 3:51 Page 9 of 18 51 53 pressuremeter tests within four of the boreholes within an acceptable depth. For the raft, an ultimate bear- beneath the tower, to measure strength and deformation ing pressure of 2.1 MPa was assessed. characteristics of the various strata. • 53 packer tests within seven boreholes, to measure per- meability within the various strata. Saudi Arabia • 6 standpipes to monitor the groundwater levels. Geology An extensive program of laboratory testing was under- taken, both conventional and specialized. The conven- Descriptions of the geology of Saudi Arabia are given by tional tests included particle size distribution, unconfined Evans , Oweis and Bowman  and Al-Refeai and Al- compressive strength, point load strength, and carbonate Ghamdy , among others. As illustrated in Fig. 2, Saudi content tests. The specialized tests included the following: Arabia is divided into two basic geological zones: • Stress path triaxial tests, to measure deformation proper- 1. The Arabian Shield, a Precambrian basement complex ties of the strata. which underlies about one-third of the Kingdom and • Resonant column tests, to measure the small-strain mod- extends from the western coast for about 500–600 km ulus values of the rock core samples. towards the east. The rocks within this area are mostly • Cyclic undrained triaxial tests, to assess the effects of igneous and metamorphic, and form a dome-shaped cyclic loading on the strength and stiffness of rock core topography that is often covered by thin deposits of samples. alluvial sands and gravels. Constant normal stiffness direct shear tests, to measure 2. The Arabian Shelf, which lies east of the Arabian Shield. the pile-soil skin friction and the effects of cyclic load- Sedimentary rocks, which range in age from Cambrian ing. to Quaternary, dip gently towards the Arabian Gulf in the east, and towards the depression of Rub Al-Khali A program of pile load testing was also undertaken, in the south. These sedimentary rocks are mostly lime- consisting of four compression tests on piles of various stone, sandstone, siltstone and shales. The terrain is length (3 with 1.5 m diameter and one with 0.9 m diam- often covered by loose Aeolian deposits and sometimes eter) and two tension tests on piles about 26 m long, one with thick strata of wadi alluvium or residual soils. 0.9 m in diameter and the other 0.75 m diameter. On the basis of the above information, a geotechnical model was Geotechnical profiles progressively developed for the site. The site was quite uniform laterally, and so only a single model was nec- Many areas in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are associated essary. Table 3 summarizes the final model adopted by with problematic soils and complex subsoil conditions. the author for the foundation design verification process. Typical problems include expansive soils, collapsing soils, The modulus and skin friction parameters were influenced sabkha deposits (salt-bearing soils), loose Aeolian deposits, heavily by the results of the pile load tests. It will be noted and shifting sand dunes . Sabkha deposits pose a particu- that the strata generally become weaker with increasing lar problem in foundation design, as their salt content can depth, and no reliable end bearing stratum was found adversely affect the durability of structures and foundations Table 3 Geotechnical model adopted for verification of tower foundation design Material RL at top of Thickness (m) Typi- Young’s modulus Young’s modulus Ultimate skin Ultimate b a stratum (m cal UCS [MPa] (short term) [MPa] (long-term) friction (kPa) end bearing QNHD) (MPa) (MPa) Limestone − 5 15 15 1650 1500 560 15 Transition zone − 20 3 4 720 600 675 12 Shale − 23 3 4 720 600 525 4.6 Chalk-1 − 26 20 0.6 315 150 400 4.8 Chalk-2 − 46 66 0.2 315 150 250 3.4 Umm Er Radhuma − 112 > 25 2 1100 1000 – – For compression loading. Values for tension were reduced from these values The raft base level varied between from 15.6 to 21.6 m below existing ground level (deeper levels below lift pits) 1 3 51 Page 10 of 18 Innovative Infrastructure Solutions (2018) 3:51 that are in contact with the soil. They are highly heterogene- conditions; the soft and loose coastal soils can range in ous and exhibit behaviour ranging from non-plastic to highly thickness from a few