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History of the Middle East

Further information: Timeline of Middle Eastern history


Map of the Middle East.

This article is a general overview of the history of the Middle East. For more detailed
information, see articles on the histories of individual countries and regions. For discussion of
the issues surrounding the definition of the area see the article on Middle East.

Contents
 1 The Ancient Near East
 1.1 Cradle of civilization
 1.2 Persian Empire
 1.3 Roman Empire
 2 The Medieval Middle East
 2.1 Islamic Caliphate
 2.2 Turks, Crusaders and Mongols
 3 The Ottoman era
 4 European domination
 5 A zone of conflict
 6 The contemporary Middle East
 7 References

 8 See also

The Ancient Near East


See also: Short chronology timeline

Cradle of civilization

The earliest civilizations in history were established in the region now known as the Middle East
around 3500 BC, in Mesopotamia (Iraq), widely regarded as the cradle of civilization. The
Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians all flourished in this region. Soon after the
Sumerian civilization began, the Nile River valley of ancient Egypt was unified under the
Pharaohs in the 4th millennium BC, and civilization quickly spread through the Fertile Crescent
to the west coast of the Mediterranean Sea and throughout the Levant. The Phoenicians,
Israelites and others later built important states in this region.

In the Arabian peninsula (modern day Saudi Arabia) the early Arabs, such as the Nabateans
(Arabic: ‫ )النباط‬and the Sabaeans (Arabic: ‫ )السبأيين‬appeared around 800 B.C and
established powerful and influential civilizations that were the center of trade for
centuries, in the heart of the desert.

Persian Empire

From the 6th century BC onwards, several empires dominated the region, beginning with the
Persian Empire of the Achaemenids, followed by the Macedonian Empire founded by Alexander
the Great, and successor kingdoms such as Ptolemaic Egypt and the Seleucid state in Syria.

The Persian Empire was later revived by the Parthians in the 2nd century BC and continued by
the Sassanids from the 2nd century AD. This empire would dominate part of what is now
considered the Middle East and continue to influence the rest of the Middle East region until the
Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century.

Roman Empire

In the 1st century BC, the expanding Roman Republic absorbed the whole Eastern
Mediterranean area (which included much of the Near East) and under the Roman Empire the
region was united with most of Europe and North Africa in a single political and economic unit.
Even areas not directly annexed became strongly influenced by the Empire which became the
most powerful political and cultural entity for centuries. Although Latin culture spread into the
region, the Greek culture and language first established in the region by the Macedonian Empire
would continue to dominate throughout the Roman period. Cities in the Middle East, especially
Alexandria, became major urban centers for the Empire and the region became the Empire's
"bread basket" as the key agricultural producer.

As the Christian religion spread throughout the Empire it took root in the Middle East and cities
such as Alexandria became important centers of Christian scholarship. By the 5th century,
Roman Christianity was the dominant religion in the Middle East with other faiths (gradually
including heretical Christian sects) being actively repressed. The Middle East's ties to the city of
Rome would gradually be severed as the Empire split into East and West with the Middle East
becoming tied to the new Roman capital of Constantinople. The subsequent fall of Rome and the
Western Roman Empire, therefore, had minimal direct impact on the region. The Eastern Roman
Empire, today commonly known as the Byzantine Empire, ruling from the Balkans to the
Euphrates, became increasingly defined by and dogmatic about Christianity gradually creating
religious rifts between the doctrines dictated by the establishment in Constantinople and
believers in many parts of the Middle East.

The Medieval Middle East


Islamic Caliphate
From the 7th century, a new power was rising in the Middle East, that of Islam, whilst the
Byzantine Roman and Sassanid Persian empires were both weakened by centuries of stalemate
warfare during the Roman-Persian Wars. In a series of rapid Muslim conquests, the Arab armies,
motivated by Islam and led by the Caliphs and skilled military commanders such as Khalid ibn
al-Walid, swept through most of the Middle East; reducing Byzantine lands by more than half
and completely engulfing the Persian lands. In Anatolia, their expansion was blocked by the still
capable Byzantines with the help of the Bulgarians. The Byzantine provinces of Roman Syria,
North Africa, and Sicily, however, could not mount such a resistance, and the Muslim conquerors
swept through those regions. At the far west, they crossed the sea taking Visigothic Hispania
before being halted in southern France by the Franks. At its greatest extent, the Arab Empire was
the first empire to control the entire Middle East, as well 3/4 of the Mediterranean region, the
only other empire besides the Roman Empire to control most of the Mediterranean Sea.[1] It
would be the Arab Caliphates of the Middle Ages that would first unify the entire Middle East as
a distinct region and create the dominant ethnic identity that persists today. The Seljuk Empire
would also later dominate the region.

Much of North Africa became a peripheral area to the main Muslim centres in the Middle East,
but Iberia (Al Andalus) and Morocco soon broke from this distant control and founded one of the
world's most advanced societies at the time, along with Baghdad in the eastern Mediterranean.

Between 831 and 1071, the Emirate of Sicily was one of the major centres of Islamic culture in
the Mediterranean. After its conquest by the Normans the island developed its own distinct
culture with the fusion of Arab, Western and Byzantine influences. Palermo remained a leading
artistic and commercial centre of the Mediterranean well into the Middle Ages.

