Sheikh's Name Written in Sand Visible from Space

Giant Name of HAMAD Written in the Sand
A billionaire from Abu Dhabi has had his name carved into the sand on his private island. The word, HAMAD, is miles long, and visible from space. (Image credit: © 2011 Google - Imagery ©2011 DigitalGlobe, Cnes/Spot Image, GeoEye, U.S. Geological Survey)

Hamad bin Hamdan al Nahyan, a billionaire Sheikh and member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family, has had his name carved into the sandy surface of an island he owns in the Persian Gulf. It is no lackadaisical sand-scrawling, though: At half a mile tall and 2 miles long altogether, the letters HAMAD are visible from space.

Satellites captured these images of al Futaisi Island, stamped with the name of its owner, back in 2009. They can be accessed on Google Maps and Google Earth. [The Top 10 Views of Earth From Space]

Another view of the name HAMAD carved into the sand of a private island owned by a billionaire from Abu Dhabi. (Image credit: © 2011 Google - Imagery ©2011 DigitalGlobe, Cnes/Spot Image, GeoEye, U.S. Geological Survey)

While, under normal circumstances, words written in sand wash away, The Daily Mail explains that these letters are large enough to "form waterways that absorb the encroaching tide." Indeed, at the time the satellite photographs were taken, said tide can be seen flowing through the letters all the way to the M.

Though Arabic is the official language of the United Arab Emirates, Hamad's native country, members of the media have speculated that he may have chosen to have his name carved in English instead so as to make it readable by more people. Others have pointed out that Arabic letters lack straight lines.

Hamad is also the man behind the world's largest truck: He commissioned an operational Dodge Power Wagon that is 64 times larger than the original and has a whole apartment inside. There's been no confirmation yet on whether his word — HAMAD — is the world's largest.

This article was provided by Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to SPACE. Follow us on Twitter @llmysteries, then join us on Facebook. Follow Natalie Wolchover on Twitter @nattyover.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Natalie Wolchover
Former Live Science staff writer

Natalie Wolchover was a staff writer for Live Science and a contributor to from 2010 to 2012. She is now a senior writer and editor at Quanta Magazine, where she specializes in the physical sciences. Her writing has appeared in publications including Popular Science and Nature and has been included in The Best American Science and Nature Writing.  She holds a bachelor's degree in physics from Tufts University and has studied physics at the University of California, Berkeley.