metres to more than 20 m. plastic, with liquid limits as high as 80% or more. More 2. Zone B: Arabian Shield, extending north and east to detailed information on sabkha soils is provided by James the coastal plains of the Gulf. Figure 11 shows typical and Little , Hossain and Ali , Akili  and Akili profiles in this area. There is usually a shallow cover of and Torrance . soil over igneous or metamorphosed rock, with varied In coastal areas, coral limestone formations, which, in degrees of weathering. their natural condition, are soft, non-homogeneous and 3. Zone C: sedimentary rocks from the Shield to the coastal porous, and can be challenging for foundation designers. In plains of the Gulf (Fig. 12). Geotechnical problems the central region, a thick stratum of highly weathered lime- occurring in this area include solution cavities in lime- stone with calcite crystals can contain solution cavities and stone bedrock, the presence of gypsum-bearing soils in solution collapse breccia. The city of Riyadh has particular basins and poorly drained areas, the presence of inland problems with limestone cavities. sabkhas, and the potential variability of ground condi- Oweis and Bowman  have presented typical geotech- tions at the same site, for example, rock versus residual nical profiles for four zones: clay soil. 4. Zone D: the eastern coastal plain (Figs. 13 and 14). This 1. Zone A: Western coastal plains, subdivided into Zone area is characterized by the presence of salt-bearing A1, generally covered by soft sabkha coastal deposits, soils or sand dunes. Typically, in low-lying areas near and Zone A-2, covered by alluvial deposits from the the coast, there is a relatively shallow layer of soft and coast to the Arabian Shield. Figures 9 and 10 show sub- loose deposits overlying medium dense to dense sands surface conditions for these two sub-zones. As stated below. Layers of stiff to hard clays or lenses of rock can by the authors, “typical” profiles in these areas can be be encountered in thicknesses up to several metres. Arte- misleading because of the variability of the ground sian groundwater conditions may also be encountered. Fig. 9 Subsurface conditions for Saudi Arabia, Zone A-1  1 3 Innovative Infrastructure Solutions (2018) 3:51 Page 11 of 18 51 Fig. 10 Subsurface conditions for Saudi Arabia, Zone A-2  Fig. 11 Subsurface conditions for Saudi Arabia, Zone B  1 3 51 Page 12 of 18 Innovative Infrastructure Solutions (2018) 3:51 Fig. 12 Subsurface conditions for Saudi Arabia, Zone C  Fig. 13 Subsurface conditions for Saudi Arabia, Zone D, offshore, Jubail  1 3 Innovative Infrastructure Solutions (2018) 3:51 Page 13 of 18 51 Fig. 15 End bearing resistance versus SPT-N for driven piles in cor- alline deposits  pile testing indicated very low values of skin friction that did not increase significantly with depth, and a value of 20 kPa was adopted for design purposes. Limiting values of end bearing resistance were correlated with SPT-N values, as shown in Fig. 15. Significantly larger values were developed Fig. 14 Subsurface conditions for Saudi Arabia, near-shore deposits, for closed-ended piles than for open-ended piles. Zone D  Akili  has also reported the results of tests on steel tube piles, 1.4 m in diameter and 19 mm wall thickness, driven Table 4 Results of plate load tests on Sabkha (After ) into coral and coralline sand deposits along the Red Sea coast. For piles penetrating about 30–45 m, very low average Quantity Dry soil Saturated soil values of skin friction were experienced, ranging between Maximum pressure (kPa) 1250 1000 about 12 and 20 kPa. End bearing values for closed-ended Young’s modulus (MPa) 70 25 piles were also lower than anticipated, ranging between about 1.5 and 4 MPa. Clearly, the relatively loose nature of these deposits resulted in decreases in lateral pile-soil stress during installation of the piles, and a manifestation of the Foundation design parameters “friction fatigue” problem. Tonnison et al. (1989) carried out measurements on 3.5 m Shallow foundations diameter prestressed concrete cylinders grouted into weak Tertiary rocks located offshore between Saudi Arabia and There appears to be relatively little quantitative informa- Bahrain. They concluded that to obtain agreement between tion on foundation performance in Saudi Arabia available measured and calculated deflections, a Young’s modulus in the published literature. Al-Refeai and Al-Ghamdy  equal to about twice the pressuremeter modulus should be report the results of plate load tests (300 mm diameter) on used. The pressuremeter modulus was in turn related to the sabkha. Table 4 provides an interpretation of their data and unconfined compressive strength, q , of the rock, and ranged indicates that saturation can have a significant effect on the between 50 and 200q , with an average value of 100. engineering properties. The Young’s modulus values in Table 4 appear to be relatively high for a soil deposit whose compression index can range between about 0.4 and 0.95. Oman Deep foundations Geology Hagenaar and van Seters  have presented information on driven piles in coral rock and carbonate soils along the Red Robertson et al.  and Pollastro  present a detailed Sea coast of Saudi Arabia, near Jeddah and Yanbu. Dynamic account of the geology and tectonics of the Oman region. 1 3 51 Page 14 of 18 Innovative Infrastructure Solutions (2018) 3:51 Oman is located on the south-eastern margin of the Arabian and African plates. Consequently, plate movements have plate and is close to the boundaries of the Iranian, Indian, resulted in complex structural, sedimentation, and burial histories. Oman is tectonically bounded on the south by the Gulf of Aden spreading zone, to the east by the Masirah Transform Fault and the Owen Fracture Zone Trough, and to the north by the complex Zagros–Makran convergent plate margin, compression along which produced the Oman Mountains . Precambrian metamorphic and igneous basement rocks are known from a limited number of wells and from expo- sures of bedrock along the Huqf–Haushi Uplift on Oman’s eastern margin (see Fig. 16). The Ghaba Salt Basin, South Oman Salt Basin, and to a lesser extent, the Fahud Salt Basin, are part of a series of subsiding rift basins stretching from India and Pakistan across the Arabian Shield to central Iran that formed during the Infracambrian and lower Cam- brian (about 600–540 Ma). These rift basins were formed by extension from strike-slip movement of the Najd transform fault system which ultimately dislocated the Arabian plate some 300 km to the east. A typical generalized cross section across the Ghaba and Fahud Salt Basins is shown in Fig. 17. The sedimentary section in the hydrocarbon producing provinces of Oman is made up of rocks ranging from Prote- rozoic to Recent. Clastic rocks comprise most of the lower Paleozoic part of the section, whereas, the Permian through Tertiary part of the section are predominantly carbonate rocks and reflect climatic variations due to Omanís chang- ing paleolatitude through geologic time. The Huqf Supergroup contains several clastic and carbon- ate source rocks which form the basis of the primary petro- leum systems for hydrocarbons produced throughout Oman. Fig. 16 Geological areas of Oman  Fig. 17 Typical geological cross-section of Oman  1 3 Innovative Infrastructure Solutions (2018) 3:51 Page 15 of 18 51 The Cambrian Ara Formation is a carbonate/evaporite sequence with thick salt deposits (up to 1000 m). The thick Ara evaporites were deposited in geographically-restricted basins during periods of low relative sea level where strati- fied, anoxic conditions periodically prevailed and organic- rich sediments and salt were deposited. The lower Paleozoic section along the southern rim of the Arabian platform is comprised of mainly continental clastics, with some marine intercalations, which form important hydrocarbon reservoirs in the Ghaba and Fahud Salt Basins. A thick sequence of rift fill terrigenous and shallow-marine siliciclastics of the Haima Supergroup overlies the Ara Formation. In the Ghaba Salt Basin, sediments of the Haima Super- group fill and cover the margins of the basin reaching thick - nesses up to 6 km along the central axis . Pre-existing, Fig. 18 Typical expansive soil profile in northern Oman (Al-Rawas and Qarnaruddin ) highly variable topography caused major variations in sedi- ment infill. Numerous unconformities are present throughout the Paleozoic in Oman. Two major and very broad uplift and erosional events in eastern Oman removed most of the Foundation design parameters Silurian and Lower Devonian sediments and the interval between mid-Devonian and Upper Carboniferous; these For the expansive clays found in northern Oman, Al-Rawas erosional events are recognized in deep wells from the and Qarnaruddin  reported the following plasticity char- main producing fields in the Ghaba and Fahud Salt Basins. acteristics from 12 samples: Late Carboniferous time is marked in Oman by glaciation Liquid limit: 47–82; and subsequent deposition of glacial clastics of the Gharif Plastic limit: 14–44; Formation. Plasticity Index: 15–67; The Tertiary deposits comprise the Umm Er Radhuma, Natural water content: 10–25%; Rus and Damman formations, and these are underlain by the Free swell: 45–95% (from 4 samples). Aydim, Zalumah and Ashawq formations of late Eocene and No information on strength or compressibility character- Oligocene age. istics were provided. The Quaternary deposits are heterogeneous in nature and Tarawneh et al.  have presented the results of in situ of different origins. They comprise alluvial deposits, col- testing at a site near the Arabian Sea in Muscat. CPT and luvial deposits, Aeolian deposits and travertine and littoral pressuremeter testing were carried out to provide data for marine deposits. the prediction of shallow foundation settlements and com- parisons with measured settlements from load tests. The site consisted of a profile of gravelly sand, clean sand and Geotechnical profiles silty sand, which had been subjected to dynamic compaction to improve its engineering properties. The water table was There appears to be relatively little published information between 0.75 and 1.2 m below ground level. on the near-surface stratigraphy in Oman. Al-Rawas and Figures 19 and 20 show the CPT test results on the treated Qarnaruddin  identified expansive soils at different sites ground for two locations, and significant variability can be in northern Oman, between 35 and 45 km west of Muscat. observed between the two locations. The results of pres- They found that smectite is the major clay mineral, but that suremeter tests for pressuremeter modulus and limit pressure the expansive soils were influenced by the composition of are shown in Figs. 21 and 22. the parent rocks. The expansive soils and rocks are generally Loading tests were carried out on square steel variable with changes in colour, structure and lithology. A plates 2.5 m × 2.5 m, and the load test results showed very typical shallow profile containing expansive clay is shown different settlement behavior, with the test at Location 1 in Fig. 18 . being much stiffer (approximately 8 times) than at Loca- Aeolian and reworked calcareous sediments known as tion 2. While the CPT tests indicated somewhat lower val- “desert fill” can be present in low-lying topographic depres- ues at Location 2, neither these tests nor the pressuremeter sions, and this desert fill occurs as a light greenish-brown tests showed such a large divergence in the soil stiffness. poorly sorted sand comprising carbonate and ophiolitic Backfigured average values of soil Young’s modulus were material of the conglomerates. 1 3 51 Page 16 of 18 Innovative Infrastructure Solutions (2018) 3:51 Fig. 19 CPT results for test location 1  Fig. 21 Modulus values from pressuremeter tests  Fig. 20 CPT results for test location 2  about 32 MPa for Location 1 and 4 MPa for Location 2. Fig. 22 Limit pressure values from pressure meter tests  Unfortunately, there appears to be no other published information that might assist in understanding the reasons for the divergence in stiffness at the sites, and also, the relatively low values of Young’s modulus for the treated sands. 1 3 Innovative Infrastructure Solutions (2018) 3:51 Page 17 of 18 51 Conclusions References 1. Abdullah W, Kamal H (2005) Characteristics of Desert Karst Ter- From the foregoing descriptions of geology and geotechnical rain in Kuwait and the Eastern Coastline of the Arabian Peninsula. behaviour, it is possible to identify a number of factors which In: Beck BF (ed) Karst 2005. ASCE, Reston are present in Middle Eastern countries and which may be 2. Akili W (2002) Pile driving in coral deposits: a case study along significant in designing foundations, especially for high-rise the Red Sea. In: Proceedings of the international deep foundations congress, Orlando, FL buildings. 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