Europe was reviving, however, as more organized and centralized states began to form in the
later Middle Ages after the Renaissance of the 12th century. Motivated by religion and dreams of
conquest, the kings of Europe launched a number of Crusades to try to roll back Muslim power
and retake the holy land. The Crusades were unsuccessful in this goal, but they were far more
effective in weakening the already tottering Byzantine Empire that began to lose increasing
amounts of territory to the Ottoman Turks. They also rearranged the balance of power in the
Muslim world as Egypt once again emerged as a major power in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turks, Crusaders and Mongols


Saladin, champion of the Muslims against the Crusaders (Artistic representation of Saladin)
See also: Crusades, History of the Levant, Timeline of Mongol invasions, and History of
Jerusalem

The dominance of the Arabs came to a sudden end in the mid 11th century with the arrival of the
Seljuk Turks, migrating south from the Turkic homelands in Central Asia, who conquered Persia,
Iraq (capturing Baghdad in 1055), Syria, Palestine, and the Hejaz. Egypt held out under the
Fatimid caliphs until 1169, when it too fell to the Turks.

Despite its massive territorial losses in the 7th century the Christian Byzantine Empire had
continued to be a potent military and economic force in the Mediterranean preventing Arab
expansion into much of Europe. The Seljuks' defeat of the Byzantine military in the 11th century
and settling in Anatolia effectively marked the end of Byzantine influence in the region. The
Seljuks ruled most of the Middle East region for the next 200 years, but their empire soon broke
up into a number of smaller sultanates.

This fragmentation of the region allowed the Christian Frankish, or Holy Roman, Empire,
through which Western Europe had staged a remarkable economic and demographic recovery
since the nadir of its fortunes in the 7th century, to enter the region. In 1095, Pope Urban II,
responding to pleas from the flagging Byzantine Empire, summoned the European aristocracy to
recapture the Holy Land for Christianity, and in 1099 the knights of the First Crusade captured
Jerusalem. They founded the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which survived until 1187, when Saladin
retook the city. Smaller crusader fiefdoms survived until 1291.

In the early 13th century, a new wave of invaders, the Mongols of the Golden Horde, swept
through the region, sacking Baghdad in 1258 and advancing as far south as the border of Egypt.
Mamluk Emir Baibars left Damascus to Cairo where he was welcomed by Sultan Qutuz. After
taking Damascus, Hulagu demanded that Sultan Qutuz surrender Egypt but Sultan Qutuz had
Hulagu's envoys killed and, with the help of Baibars, mobilized his troops. Although Hulagu had
to leave for the East when great Khan Möngke died in action against the Southern Song, he left
his lieutenant, the Christian Kitbuqa, in charge. Sultan Qutuz drew the Mongol army into an
ambush near the Orontes River, routed them at the Battle of Ain Jalut and captured and executed
Kitbuqa. With this victory Mamluk Turks became Sultans of Egypt and the real power in the
middle east and gaining control of Palestine and Syria, while other Turkish sultans controlled
Iraq and Anatolia until the arrival of the Ottomans.

The Ottoman era

Selim the Grim, Ottoman conqueror of the Middle East

Inhabitants of the Middle East by the end of the Ottoman era.

By the early 15th century, a new power had arisen in western Anatolia, the Ottoman emirs, who
in 1453 captured the Christian Byzantine capitol of Constantinople and made themselves sultans.
The Mameluks held the Ottomans out of the Middle East for a century, but in 1514 Selim the
Grim began the systematic Ottoman conquest of the region. Iraq was occupied in 1515, Syria in
1516 and Egypt in 1517, extinguishing the Mameluk line. The Ottomans united the whole region
under one ruler for the first time since the reign of the Abbasid caliphs of the 10th century, and
they kept control of it for 400 years.
The Ottomans also conquered Greece, the Balkans, and most of Hungary, setting the new
frontier between east and west far to the north of the Danube. But in the west Europe was rapidly
expanding, demographically, economically and culturally, with the new wealth of the Americas
fuelling a boom that laid the foundations for the growth of capitalism and the industrial
revolution. By the 17th century, Europe had overtaken the Muslim world in wealth, population
and—most importantly—technology.

By 1700, the Ottomans had been driven out of Hungary and the balance of power along the
frontier had shifted decisively in favour of the west. Although some areas of Ottoman Europe,
such as Albania and Bosnia, saw many conversions to Islam, the area was never culturally
absorbed into the Muslim world. From 1700 to 1918, the Ottomans steadily retreated, and the
Middle East fell further and further behind Europe, becoming increasingly inward-looking and
defensive. During the 19th century, Greece, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria asserted their
independence, and in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 the Ottomans were driven out of Europe
altogether, except for the city of Constantinople and its hinterland.

By the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire was known as the "sick man of Europe", increasingly
under the financial control of the European powers. Domination soon turned to outright
conquest. The French annexed Algeria in 1830 and Tunisia in 1878. The British occupied Egypt
in 1882, though it remained under nominal Ottoman sovereignty. The British also established
effective control of the Persian Gulf, and the French extended their influence into Lebanon and
Syria. In 1912, the Italians seized Libya and the Dodecanese islands, just off the coast of the
Ottoman heartland of Anatolia. The Ottomans turned to Germany to protect them from the
western powers, but the result was increasing financial and military dependence on Germany.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Middle Eastern rulers tried to modernize their states to
compete more effectively with the European powers. Reforming rulers such as Mehemet Ali in
Egypt, the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II and the authors of the 1906 revolution in Persia all
sought to import versions of the western model of constitutional government, civil law, secular
education and industrial development into their countries. Across the region railways and
telegraphs lines were built, schools and universities were opened, and a new class of army
officers, lawyers, teachers and administrators emerged, challenging the traditional leadership of
Islamic scholars.

Unfortunately, in all these cases the money to pay for the reforms was borrowed from the west,
and the crippling debt this entailed led to bankruptcy and even greater western domination,
which tended to discredit the reformers. Egypt, for example, fell under British control because
the ambitious projects of Muhammad Ali and his successors bankrupted the state. Additionally,
the westernisation of the Islamic world created professional armies, led by officers who were
both willing and able to seize power for themselves—a problem which has plagued the Middle
East ever since. There was also the problem that affects all reforming absolute rulers: they are
prepared to consider all reforms except giving up their own power. Abdul Hamid, for example,
grew ever more autocratic as he tried to impose reforms on his reluctant empire. Reforming
ministers in Persia also tried to impose modernisation on their subjects, provoking sharp
resistance.
The most ambitious reformers were the Young Turks (officially called the Committee for Union
and Progress), who seized power in the Ottoman Empire in 1908. Led by an ambitious pair of
army officers, Ismail Enver (Enver Pasha) and Ahmed Cemal (Cemal Pasha), and a radical
lawyer, Mehmed Talat (Talat Pasha), the Young Turks initially established a constitutional
monarchy, but soon became a ruling junta, with Talat as Grand Vizier and Enver as War Minister,
which tried to force a radical modernisation program onto the Ottoman Empire.

The plan had several flaws. First it entailed imposing the Turkish language and centralised
government on what had hitherto been a multi-lingual and loosely-governed empire, which
alienated the Arabic-speaking regions of the empire and caused an upsurge in Arab nationalism.
Secondly it drove the empire ever deeper into debt. And thirdly, when Enver Bey formed an
alliance with Germany, which he saw as the most advanced military power in Europe, it cost the
empire the support of Britain, which had protected the Ottomans against Russian encroachment
all through the 19th century.

European domination

Kemal Atatürk, founder of modern Turkey

In 1914 Enver Bey's alliance with Germany led the Young Turks into the fatal step of joining
Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I, against Britain and France. The British saw the
Ottomans as the weak link in the enemy alliance, and concentrated on knocking them out of the
war. When a direct assault failed at Gallipoli in 1915, they turned to fomenting revolution in the
Ottoman domains, exploiting the awakening force of Arab nationalism. The Arabs had lived
more or less happily under Ottoman rule for 400 years, until the Young Turks had tried to
"Turkicise" them and change their traditional system of government. The British found an ally in
Sherif Hussein, the hereditary ruler of Mecca (and believed by Muslims to be a descendant of the
family of the Prophet Muhammad), who led an Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule, having
received a promise of Arab independence in exchange.
But when the Ottoman Empire was defeated in 1918, the Arab population was met with what it
perceived as betrayal by the British. The British and French governments concluded a secret
treaty (the Sykes-Picot Agreement) to partition the Middle East between them and, additionally,
the British promised via the Balfour Declaration the international Zionist movement their support
in creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Although historically known to be the site of the
ancient Jewish Kingdom of Israel and successor Jewish nations for 1,200 years between
approximately 1100BC-100AD, the area been Canaanite for 8,000 years prior to that period and
had had a largely Muslim Arab population for over 1,300 years since (and a largely Byzantine
Christian population in between). When the Ottomans departed, the Arabs proclaimed an
independent state in Damascus, but were too weak, militarily and economically, to resist the
European powers for long, and Britain and France soon established control and re-arranged the
Middle East to suit themselves.

See also: French Mandate of Syria and British Mandate of Palestine

Syria became a French protectorate thinly disguised as a League of Nations Mandate. The
Christian coastal areas were split off to become Lebanon, another French protectorate. Iraq and
Palestine became British mandated territories. Iraq became the "Kingdom of Iraq" and one of
Sherif Husayn's sons, Faisal, was installed as the King of Iraq. Palestine became the "British
Mandate of Palestine" and was split in half. The eastern half of Palestine became the "Emirate of
Transjordan" to provide a throne for another of Husayn's sons, Abdullah. The western half of
Palestine was placed under direct British administration. The already substantial Jewish
population was allowed to increase. Initially this increase was allowed under British protection.
Most of the Arabian peninsula fell to another British ally, Ibn Saud. Saud created the Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia in 1922.

Meanwhile, the fall of the Ottomans had allowed Kemal Atatürk to seize power in Turkey and
embark on a program of modernisation and secularisation. He abolished the caliphate,
emancipated women, enforced western dress and the use of Turkish in place of Arabic, and
abolished the jurisdiction of the Islamic courts. In effect, Turkey, having given up rule over the
Arab World, now determined to secede from the Middle East and become culturally part of
Europe. Ever since, Turkey has insisted that it is a European country and not part of the Middle
East.

Another turning point in the history of the Middle East came when oil was discovered, first in
Persia in 1908 and later in Saudi Arabia (in 1938) and the other Persian Gulf states, and also in
Libya and Algeria. The Middle East, it turned out, possessed the world's largest easily accessible
reserves of crude oil, the most important commodity in the 20th century industrial world.
Although western oil companies pumped and exported nearly all of the oil to fuel the rapidly
expanding automobile industry and other western industrial developments, the kings and emirs
of the oil states became immensely rich, enabling them to consolidate their hold on power and
giving them a stake in preserving western hegemony over the region. Oil wealth also had the
effect of stultifying whatever movement towards economic, political or social reform might have
emerged in the Arab world under the influence of the Kemalist revolution in Turkey.
During the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, Iraq, Syria, and Egypt made moves towards independence.
In 1919, Saad Zaghlul orchestrated mass demonstrations in Egypt known as the First Revolution.
While Zaghul would later become Prime Minister, the British repression of the anticolonial riots
led to the death of some 800 people. In 1920, Syrian forces were defeated by the French in the
Battle of Maysalun and Iraqi forces were defeated by the British when they revolted. In 1924, the
independent Kingdom of Egypt was created. Although Kingdom of Egypt was technically
"neutral" during World War II, Cairo soon became a major military base for the British forces
and the country was occupied. The British were able to do this because of a 1936 treaty by which
the United Kingdom maintained that it had the right to station troops on Egyptian soil in order to
protect the Suez Canal. In 1941, the Rashīd `Alī al-Gaylānī coup in Iraq led to the British
invasion of the country during the Anglo-Iraqi War. The British invasion of Iraq was followed by
the Allied invasion of Syria-Lebanon and the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran.

In the region of Palestine the conflicting forces of Arab nationalism and Zionism created a
situation which the British could neither resolve nor extricate themselves from. The rise to power
of German dictator Adolf Hitler in Germany had created a new urgency in the Zionist quest to
immigrate to Palestine and create a Jewish state there. A Palestinian state was also an attractive
alternative for Arab and Persian leaders to British, French, and perceived Jewish colonialism and
imperialism under the logic of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" (Lewis, 348-350).

The British, the French, and the Soviets departed many parts of the Middle East during and after
World War II. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East states on the Arabian Peninsula
generally remained unaffected by World war II. However, after the war, the following Middle
states had independence restored or became independent:

 17 October 1941 - Iran (forces of the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union withdrawn)
 8 November 1943 - Lebanon
 1 January 1944 - Syria
 22 May 1946 - Jordan (British mandate ended)
 1947 - Iraq (forces of the United Kingdom withdrawn)
 1947 - Egypt (forces of the United Kingdom withdrawn to the Suez Canal area)

See also: Arab-Israeli conflict, History of the Arab-Israeli conflict, History of


Palestine, and History of Israel

The struggle between the Arabs and the Jews in Palestine culminated in the 1947 United Nations
plan to partition Palestine. This plan attempted to create an Arab state and a Jewish state in the
narrow space between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. While the Jewish leaders
accepted it, the Arab leaders rejected this plan.

On 14 May 1948, when the British Mandate expired, the Zionist leadership declared the State of
Israel. In the 1948 Arab-Israeli War which immediately followed, the armies of Egypt, Syria,
Transjordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia intervened and were defeated by Israel. About
800,000 Palestinians fled from areas annexed by Israel and became refugees in neighbouring
countries, thus creating the "Palestinian problem" which has bedevilled the region ever since.
Approximately two-thirds of 758,000—866,000 of the Jews expelled or who fled from Arab
lands after 1948 were absorbed and naturalized by the State of Israel.

A zone of conflict
See also: List of conflicts in the Middle East

The departure of the European powers from direct control of the region, the establishment of
Israel, and the increasing importance of the oil industry, marked the creation of the modern
Middle East. These developments led to a growing presence of the United States in Middle East
affairs. The U.S. was the ultimate guarantor of the stability of the region, and from the 1950s the
dominant force in the oil industry. When republican revolutions brought radical anti-western
regimes to power in Egypt in 1954, in Syria in 1963, in Iraq in 1968 and in Libya in 1969, the
Soviet Union, seeking to open a new arena of the Cold War in the Middle East, allied itself with
Arab rulers such as Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Saddam Hussein of Iraq. These regimes
gained popular support through their promises to destroy the state of Israel, defeat the U.S. and
other "western imperialists," and to bring prosperity to the Arab masses. When they failed to
deliver on their promises, they became increasingly despotic.

In response to this challenge to its interests in the region, the U.S. felt obliged to defend its
remaining allies, the conservative monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran and the Persian Gulf
emirates, whose methods of rule were almost as unattractive to western eyes as those of the anti-
western regimes. Iran in particular became a key U.S. ally, until a revolution led by the Shi'a
clergy overthrew the monarchy in 1979 and established a theocratic regime which was even
more anti-western than the secular regimes in Iraq or Syria. This forced the U.S. into a close
alliance with Saudi Arabia, a reactionary, corrupt and oppressive monarchy, and a regime,
moreover, dedicated to the destruction of Israel. The list of Arab-Israeli wars includes a great
number of major wars such as 1948 Arab-Israeli War, 1956 Suez War, 1967 Six Day War, 1970
War of Attrition, 1973 Yom Kippur War, 1982 Lebanon War, as well as a number of lesser
conflicts.

Menachem Begin, Jimmy Carter, and Anwar Sadat concluded a peace treaty in 1978

In 1979, Egypt under Nasser's successor, Anwar Sadat, concluded a peace treaty with Israel,
ending the prospects of a united Arab military front. From the 1970s the Palestinians, led by
Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization, resorted to a prolonged campaign of violence
against Israel and against American, Jewish and western targets generally, as a means of
weakening Israeli resolve and undermining western support for Israel. The Palestinians were
supported in this, to varying degrees, by the regimes in Syria, Libya, Iran and Iraq. The high
point of this campaign came in the 1975 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379
condemning Zionism as a form of racism and the reception given to Arafat by the United Nations
General Assembly. The Resolution 3379 was revoked in 1991 by the UNGA Resolution 4686.

The fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism in the early 1990s had several
consequences for the Middle East. It allowed large numbers of Soviet Jews to emigrate from
Russia and Ukraine to Israel, further strengthening the Jewish state. It cut off the easiest source
of credit, armaments and diplomatic support to the anti-western Arab regimes, weakening their
position. It opened up the prospect of cheap oil from Russia, driving down the price of oil and
reducing the west's dependence on oil from the Arab states. And it discredited the model of
development through authoritarian state socialism which Egypt (under Nasser), Algeria, Syria
and Iraq had been following since the 1960s, leaving these regimes politically and economically
stranded. Rulers such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq increasingly turned to Arab nationalism as a
substitute for socialism.

It was this which led Iraq into its prolonged war with Iran in the 1980s, and then into its fateful
invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman province of Basra before 1918,
and thus in a sense part of Iraq, but Iraq had recognised its independence in the 1960s. The U.S.
responded to the invasion by forming a coalition of allies which included Saudi Arabia, Egypt
and Syria, gaining approval from the United Nations and then evicting Iraq from Kuwait by force
in the Persian Gulf War. President George H. W. Bush did not, however, attempt to overthrow
Saddam Hussein's regime, something the U.S. later came to regret. The Persian Gulf War and its
aftermath brought about a permanent U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf region,
particularly in Saudi Arabia, something which caused great offence to many Muslims.

The conflicts continued in 2006 with the so-called 'July War' between Israel and Hizbullah
militants. What had been a long-running, localized conflict between Israeli forces and Palestinian
militants in the Gaza Strip flared up on July 12, 2006 when Hezbollah militants captured 2 Israeli
soldiers patrolling along the Israeli-Lebanese border. This resulted in what is called the July War
in Lebanon, which lasted just over a month, in which more than 1000 Lebanese civilians were
killed and around 120 Israeli soldiers were killed, both Israel and Lebanon were subjected to
constant shelling and air strikes by Hezbolla and Israel, respectively. Air strikes and rocket
attacks became commonplace between Israeli forces and the Hezbollah militia as the Israelis
attempted to clear a security zone along the Israeli-Lebanese border free of Israeli forces and
Hezbollah militants. A recent Report for Congress [1] argued that indirect involvement of Iran
and Syria, in that they allow and help the 'arming, training and financing' of Hezbollah, means
that the month-long war was really a direct conflict between Israel and Iran-Syria by proxy.

The contemporary Middle East


A map showing countries commonly considered to be part of the Middle East
By the 1990s, many western commentators (and some Middle Eastern ones) saw the Middle East
as not just a zone of conflict, but also a zone of backwardness. The rapid spread of political
democracy and the development of market economies in Eastern Europe, Latin America, East
Asia and parts of Africa passed the Middle East by boats. In the whole region, only Israel,
Turkey and to some extent Lebanon and the Palestinian territories were democracies. Other
countries had legislative bodies, but these had little power, and in the Gulf states the majority of
the population could not vote anyway, as they were guest workers and not citizens. Many Arab
commentators counter claim that as a direct result of Western foreign policy, an overstrong Israel,
double standards of occupation, and destroying a nation which was extremely prosperous in the
1980s under Saddam Hussein by form of sanctions, and interference was removed much progress
would come naturally to these nations.

In most Middle Eastern countries, the growth of market economies was inhibited by political
restrictions, corruption and cronyism, overspending on arms and prestige projects, and
overdependence on oil revenues. The successful economies in the region were those which
combined oil wealth with low populations, such as Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
In these states, the ruling emirs allowed a certain degree of political and social liberalization, yet
without giving up any of their own power. Lebanon, after a prolonged civil war in the 1980s, also
rebuilt a fairly successful economy.

By the end of the 1990s, the Middle East as a whole was falling behind Europe, India, China, and
other rapidly developing market economies, in terms of production, trade, education,
communications and virtually every other criterion of economic and social progress. The
assertion that, if oil was subtracted, the total exports of the whole Arab world were less than
those of Finland was frequently quoted. The theories of authors such as David Pryce-Jones, that
the Arabs were trapped in a "cycle of backwardness" from which their culture would not allow
them to escape, were widely accepted in the west and east.

In the opening years of the 21st century all these factors combined to raise the Middle East
conflict to a new height, and to spread its consequences across the globe. The failure of the
attempt by Bill Clinton to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians at Camp David
in 2000 (2000 Camp David Summit) led directly to the election of Ariel Sharon as Prime
Minister of Israel and to the Al-Aqsa Intifada, characterised by suicide bombing of Israeli
civilian targets. This was the first major outbreak of violence since the Oslo Peace Accords of
1993.

At the same time, the failures of most of the Arab regimes and the bankruptcy of secular Arab
radicalism led a section of educated Arabs (and other Muslims) to embrace Islamism, promoted
both by the Shi'a clerics of Iran and by the powerful Wahhabist sect of Saudi Arabia. Many of the
militant Islamists gained military training while fighting against the forces of the Soviet Union in
Afghanistan.

One of these was a wealthy Saudi Arabian, Osama bin Laden. After fighting against the Soviets
in Afghanistan, he formed the al-Qaida organization, which was responsible for the 1998 U.S.
embassy bombings, the USS Cole bombing and the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United
States. The September 11 attacks led the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush to
launch an invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to overthrow the Taliban regime, which was
harbouring Bin Laden and his organisation. The U.S. and its allies described this operation as
part of a global "War on Terrorism."

The U.S. and Britain also became convinced that Saddam Hussein was reconstituting Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction program, in violation of the agreements it had given at the end of
the Persian Gulf War. During 2002 the administration, led by Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld, developed a plan to invade Iraq, remove Saddam from power, and turn Iraq into a
democratic state with a free-market economy, which, they hoped, would serve as a model for the
rest of the Middle East. When the U.S. and its principal allies, Britain, Italy, Spain and Australia,
could not secure United Nations approval for the execution of the numerous United Nations
resolutions, they launched an invasion of Iraq, overthrowing Saddam with no great difficulty in
April 2003.

The advent of a new western army of occupation in a Middle Eastern capital marked a turning
point in the history of the region. Despite successful elections (although boycotted by large
portions of Iraq's Sunni population) held in January 2005, Iraq has all but disintegrated due to a
lack of infrastructure and security. A post-war insurgency has morphed into persistent ethnic
violence the American army has been unable to quell. Many of Iraq's intellectual and business
elite have fled the country, and total Iraqi refugees already outnumber the Palestinian exodus
following the creation of Israel, further destabilizing the region. A responsive surge in US forces
in Iraq has recently been largely successful in controlling the insurgency and stabilizing Iraq.

By 2005, also, George W. Bush's Road map for peace between Israel and the Palestinians has
been stalled, although this situation began to change with Yasser Arafat's death in 2004. In
response, Israel moved towards a unilateral solution, pushing ahead with the Israeli West Bank
barrier to protect Israel from Palestinian suicide bombers and proposed unliteral withdrawal from
Gaza. The barrier if completed would amount to a de facto annexation of areas of the West Bank
by Israel. In 2006 a new conflict erupted between Israel and Hezbollah Shi’a militia in southern
Lebanon, further setting back any prospects for peace.

References
 Lewis, Bernard. The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years. New York:
Scribner, 1995.
 Sharp, Jeremy (2006-09-15). "CRS Report for Congress -- Lebanon: The Israel-Hamas-
Hezbollah Conflict", CRS Online. Retrieved on 20 January 2006.

Middle East
Political & transportation map of the Middle East today

The Middle East is a region that spans southwestern Asia and northeastern Africa. It has no
clear boundaries, often used as a synonym to Near East, in opposition to Far East. The term
"Middle East" was popularized around 1900 in the United Kingdom. The corresponding
adjective to Middle East is Middle-Eastern and the derived noun is Middle-Easterner.

The history of the Middle East dates back to ancient times, and throughout its history the Middle
East has been a major centre of world affairs. The Middle East is also the historical origin of
three of the world’s major religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Middle East
generally has an arid and hot climate, with several major rivers providing for irrigation to support
agriculture in limited areas. Many countries located around the Persian Gulf have large quantities
of crude oil. In modern times the Middle East remains a strategically, economically, politically,
culturally and religiously sensitive region.

Contents
 1 Etymology
 1.1 Criticism and usage
 1.2 Translations
 2 Territories and regions
 2.1 Greater Middle East
 3 History
 4 Geography
 4.1 Climate
 4.2 Topography
 4.3 Geology
 4.4 Water resources
 5 Demographics
 5.1 Ethnic groups
 5.2 Religions
 5.3 Languages
 6 Economy
 7 See also
 8 Notes
 9 References

 10 External links

Etymology
The Middle East can have varying definitions and boundaries.

The term "Middle East" may have originated in the 1850s in the British India Office,[1] and
became more widely known when American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan used the
term.[2] 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.[3][4] He labeled the area
surrounding the Persian Gulf as the Middle East, and said that after the Suez Canal, it was the
most important passage for Britain to control in order to keep the Russians from advancing
towards India.[5] 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.

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.[6]

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 the "Middle East" to include "those regions of Asia which
extend to the borders of India or command the approaches to India."[7] With the series end in
1903, The Times removed quotation marks from subsequent uses of the term.[8]

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,[9] and the
Middle East then meant the area from Mesopotamia to Burma, namely the area between the Near
East and the Far East. 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.[10]

Criticism and usage


Many have criticized the term Middle East for what they see as Eurocentrism, because it was
originally used by Europeans (although Mahan was American) and reflects the geographical
position of the region from a European perspective.[11][12] Today, the term is used by Europeans
and non-Europeans alike, unlike the similar term Mashreq, used exclusively in Arabic-language
contexts.[13]

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, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, Turkestan, and the
Caucasus. In contrast, "Far East" referred to the countries of East Asia (e.g. China, Japan, Korea,
Hong Kong, etc.). Some critics usually advise using an alternative term, such as "Western Asia."
The official UN designation of the area is "Western Asia".

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 of "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."[9] 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.[14]

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.[15]

At the United Nations, the numerous documents and resolutions about the Middle East are in
fact concerned with the Arab-Israeli conflict, in particular the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and,
therefore, with the four states of the Levant. The term Near East is occasionally heard at the UN
when referring to this region.

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, Spanish Oriente Medio or Medio Oriente, and the Italian Medio Oriente.[16].

Perhaps due to the influence of the Western press, the Arabic equivalent of “Middle East,” “
‫“( ”الشرق الوسط‬ash-sharq-l-awsat”), has become standard usage in the mainstream Arabic
press, comprehending the same meaning as the term “Middle East” in North American and
Western European usage. The Persian equivalent for Middle East is ‫خاورمیانه‬
(Khāvarmiyāneh).

Territories and regions


Densit
Countr Official
Area Populatio y GDP Per Currenc Governmen
y, with Capital language
(km²) n (per (Total) capita y t
flag s
km²)
Persian Plateau:
$753
1,648,19 71,208,00 $10,600 Iranian Islamic
Iran 42 Tehran billion Persian
5 0 (2007) rial Republic
(2007)
Anatolia:
$888 Parliamenta
72,334,25 $12,900 Turkish
Turkey 783,562 91 Ankara billion ry Turkish
6 (2007) lira
(2007) Democracy
Mediterranean Sea:
$21.4
$27,100 Greek,
Cyprus 9,250 792,604 90 Nicosia billion Euro Republic
(2007) Turkish
(2007)
Mesopotamia:
Parliamenta
$102.3 ry
24,001,81 $3,600 Iraqi Arabic,
Iraq 437,072 55 Baghdad billion Democracy
6 (2007) dinar Kurdish
(2007) (Developing
)
Arabian Peninsula:
$130.1 Constitution
Kuwait $39,300 Kuwaiti
Kuwait 17,820 3,100,000 119 billion al Arabic
City (2007) dinar
(2007) Hereditary
$24.5
$32,100 Bahraini Constitution
Bahrain 665 656,397 987 Manama billion Arabic
(2007) Dinar al monarchy
(2007)
$61.6
$24,000 Omani Absolute
Oman 212,460 3,200,000 13 Muscat billion Arabic
(2007) Rial monarchy
(2007)
$57.7
$80,900 Qatari
Qatar 11,437 793,341 69 Doha billion Monarchy Arabic
(2007) Riyal
(2007)
$564.6
Saudi 1,960,58 23,513,33 $23,200 Absolute
12 Riyadh billion Riyal Arabic
Arabia 2 0 (2007) monarchy
(2007)
United Federal
$167.3
Arab Abu $37,300 UAE Constitution
82,880 5,432,746 30 billion Arabic
Emirate Dhabi (2007) dirham al
(2007)
s Monarchy
$52
18,701,25 $2,300 Yemeni
Yemen 527,970 35 Sanaá billion Republic Arabic
7 (2007) rial
(2007)
The Levant:
$185.9 Israeli Parliamenta Hebrew,
Jerusale $25,800
Israel 20,770 7,029,529 290 billion new ry Arabic,
m1 (2007)
(2007) sheqel democracy English
$28
$4,900 Jordania Constitution
Jordan 92,300 5,307,470 58 Amman billion Arabic
(2007) n dinar al monarchy
(2007)
$42.3
Lebano $11,300 Lebanes
10,452 3,677,780 354 Beirut billion Republic Arabic
n (2007) e pound
(2007)
$87
17,155,81 Damascu $4,500 Syrian Presidential
Syria 185,180 93 billion Arabic
4 s (2007) pound republic
(2007)
North Africa:
Semi-
$404
1,001,44 77,498,00 $5,500 Egyptian presidential
Egypt 74 Cairo billion Arabic
9 0 (2007) pound republic
(2007)
(democracy)
Autonomous region: Palestine:
Gaza 360 1,376,289 3,823 Gaza $5 $1,100 Israeli Palestinian Arabic
Strip billion (include new National
(include
s West
s West Authority
Bank) sheqel
Bank) Hamas
(2006)
(2006)
Palestinian
Israeli
West 2,500,000 National
5,8602 3 4322,3 Ramallah new Arabic
Bank Authority
sheqel
Fatah

Source:

 The World Factbook, United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), 15 July 2008.[3]

Notes:

1
Under Israeli law. The UN doesn't recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

2
Includes the whole of the West Bank, according to the pre-1967 boundaries.

3
In addition, there are around 400,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, of which half are in East-Jerusalem.

Greater Middle East

Densit
GDP Official
Country, Area Populatio y Per Currenc Governme
Capital (Total language
with flag (km²) n (per capita y nt
) s
km²)
Persian Plateau:
$35
billio
Afghanist 31,889,92 $1,000 Islamic Persian,
647,500 46 Kabul n Afghani
an 3 (2007) Republic Pashto
(2007
)
$505
billio
169,300,0 Islamaba $3,320 Pakistani Islamic Urdu,
Pakistan 880,940 206 n
00 d (2007) Rupee Republic Pashto
(2007
)
North Africa:
Algeria 2,381,74 33,333,21 14 Algiers $224. $6,500 Algerian Presidential Arabic
0 6 7 (2007) dinar republic
billio
n
(2007
)
$74.8
billio $12,30
1,759,54 Libyan
Libya 6,036,914 3 Tripoli n 0 Jamahiriya Arabic
0 dinar
(2007 (2007)
)
$125.
3
33,757,17 billio $4,100 Morocca Constitution
Morocco 446,550 70 Rabat Arabic
5 n (2007) n dirham al monarchy
(2007
)
$77
billio
10,102,00 $7,500 Tunisian
Tunisia 163,610 62 Tunis n Republic Arabic
0 (2007) dinar
(2007
)
Northeast Africa:
$1.64 Arabic,
1 Djibouti Parliamenta French,
Djibouti 23,200 496,374 34 Djibouti $2,070
billio an franc ry republic Somali,
n Afar
$3.62
Transitional
2 Tigrinya,
Eritrea 117,600 4,401,009 37 Asmara $746 Nakfa Governmen
billio Arabic
t
n
$5.26 Semi-
Mogadis Somali Somali,
Somalia 637,661 9,588,666 13 billio $600 presidential
hu shilling Arabic
n republic
$107.
8
Dictatorship
2,505,81 39,379,35 Khartou billio $2,552 Sudanes
Sudan 14 (democracy Arabic
3 8 m n (2007) e pound
)
(2007
)

Source:

 The World Factbook, United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), 15 July 2008.[4]

History
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem

The Imam Ali Mosque, an important shrine in Najaf

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 the Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Yezidi,
and in Iran, Mithraism, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism 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 earliest civilizations, Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt, originated in the Fertile Crescent and
Nile Valley regions of the ancient Near East, as well as the civilizations of the Levant, Persia,
and Arabian Peninsula. The Near East was first unified under the Achaemenid Empire followed
later by the Macedonian Empire and later Iranian empires, namely the Parthian and Sassanid
Empires. However, it would be the Arab Caliphates of the Middle Ages, or Islamic Golden Age,
that would first unify the entire Middle East as a distinct region and create the dominant ethnic
identity that persists today. The Turkic Seljuk, Ottoman and Safavid empires would also later
dominate the region.

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

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.[17] 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: the United States and the Soviet Union, as they competed to influence regional
allies. Of course, 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 [...][18] Within this contextual framework, the United States sought to divert
the Arab world from Soviet influence. Throughout the 20th and into the 21st century, the region
has experienced both periods of relative peace and tolerance and periods of conflict and war.
Current issues include the Iraq War, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Iranian nuclear program.

Geography
See also: List of Middle Eastern countries, Geography of Asia, and Geography of Saudi
Arabia

The Middle East defines a geographical area, but does not have precisely defined borders. The
modern definition of the region includes: Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait,
Lebanon, Oman, the Palestinian territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab
Emirates, and Yemen. Egypt, with its Sinai Peninsula in Asia, is considered part of the Middle
East, although most of the country lies geographically in North Africa. According to international
media, North African nations without Asian links, such as Libya, Tunisia and Algeria, are
increasingly being called North African.

January January July July


City
(Low) (High) (Low) (High)

Amman 4°C 12°C 18°C 32°C

Baghdad 0°C 16°C 24°C 43°C

Cairo 8°C 18°C 21°C 36°C

Damascus 0°C 12°C 16°C 36°C

Dubai 15°C 23°C 30°C 39°C


Jerusalem 5°C 13°C 17°C 31°C

Riyadh 8°C 21°C 26°C 42°C

Tehran -3°C 7°C 22°C 37°C

Sources: BBC Weather and Weather.com

Climate

The Middle East is primarily arid and semi-arid, and can be subject to drought; nonetheless,
there exists vast expanses of forests and fertile valleys. The region consists of grasslands,
rangelands, deserts, and mountains. Water shortages are a problem in many parts of the Middle
East, with rapidly growing populations increasing demands for water, while salinization and
pollution threaten water supplies.[19] Major rivers, including the Nile and the Euphrates, provide
sources for irrigation water to support agriculture.

Sana'a, the capital of Yemen, is located in a mountainous region, and is designated a World
Heritage Site for its architecture

Topography

While Middle East mainly contains areas with low relief, Turkey Iran, and Yemen include
mountainous terrain. The Anatolian Plateau is sandwiched between the Pontus Mountains and
Taurus Mountains in Turkey. Mount Ararat in Turkey rises to 5,165 meters. The Zagros
Mountains are located in Iran, in areas along its border with Iraq. The Central Plateau of Iran is
divided into two drainage basins. The northern basin is Dasht-e Kavir (Great Salt Desert), and
Dasht-e-Lut is the southern basin.
In Yemen, elevations exceed 3,700 meters in many areas, and highland areas extend north along
the Red Sea coast and north into Lebanon. A fault-zone also exists along the Red Sea, with
continental rifting creating trough-like topography with areas located well-below sea level.[20]
The Dead Sea, located on the border between the West Bank, Israel, and Jordan, is situated at
418 m (1371 ft) below sea level, making it the lowest point on the surface of the Earth.[21]

A large lowland belt is located on the Arabian Peninsula, from central Iraq, through Saudi
Arabia, and to Oman and the Arabian Sea. The Euphrates and Tigris rivers cut through the
lowland belt in Iraq and flow into the Persian Gulf. Rub'al KhāLī, one of the world's largest sand
deserts, spans the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula in Saudi Arabia, parts of Oman, the
United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Jebel al Akhdar is a small range of mountains located in
northeastern Oman, bordering the Gulf of Oman.

Geology

Cedar forest in winter, located in Lebanon

Three major tectonic plates converge on the Middle East, including the African, Eurasian, and
Arabian plates. The boundaries between the tectonic plates make up the Azores-Gibraltar Ridge,
extending across North Africa, the Red Sea, and into Iran.[22] The Arabian Plate is moving
northward into the Anatolian plate (Turkey) at the East Anatolian Fault,[23] and the boundary
between the Aegean and Anatolian plate in eastern Turkey is also seismically active.[22]

Water resources

Several major aquifers provide water to large portions of the Middle East. In Saudi Arabia, two
large aquifers of Palaeozoic and Triassic origins are located beneath the Jabal Tuwayq mountains
and areas west to the Red Sea.[24] Cretaceous and Eocene-origin aquifers are located beneath
large portions of central and eastern Saudi Arabia, including Wasia and Biyadh which contain
amounts of both fresh water and saline water.[24] The Nubian aquifer system underlies large areas
of North Africa.[24] The Great Manmade River project in Libya utilizes an extensive network of
pipelines to transport water from the Nubian aquifer to its population centers. Groundwater
recharge for these deep rock aquifers is on the order of thousands of years, thus the aquifers are
essentially non-renewable resources.[25] Flood or furrow irrigation, as well as sprinkler methods,
are extensively used for irrigation, covering nearly 90,000 km² across the Middle East for
agriculture.[26]
Demographics
Ethnic groups

Various ethnic and religious types in the Middle East, 19th century

The Middle East is home to numerous ethnic groups, including Arabs, Turks, