Middle East

Last updated

Middle East
Middle East (orthographic projection).svg
Location of the Middle East
Area7,207,575 km2 (2,782,860 sq mi)
Population371 million (2010) [1]
Countries
Languages
Time Zones UTC+2:00, UTC+3:00, UTC+3:30, UTC+4:00, UTC+4:30
Largest cities
Map of the Middle East between Africa, Europe, and Central Asia. Middle east.jpg
Map of the Middle East between Africa, Europe, and Central Asia.
Middle East map of Koppen climate classification. Middle East map of Koppen climate classification.svg
Middle East map of Köppen climate classification.

The Middle East is a transcontinental region centered on Western Asia, Turkey (both Asian and European), and Egypt (which is mostly in North Africa). Saudi Arabia is geographically the largest Middle Eastern nation while Bahrain is the smallest. The corresponding adjective is Middle Eastern and the derived noun is Middle Easterner. The term has come into wider usage as a replacement of the term Near East (as opposed to the Far East) beginning in the early 20th century.

In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics, human impact characteristics, and the interaction of humanity and the environment. Geographic regions and sub-regions are mostly described by their imprecisely defined, and sometimes transitory boundaries, except in human geography, where jurisdiction areas such as national borders are defined in law.

Western Asia Westernmost portion of Asia

Western Asia, West Asia, Southwestern Asia or Southwest Asia is the westernmost subregion of Asia. The concept is in limited use, as it significantly overlaps with the Middle East, the main difference usually being the exclusion of the majority of Egypt and the inclusion of the Caucasus. The term is sometimes used for the purposes of grouping countries in statistics. The total population of Western Asia is an estimated 300 million as of 2015. Although the term "Western Asia" is mostly used as a convenient division of contemporary sovereign states into a manageable number of world regions for statistical purposes, it is sometimes used instead of the more geopolitical term "Middle East".

Turkey Republic in Western Asia

Turkey, officially the Republic of Turkey, is a transcontinental country located mainly in Western Asia, with a smaller portion on the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe. East Thrace, located in Europe, is separated from Anatolia by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorous strait and the Dardanelles. Turkey is bordered by Greece and Bulgaria to its northwest; Georgia to its northeast; Armenia, the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan and Iran to the east; and Iraq and Syria to the south. Istanbul is the largest city, but more central Ankara is the capital. Approximately 70 to 80 per cent of the country's citizens identify as Turkish. Kurds are the largest minority; the size of the Kurdish population is a subject of dispute with estimates placing the figure at anywhere from 12 to 25 per cent of the population.

Contents

Arabs, Turks, Persians, Kurds, and Azeris (excluding Azerbaijan) constitute the largest ethnic groups in the region by population. Arabs constitute the largest ethnic group in the region by a clear margin. [2] Indigenous minorities of the Middle East include Jews, Baloch, Assyrians, Berbers (who primarily live in North Africa), Copts, Druze, Lurs, Mandaeans, Samaritans, Shabaks, Tats, and Zazas. European ethnic groups that form a diaspora in the region include Albanians, Bosniaks, Circassians (including Kabardians), Crimean Tatars, Greeks, Franco-Levantines, and Italo-Levantines. Among other migrant populations are Chinese, Filipinos, Indians, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Pashtuns, Romani, and sub-Saharan Africans.

Arabs are a population inhabiting the Arab world. They primarily live in the Arab states in Western Asia, North Africa, the Horn of Africa and western Indian Ocean islands. They also form a significant diaspora, with Arab communities established around the world.

Turkish people or the Turks, also known as Anatolian Turks, are a Turkic ethnic group and nation living mainly in Turkey and speaking Turkish, the most widely spoken Turkic language. They are the largest ethnic group in Turkey, as well as by far the largest ethnic group among the speakers of Turkic languages. Ethnic Turkish minorities exist in the former lands of the Ottoman Empire. In addition, a Turkish diaspora has been established with modern migration, particularly in Western Europe.

The Persians are an Iranian ethnic group that make up over half the population of Iran. They share a common cultural system and are native speakers of the Persian language, as well as closely related languages.

The history of the Middle East dates back to ancient times, with the (geopolitical) importance of the region being recognized for millennia. [3] [4] [5] Several major religions have their origins in the Middle East, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; the Baha'i faith, Mandaeism, Unitarian Druze, and numerous other belief systems were also established within the region.

History of the Middle East Aspect of history

Home to the Cradle of Civilization, the Middle East—interchangeable with the Near East—has seen many of the world's oldest cultures and civilizations. This history started from the earliest human settlements, continuing through several major pre- and post-Islamic Empires through to the nation-states of the Middle East today.

Judaism The ethnic religion of the Jewish people

Judaism is the ethnic religion of the Jewish people. It is an ancient, monotheistic, Abrahamic religion with the Torah as its foundational text. It encompasses the religion, philosophy, and culture of the Jewish people. Judaism is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the covenant that God established with the Children of Israel. It encompasses a wide body of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization. The Torah is part of the larger text known as the Tanakh or the Hebrew Bible, and supplemental oral tradition represented by later texts such as the Midrash and the Talmud. With between 14.5 and 17.4 million adherents worldwide, Judaism is the tenth largest religion in the world.

Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the world's largest religion with over 2.4 billion followers.

The Middle East generally has a hot, arid climate, with several major rivers providing irrigation to support agriculture in limited areas such as the Nile Delta in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates watersheds of Mesopotamia, and most of what is known as the Fertile Crescent.

Arid severe lack of available water

A region is arid when it is characterized by a severe lack of available water, to the extent of hindering or preventing the growth and development of plant and animal life. Environments subject to arid climates tend to lack vegetation and are called xeric or desertic. Most "arid" climates straddle the Equator; these places include parts of Africa, South America, Central America, and Australia.

Irrigation artificial application of water to the land

Irrigation is the application of controlled amounts of water to plants at needed intervals. Irrigation helps to grow agricultural crops, maintain landscapes, and revegetate disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of less than average rainfall. Irrigation also has other uses in crop production, including frost protection, suppressing weed growth in grain fields and preventing soil consolidation. In contrast, agriculture that relies only on direct rainfall is referred to as rain-fed or dry land farming.

Agriculture Cultivation of plants and animals to provide useful products

Agriculture is the science and art of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that enabled people to live in cities. The history of agriculture began thousands of years ago. After gathering wild grains beginning at least 105,000 years ago, nascent farmers began to plant them around 11,500 years ago. Pigs, sheep and cattle were domesticated over 10,000 years ago. Plants were independently cultivated in at least 11 regions of the world. Industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture in the twentieth century came to dominate agricultural output, though about 2 billion people still depended on subsistence agriculture into the twenty-first.

Most of the countries that border the Persian Gulf have vast reserves of crude oil, with monarchs of the Arabian Peninsula in particular benefiting economically from petroleum exports.

Persian Gulf An arm of the Indian Ocean in western Asia

The Persian Gulf is a mediterranean sea in Western Asia. The body of water is an extension of the Indian Ocean through the Strait of Hormuz and lies between Iran to the northeast and the Arabian Peninsula to the southwest. The Shatt al-Arab river delta forms the northwest shoreline.

Arabian Peninsula the largest peninsula in the world

The Arabian peninsula, simplified Arabia, is a peninsula of Western Asia situated northeast of Africa on the Arabian plate. From a geographical perspective, it is considered a subcontinent of Asia.

Terminology

The term "Middle East" may have originated in the 1850s in the British India Office. [6] However, it became more widely known when American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan used the term in 1902 [7] to "designate the area between Arabia and India". [8] [9] During this time the British and Russian Empires were vying for influence in Central Asia, a rivalry which would become known as The Great Game. Mahan realized not only the strategic importance of the region, but also of its center, the Persian Gulf. [10] [11] He labeled the area surrounding the Persian Gulf as the Middle East, and said that after Egypt's Suez Canal, it was the most important passage for Britain to control in order to keep the Russians from advancing towards British India. [12] Mahan first used the term in his article "The Persian Gulf and International Relations", published in September 1902 in the National Review , a British journal.

India Office

The India Office was a British government department established in London in 1858 to oversee the administration, through a Viceroy and other officials, of the Provinces of British India. These territories comprised most of the modern-day nations of Bangladesh, Burma, India, and Pakistan, as well as Aden and other territories around the Indian Ocean. The department was headed by the Secretary of State for India, a member of the British cabinet, who was formally advised by the Council of India.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Alfred Thayer Mahan United States Navy admiral and historian

Alfred Thayer Mahan was a United States naval officer and historian, whom John Keegan called "the most important American strategist of the nineteenth century." His book The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660–1783 (1890) won immediate recognition, especially in Europe, and with its successor, The Influence of Sea Power Upon the French Revolution and Empire, 1793–1812 (1892), made him world-famous and perhaps the most influential American author of the nineteenth century.

The Middle East, if I may adopt a term which I have not seen, will some day need its Malta, as well as its Gibraltar; it does not follow that either will be in the Persian Gulf. Naval force has the quality of mobility which carries with it the privilege of temporary absences; but it needs to find on every scene of operation established bases of refit, of supply, and in case of disaster, of security. The British Navy should have the facility to concentrate in force if occasion arise, about Aden, India, and the Persian Gulf. [13]

Mahan's article was reprinted in The Times and followed in October by a 20-article series entitled "The Middle Eastern Question," written by Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol. During this series, Sir Ignatius expanded the definition of Middle East to include "those regions of Asia which extend to the borders of India or command the approaches to India." [14] After the series ended in 1903, The Times removed quotation marks from subsequent uses of the term. [15]

Until World War II, it was customary to refer to areas centered around Turkey and the eastern shore of the Mediterranean as the "Near East", while the "Far East" centered on China, [16] and the Middle East then meant the area from Mesopotamia to Burma, namely the area between the Near East and the Far East.[ citation needed ] In the late 1930s, the British established the Middle East Command, which was based in Cairo, for its military forces in the region. After that time, the term "Middle East" gained broader usage in Europe and the United States, with the Middle East Institute founded in Washington, D.C. in 1946, among other usage. [17]

Criticism and usage

1957 American film about the Middle East

The description Middle has also led to some confusion over changing definitions. Before the First World War, "Near East" was used in English to refer to the Balkans and the Ottoman Empire, while "Middle East" referred to Iran, the Caucasus, Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Turkestan. In contrast, "Far East" referred to the countries of East Asia (e.g. China, Japan, Korea, etc.)

With the disappearance of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, "Near East" largely fell out of common use in English, while "Middle East" came to be applied to the re-emerging countries of the Islamic world. However, the usage "Near East" was retained by a variety of academic disciplines, including archaeology and ancient history, where it describes an area identical to the term Middle East, which is not used by these disciplines (see Ancient Near East).

The first official use of the term "Middle East" by the United States government was in the 1957 Eisenhower Doctrine, which pertained to the Suez Crisis. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles defined the Middle East as "the area lying between and including Libya on the west and Pakistan on the east, Syria and Iraq on the North and the Arabian peninsula to the south, plus the Sudan and Ethiopia." [16] In 1958, the State Department explained that the terms "Near East" and "Middle East" were interchangeable, and defined the region as including only Egypt, Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar. [18]

The Associated Press Stylebook says that Near East formerly referred to the farther west countries while Middle East referred to the eastern ones, but that now they are synonymous. It instructs:

Use Middle East unless Near East is used by a source in a story. Mideast is also acceptable, but Middle East is preferred. [19]

The term Middle East has also been criticised as Eurocentric ("based on a British Western perception") by Hanafi (1998). [20]

Translations

There are terms similar to Near East and Middle East in other European languages, but since it is a relative description, the meanings depend on the country and are different from the English terms generally. In German the term Naher Osten (Near East) is still in common use (nowadays the term Mittlerer Osten is more and more common in press texts translated from English sources, albeit having a distinct meaning) and in Russian Ближний Восток or Blizhniy Vostok, Bulgarian Близкия Изток, Polish Bliski Wschód or Croatian Bliski istok (meaning Near East in all the four Slavic languages) remains as the only appropriate term for the region. However, some languages do have "Middle East" equivalents, such as the French Moyen-Orient, Swedish Mellanöstern, Spanish Oriente Medio or Medio Oriente, and the Italian Medio Oriente. [note 1]

Perhaps because of the influence of the Western press, the Arabic equivalent of Middle East (Arabic: الشرق الأوسط ash-Sharq al-Awsaṭ) has become standard usage in the mainstream Arabic press, comprising the same meaning as the term "Middle East" in North American and Western European usage. The designation, Mashriq , also from the Arabic root for East, also denotes a variously defined region around the Levant, the eastern part of the Arabic-speaking world (as opposed to the Maghreb , the western part). [21] Even though the term originated in the West, apart from Arabic, other languages of countries of the Middle East also use a translation of it. The Persian equivalent for Middle East is خاورمیانه (Khāvar-e miyāneh), the Hebrew is המזרח התיכון (hamizrach hatikhon) and the Turkish is Orta Doğu.

Territories and regions

Territories and regions usually considered within the Middle East

Traditionally included within the Middle East are Iran (Persia), Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and Egypt. In modern-day-country terms they are these:

Country,
with flag
Area
(km²)
Population
(2012)
Density
(per km²)
Capital Nominal
GDP
, bn (2018) [22]
Per capita (2018) [23] CurrencyGovernmentOfficial
languages
Coat
of
arms
Flag of Bahrain.svg  Bahrain 6651,234,5961,646.1 Manama $30.355$25,851 Bahraini dinar Absolute monarchy Arabic Emblem of Bahrain.svg
Flag of Cyprus.svg  Cyprus 9,2501,088,503117 Nicosia $24.492$28,340 Euro Presidential republic Greek,
Turkish
Cyprus coat of arms.png
Flag of Egypt.svg  Egypt 1,010,40782,798,00090 Cairo $249.559$2,573 Egyptian pound Presidential republic Arabic Coat of arms of Egypt (Official).svg
Flag of Iran.svg  Iran 1,648,19578,868,71145 Tehran $452.275$5,491 Iranian rial Islamic republic Persian Emblem of Iran.svg
Flag of Iraq.svg  Iraq 438,31733,635,00073.5 Baghdad $226.07$5,930 Iraqi dinar Parliamentary republic Arabic,
Kurdish
Coat of arms (emblem) of Iraq 2008.svg
Flag of Israel.svg  Israel 20,7707,653,600365.3 Jerusalem a $369.843$41,644 Israeli shekel Parliamentary republic Hebrew Emblem of Israel.svg
Flag of Jordan.svg  Jordan 92,3006,318,67768.4 Amman $42.371$4,278 Jordanian dinar Constitutional monarchy Arabic Coat of arms of Jordan.svg
Flag of Kuwait.svg  Kuwait 17,8203,566,437167.5 Kuwait City $141.05$30,839 Kuwaiti dinar Constitutional monarchy Arabic Emblem of Kuwait.svg
Flag of Lebanon.svg  Lebanon 10,4524,228,000404 Beirut $56.409$9,257 Lebanese pound Parliamentary republic Arabic Coat of arms of Lebanon.svg
Flag of Oman.svg  Oman 212,4602,694,0949.2 Muscat $82.243$19,302 Omani rial Absolute monarchy Arabic National emblem of Oman.svg
Flag of Palestine.svg  Palestine 6,2204,260,636667 Ramallah a n/an/a Israeli shekel,
Jordanian dinar
Semi-presidential republic Arabic Coat of arms of Palestine (alternative).svg
Flag of Qatar.svg  Qatar 11,4371,696,563123.2 Doha $192.45$70,780 Qatari riyal Absolute monarchy Arabic Emblem of Qatar.svg
Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg  Saudi Arabia 2,149,69027,136,97712 Riyadh $782.483$23,566 Saudi riyal Absolute monarchy Arabic Emblem of Saudi Arabia.svg
Flag of Syria.svg  Syria 185,18023,695,000118.3 Damascus n/an/a Syrian pound Presidential republic Arabic Coat of arms of Syria.svg
Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey 783,56273,722,98894.1 Ankara $766.428$9,346 Turkish lira Presidential republic Turkish Emblem of Turkey.svg
Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg  United Arab Emirates 82,8808,264,07097 Abu Dhabi $424.635$40,711 UAE dirham Federal Absolute monarchy Arabic Emblem of the United Arab Emirates.svg
Flag of Yemen.svg  Yemen 527,97023,580,00044.7 Sana'a b
Aden (provisional)
$26.914$872 Yemeni rial Provisional presidential republic Arabic Emblem of Yemen.svg
a. ^ ^ Jerusalem is the proclaimed capital of Israel, which is disputed and the actual location of the Knesset, Israeli Supreme Court, and other governmental institutions of Israel. Ramallah is the actual location of the government of Palestine, whereas the proclaimed capital of Palestine is East Jerusalem, which is disputed.
b. ^ Controlled by the Houthis due to the ongoing war. Seat of government moved to Aden.

Other definitions of the Middle East

Various concepts are often being paralleled to Middle East, most notably Near East, Fertile Crescent and the Levant. Near East, Levant and Fertile Crescent are geographic concepts, which refer to large sections of the modern defined Middle East, with Near East being the closest to Middle East in its geographic meaning. Due to it primarily being Arabic speaking, the Maghreb region of North Africa is sometimes included.

The countries of the South CaucasusArmenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia—are occasionally included in definitions of the Middle East. [24]

The Greater Middle East was a political term coined by the second Bush administration in the first decade of the 21st century, [25] to denote various countries, pertaining to the Muslim world, specifically Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan. [26] Various Central Asian countries are sometimes also included. [27]

History

Western Wall and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem Jerusalem kotel mosque.jpg
Western Wall and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem
The Kaaba, located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia Kaaba mirror edit jj.jpg
The Kaaba, located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

The Middle East lies at the juncture of Eurasia and Africa and of the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. It is the birthplace and spiritual center of religions such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Manichaeism, Yezidi, Druze, Yarsan and Mandeanism, and in Iran, Mithraism, Zoroastrianism, Manicheanism, and the Bahá'í Faith. Throughout its history the Middle East has been a major center of world affairs; a strategically, economically, politically, culturally, and religiously sensitive area.

The world's earliest civilizations, Mesopotamia (Sumer, Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia) and ancient Egypt, originated in the Fertile Crescent and Nile Valley regions of the ancient Near East. These were followed by the Hittite, Greek and Urartian civilisations of Asia Minor, Elam in pre-Iranian Persia, as well as the civilizations of the Levant (such as Ebla, Ugarit, Canaan, Aramea, Phoenicia and Israel), Persian and Median civilizations in Iran, North Africa (Carthage/Phoenicia) and the Arabian Peninsula (Magan, Sheba, Ubar). The Near East was first largely unified under the Neo Assyrian Empire, then the Achaemenid Empire followed later by the Macedonian Empire and after this to some degree by the Iranian empires (namely the Parthian and Sassanid Empires), the Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire. However, it would be the later Arab Caliphates of the Middle Ages, or Islamic Golden Age which began with the Arab conquest of the region in the 7th century AD, that would first unify the entire Middle East as a distinct region and create the dominant Islamic ethnic identity that largely (but not exclusively) persists today. The Mongols, the Kingdom of Armenia, the Seljuks, the Safavids, the Ottoman Empire, and the British Empire also dominated the region.

The modern Middle East began after World War I, when the Ottoman Empire, which was allied with the Central Powers, was defeated by the British Empire and their allies and partitioned into a number of separate nations, initially under British and French Mandates. Other defining events in this transformation included the establishment of Israel in 1948 and the eventual departure of European powers, notably Britain and France by the end of the 1960s. They were supplanted in some part by the rising influence of the United States from the 1970s onwards.

In the 20th century, the region's significant stocks of crude oil gave it new strategic and economic importance. Mass production of oil began around 1945, with Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates having large quantities of oil. [28] Estimated oil reserves, especially in Saudi Arabia and Iran, are some of the highest in the world, and the international oil cartel OPEC is dominated by Middle Eastern countries.

During the Cold War, the Middle East was a theater of ideological struggle between the two superpowers and their allies: NATO and the United States on one side, and the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact on the other, as they competed to influence regional allies. Besides the political reasons there was also the "ideological conflict" between the two systems. Moreover, as Louise Fawcett argues, among many important areas of contention, or perhaps more accurately of anxiety, were, first, the desires of the superpowers to gain strategic advantage in the region, second, the fact that the region contained some two-thirds of the world's oil reserves in a context where oil was becoming increasingly vital to the economy of the Western world [...] [29] Within this contextual framework, the United States sought to divert the Arab world from Soviet influence. Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, the region has experienced both periods of relative peace and tolerance and periods of conflict particularly between Sunnis and Shiites.

Demographics

Ethnic groups

Arabs constitute the largest ethnic group in the Middle East, followed by various Iranian peoples and then by Turkic speaking groups. Native ethnic groups of the region include, in addition to Arabs, Arameans, Assyrians, Baloch, Berbers, Copts, Druze, Jews, Kurds, Lurs, Mandaeans, Persians, Samaritans, Shabaks, Tats, and Zazas.

Migration

"Migration has always provided an important vent for labor market pressures in the Middle East. For the period between the 1970s and 1990s, the Arab states of the PersianGulf in particular provided a rich source of employment for workers from Egypt, Yemen and the countries of the Levant, while Europe had attracted young workers from North African countries due both to proximity and the legacy of colonial ties between France and the majority of North African states." [30] According to the International Organization for Migration, there are 13 million first-generation migrants from Arab nations in the world, of which 5.8 reside in other Arab countries. Expatriates from Arab countries contribute to the circulation of financial and human capital in the region and thus significantly promote regional development. In 2009 Arab countries received a total of 35.1 billion USD in remittance in-flows and remittances sent to Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon from other Arab countries are 40 to 190 per cent higher than trade revenues between these and other Arab countries. [31] In Somalia, the Somali Civil War has greatly increased the size of the Somali diaspora, as many of the best educated Somalis left for Middle Eastern countries as well as Europe and North America.

Non-Arab Middle Eastern countries such as Turkey, Israel and Iran are also subject to important migration dynamics.

A fair proportion of those migrating from Arab nations are from ethnic and religious minorities facing racial and or religious persecution and are not necessarily ethnic Arabs, Iranians or Turks.[ citation needed ] Large numbers of Kurds, Jews, Assyrians, Greeks and Armenians as well as many Mandeans have left nations such as Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey for these reasons during the last century. In Iran, many religious minorities such as Christians, Baha'is and Zoroastrians have left since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.[ citation needed ]

Religions

Islam is the largest religion in the Middle East. Here, Muslim men are prostrating during prayer in a mosque. Mosque.jpg
Islam is the largest religion in the Middle East. Here, Muslim men are prostrating during prayer in a mosque.

The Middle East is very diverse when it comes to religions, many of which originated there. Islam is the largest religion in the Middle East, but other faiths that originated there, such as Judaism and Christianity, are also well represented. Christians represent 40.5% of Lebanon, where the Lebanese president, half of the cabinet, and half of the parliament follow one of the various Lebanese Christian rites. There are also important minority religions like the Bahá'í Faith, Yarsanism, Yazidism, Zoroastrianism, Mandaeism, Druze, and Shabakism, and in ancient times the region was home to Mesopotamian religions, Canaanite religions, Manichaeism, Mithraism and various monotheist gnostic sects.

Languages

The five top languages, in terms of numbers of speakers, are Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Kurdish, and Hebrew. Arabic and Hebrew represent the Afro-Asiatic language family. Persian and Kurdish belong to the Indo-European language family. Turkish belongs to Turkic language family. About 20 minority languages are also spoken in the Middle East.

Arabic, with all its dialects, are the most widely spoken languages in the Middle East, with Literary Arabic being official in all North African and in most West Asian countries. Arabic dialects are also spoken in some adjacent areas in neighbouring Middle Eastern non-Arab countries. It is a member of the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic languages. Several Modern South Arabian languages such as Mehri and Soqotri are also spoken Yemen and Oman. Another Semitic language such as Aramaic and its dialects are spoken mainly by Assyrians and Mandaeans. There is also a Oasis Berber-speaking community in Egypt where the language is also known as Siwa. It is a non-Semitic Afro-Asiatic language.

Persian is the second most spoken language. While it is primarily spoken in Iran and some border areas in neighbouring countries, the country is one of the region's largest and most populous. It belongs to the Indo-Iranian branch of the family of Indo-European languages. Other Western Iranic languages spoken in the region include Achomi, Daylami, Kurdish dialects, Semmani, Lurish, amongst many others.

The third-most widely spoken language, Turkish, is largely confined to Turkey, which is also one of the region's largest and most populous countries, but it is present in areas in neighboring countries. It is a member of the Turkic languages, which have their origins in Central Asia. Another Turkic language, Azerbaijani, is spoken by Azerbaijanis in Iran.

Hebrew is one of the two official languages of Israel, the other being Arabic. Hebrew is spoken and used by over 80% of Israel's population, the other 20% using Arabic.

English is commonly taught and used as a second language, especially among the middle and upper classes, in countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Kurdistan, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. [32] [33] It is also a main language in some Emirates of the United Arab Emirates.

French is taught and used in many government facilities and media in Lebanon, and is taught in some primary and secondary schools of Egypt and Syria. Maltese, a Semitic language mainly spoken in Europe, is also used by the Franco-Maltese diaspora in Egypt.

Armenian and Greek speakers are also to be found in the region. Georgian is spoken by the Georgian diaspora. Russian is spoken by a large portion of the Israeli population, because of emigration in the late 1990s. Russian today is a popular unofficial language in use in Israel; news, radio and sign boards can be found in Russian around the country after Hebrew and Arabic. Circassian is also spoken by the diaspora in the region and by almost all Circassians in Israel who speak Hebrew and English as well. The largest Romanian-speaking community in the Middle East is found in Israel, where as of 1995 Romanian is spoken by 5% of the population. [note 2] [34] [35]

Bengali, Hindi and Urdu is widely spoken by migrant communities in many Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia (where 20–25% of the population is South Asian), the United Arab Emirates (where 50–55% of the population is South Asian), and Qatar, which have large numbers of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian immigrants.

Economy

Oil and gas pipelines in the Middle-East Oil and Gas Infrastructure Persian Gulf (large).gif
Oil and gas pipelines in the Middle-East

Middle Eastern economies range from being very poor (such as Gaza and Yemen) to extremely wealthy nations (such as Qatar and UAE). Overall, as of 2007, according to the CIA World Factbook, all nations in the Middle East are maintaining a positive rate of growth.

According to the World Bank's World Development Indicators database published on July 1, 2009, the three largest Middle Eastern economies in 2008 were Turkey ($794,228), Saudi Arabia ($467,601) and Iran ($385,143) in terms of Nominal GDP. [36] Regarding nominal GDP per capita, the highest ranking countries are Qatar ($93,204), the UAE ($55,028), Kuwait ($45,920) and Cyprus ($32,745). [37] Turkey ($1,028,897), Iran ($839,438) and Saudi Arabia ($589,531) had the largest economies in terms of GDP-PPP. [38] When it comes to per capita (PPP)-based income, the highest-ranking countries are Qatar ($86,008), Kuwait ($39,915), the UAE ($38,894), Bahrain ($34,662) and Cyprus ($29,853). The lowest-ranking country in the Middle East, in terms of per capita income (PPP), is the autonomous Palestinian Authority of Gaza and the West Bank ($1,100).

The economic structure of Middle Eastern nations are different in the sense that while some nations are heavily dependent on export of only oil and oil-related products (such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait), others have a highly diverse economic base (such as Cyprus, Israel, Turkey and Egypt). Industries of the Middle Eastern region include oil and oil-related products, agriculture, cotton, cattle, dairy, textiles, leather products, surgical instruments, defence equipment (guns, ammunition, tanks, submarines, fighter jets, UAVs, and missiles). Banking is also an important sector of the economies, especially in the case of UAE and Bahrain.

With the exception of Cyprus, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon and Israel, tourism has been a relatively undeveloped area of the economy, in part because of the socially conservative nature of the region as well as political turmoil in certain regions of the Middle East. In recent years, however, countries such as the UAE, Bahrain, and Jordan have begun attracting greater number of tourists because of improving tourist facilities and the relaxing of tourism-related restrictive policies.

Unemployment is notably high in the Middle East and North Africa region, particularly among young people aged 15–29, a demographic representing 30% of the region's total population. The total regional unemployment rate in 2005, according to the International Labour Organization, was 13.2%, [39] and among youth is as high as 25%, [40] up to 37% in Morocco and 73% in Syria. [41]

This video over Central Africa and the Middle East was taken by the crew of Expedition 29 on board the International Space Station.
This video over the Sahara Desert and the Middle East was taken by the crew of Expedition 29 on board the International Space Station.
A pass beginning over Turkmenistan, east of the Caspian Sea to south-eastern China, just north-west of Hong Kong.

See also

Notes

  1. In Italian, the expression "Vicino Oriente" (Near East) was also widely used to refer to Turkey, and Estremo Oriente (Far East or Extreme East) to refer to all of Asia east of Middle East
  2. According to the 1993 Statistical Abstract of Israel there were 250,000 Romanian speakers in Israel, at a population of 5,548,523 (census 1995).

Related Research Articles

Foreign relations of Kuwait

Since its independence in 1961, Kuwait maintained strong international relations with most countries, especially nations within the Arab world. Its vast oil reserves gives it a prominent voice in global economic forums and organizations like the OPEC. Kuwait is also a major ally of ASEAN, and a regional ally of China.

Kuwait City Capital city of Kuwait

Kuwait City is the capital and largest city of Kuwait. Located at the heart of the country on the shore of the Persian Gulf, and containing Kuwait's National Assembly (parliament), most governmental offices, the headquarters of most Kuwaiti corporations and banks, it is the indisputable political, cultural and economical centre of the emirate. It is considered a global city.

Arab world Geographic and cultural region in Africa and the Middle East

The Arab world, also known as the Arab nation, the Arabsphere or the Arab states, currently consists of the 22 Arabic-speaking countries that make up the members of the Arab League. These countries occupy the Middle East and North Africa; an area stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the east, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean in the southeast. The contemporary Arab world has a combined population of around 422 million inhabitants, over half of whom are under 25 years of age.

Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia Region in Saudi Arabia

The Eastern Province is the largest province of Saudi Arabia by area. The province's capital is the city of Dammam, which hosts the majority of the region's population and its seat of government. The Eastern Province is the third most populous province in Saudi Arabia, after Makkah and Riyadh. Dammam is the province's most populous city, and the sixth most populous city in the country. The current governor of the Eastern Province is Prince Saud bin Nayef Al Saud.

Arameans Northwest Semitic semi-nomadic and pastoralist people who originated in what is now modern Syria

The Arameans, also known as Syriacs, were an ancient Northwest Semitic Aramaic-speaking tribal confederation who emerged from the region known as Aram in the Late Bronze Age. They established a patchwork of independent Aramaic kingdoms in the Levant and seized tracts of Anatolia as well as briefly conquering Babylonia.

MENA is an English-language acronym referring to the Middle East and North Africa region. An alternative for the same group of countries is WANA. The term covers an extensive region stretching from Morocco to Iran, including all Mashriq and Maghreb countries. This toponym is roughly synonymous with the term the Greater Middle East.

Arab states of the Persian Gulf

The Arab states of the Persian Gulf are the seven Arab states which border the Persian Gulf, namely Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This excludes the non-Arab state of Iran. All of these nations except Iraq are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and prefer to use the term "Arabian Gulf" rather than the historical name of the Persian Gulf.

The Baharna are a Shia Muslim ethnoreligious group who mainly inhabit the historical region of Eastern Arabia. They are generally regarded by scholars to be the original inhabitants of the Bahrain archipelago. Most Shi'i Bahraini citizens are ethnic Baharna. Regions with most of the population are in Eastern Arabia, with historical diaspora populations in Kuwait,, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Iran, Iraq and United States. Some Bahrainis are from other parts of the world too.

Arab League–Iran relations

Arab League–Iran relations refer to political, economic and cultural relations between the mostly Shia Muslim and the ethnically Aryan (Iranic) country of Iran and the mostly Sunni and Arab organization Arab League.

Economy of the Middle East

The economy of the Middle East is very diverse, with national economies ranging from hydrocarbon-exportig rentiers to centralized socialist economies and free-market economies. The region is best known for oil production and export, which significantly impacts the entire region through the wealth it generates and through labor utilization. In recent years, many of the countries in the region have undertaken efforts to diversify their economies.

Demographics of the Arab League

The Arab League is a social, cultural and economic grouping of 22 Arab states in the Arabic speaking world. As of 2016, the combined population of all the Arab states was around 407-420 million people.

Eastern Arabian cuisine

Eastern Arabian cuisine includes the similar cuisines that are shared by the population in the coastal region of Eastern Arabia. Seafood is a very significant part of the diet of the inhabitants of the coast of the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman. Fish is very popular, usually eaten with rice. The cuisine of eastern Arabia is different from the cuisine of the Arabs of Hejaz, Najd and other parts of Arabia. Harees is also a very popular dish in the region.

Three major religious groups originated in the Middle East. Smaller minority religions, such as the Bahá'í Faith, Druze, Nusairism, Manichaeism, Sabianism, Bábism, Yazidism, Mandaeism, Gnosticism, Yarsanism, Samaritanism, Shabakism, Ishikism, Ali-Illahism, Alevism, Yazdânism and Zoroastrianism are also present in the Middle East.

Culture of Eastern Arabia

There is a rich and ancient culture in Eastern Arabia. Eastern Arabia's culture has always been oriented towards the sea.

The ethnic groups in the Middle East refers to the peoples that reside in West Asia and Egypt in North Africa. The region has historically been a crossroad of different cultures. Since the 1960s, the changes in political and economic factors have significantly altered the ethnic composition of groups in the region. While some ethnic groups have been present in the region for millennia, others have arrived fairly recently through immigration. The five largest ethnic groups in the region are Arabs, Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Persians, and Turks but there are dozens of other ethnic groups which have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of members.

Alexei Mikhailovich Vasiliev scholar

Alexei Mikhailovich Vasiliev is a prominent Russian Arabist and Africanist. Dr. of Science (1981-), Professor (1991-), full member (academician) of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) since 2011.

Mashriqi Arabic, or Mashriqi ʿAmmiya, is the varieties of Arabic spoken in the Mashriq, including the countries of Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Kuwait, Jordan, Syria, Cyprus, Turkey, Iraq, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar. The variety is sometimes referred to as Eastern Arabic, as opposed to Western Arabic and includes Mesopotamian Arabic and Gulf Arabic, along with Egyptian Arabic, Sudanese Arabic, and Levantine Arabic. Speakers of Mashriqi call their language ʿAmmiya, which means "dialect" in Modern Standard Arabic.

References

  1. Population 1971–2010 (pdf Archived 2012-01-06 at the Wayback Machine p. 89) IEA (OECD/ World Bank) (original population ref OECD/ World Bank e.g. in IEA Key World Energy Statistics 2010 p. 57)
  2. Shoup, John A. (2011-10-31). Ethnic Groups of Africa and the Middle East: An Encyclopedia. ISBN   978-1-59884-362-0. Archived from the original on 24 April 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  3. Cairo, Michael F. The Gulf: The Bush Presidencies and the Middle East Archived 2015-12-22 at the Wayback Machine University Press of Kentucky, 2012 ISBN   978-0-8131-3672-1 p xi.
  4. Government Printing Office. History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense: The formative years, 1947–1950 Archived 2015-12-22 at the Wayback Machine ISBN   978-0-16-087640-0 p 177
  5. Kahana, Ephraim. Suwaed, Muhammad. Historical Dictionary of Middle Eastern Intelligence Archived 2015-12-23 at the Wayback Machine Scarecrow Press, 13 apr. 2009 ISBN   978-0-8108-6302-6 p. xxxi.
  6. Beaumont, Blake & Wagstaff 1988, p. 16.
  7. Koppes, CR (1976). "Captain Mahan, General Gordon and the origin of the term "Middle East"". Middle East Studies. 12: 95–98. doi:10.1080/00263207608700307.
  8. Lewis, Bernard (1965). The Middle East and the West. p. 9.
  9. Fromkin, David (1989). A Peace to end all Peace . p. 224. ISBN   978-0-8050-0857-9.
  10. Melman, Billie (November 2002), Companion to Travel Writing, Collections Online, 6 The Middle East/Arabia, Cambridge, archived from the original on December 8, 2007, retrieved January 8, 2006.
  11. Palmer, Michael A. Guardians of the Persian Gulf: A History of America's Expanding Role in the Persian Gulf, 1833–1992. New York: The Free Press, 1992. ISBN   0-02-923843-9 pp. 12–13.
  12. Laciner, Dr. Sedat. "Is There a Place Called 'the Middle East'? Archived 2007-02-20 at the Wayback Machine ", The Journal of Turkish Weekly, June 2, 2006. Retrieved January 10, 2007.
  13. Adelson 1995, pp. 22–23.
  14. Adelson 1995, p. 24.
  15. Adelson 1995, p. 26.
  16. 1 2 Davison, Roderic H. (1960). "Where is the Middle East?". Foreign Affairs. 38 (4): 665–75. doi:10.2307/20029452. JSTOR   20029452.
  17. Held, Colbert C. (2000). Middle East Patterns: Places, Peoples, and Politics. Westview Press. p. 7. ISBN   978-0-8133-8221-0.
  18. "'Near East' is Mideast, Washington Explains". The New York Times. August 14, 1958. Archived from the original on October 15, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-25.(subscription required)
  19. Goldstein, Norm. The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. New York: Basic Books, 2004. ISBN   0-465-00488-1 p. 156
  20. Hanafi, Hassan. "The Middle East, in whose world? (Primary Reflections)". Nordic Society for Middle Eastern Studies (The fourth Nordic conference on Middle Eastern Studies: The Middle East in globalizing world Oslo, 13–16 August 1998). Archived from the original on 8 October 2006. ("unedited paper as given at the Oslo conference. An updated and edited version has been published in Utvik and Vikør, The Middle East in a Globalized World, Bergen/London 2000, 1–9. Please quote or refer only to the published article") "The expression Middle East is an old British label based on a British Western perception of the East divided into middle or near and far". see also Shohat, Ella. "Redrawing American Cartographies of Asia". City University of New York. Archived from the original on 2007-03-12. Retrieved 2007-01-12.
  21. Anderson, Ewan W., William Bayne Fisher (2000). The Middle East: Geography and Geopolitics. Routledge. pp. 12–13.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  22. "World Economic Outlook Database". International Monetary Fund. 10 April 2019. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  23. "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects". International Monetary Fund. April 2019. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  24. Novikova, Gayane (December 2000). "Armenia and the Middle East" (PDF). Middle East Review of International Affairs. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 August 2014. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  25. Haeri, Safa (2004-03-03). "Concocting a 'Greater Middle East' brew". Asia Times . Retrieved 2008-08-21.
  26. Ottaway, Marina & Carothers, Thomas (2004-03-29), The Greater Middle East Initiative: Off to a False Start Archived 2009-03-12 at the Wayback Machine , Policy Brief, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 29, pp. 1–7
  27. Middle East Archived 2016-04-15 at the Wayback Machine What Is The Middle East And What Countries Are Part of It? worldatlas.com. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  28. Goldschmidt (1999), p. 8
  29. Louise, Fawcett. International Relations of the Middle East. (Oxford University Press, New York, 2005)
  30. Hassan, Islam; Dyer, Paul (2017). "The State of Middle Eastern Youth". The Muslim World. 107 (1): 3–12. hdl:10822/1042998. Archived from the original on 2017-04-03.
  31. "IOM Intra regional labour mobility in Arab region Facts and Figures (English)" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-04-30. Retrieved 2012-10-31.
  32. "World Factbook – Jordan". Archived from the original on 2011-06-29.
  33. "World Factbook – Kuwait". Archived from the original on 2014-07-02.
  34. "Reports of about 300,000 Jews that left the country after WW2". Eurojewcong.org. Archived from the original on 2010-08-13. Retrieved 2010-07-07.
  35. "Evenimentul Zilei". Evz.ro. Archived from the original on 2007-12-24. Retrieved 2010-07-07.
  36. The World Bank: World Economic Indicators Database. GDP (Nominal) 2008. Archived 2009-09-12 at the Wayback Machine Data for 2008. Last revised on July 1, 2009.
  37. Data refer to 2008. World Economic Outlook Database-October 2009, International Monetary Fund. Retrieved October 1, 2009.
  38. The World Bank: World Economic Indicators Database. GDP (PPP) 2008. Archived 2014-02-09 at the Wayback Machine Data for 2008. Last revised on July 1, 2009.
  39. "Unemployment Rates Are Highest in the Middle East". Progressive Policy Institute. August 30, 2006. Archived from the original on July 14, 2010.
  40. Navtej Dhillon; Tarek Yousef (2007). "Inclusion: Meeting the 100 Million Youth Challenge". Shabab Inclusion. Archived from the original on 2008-11-09.
  41. Hilary Silver (December 12, 2007). "Social Exclusion: Comparative Analysis of Europe and Middle East Youth". Middle East Youth Initiative Working Paper. Shabab Inclusion. Archived from the original on August 20, 2008.

Further reading

Coordinates: 29°N41°E / 29°N 41°E / 29; 41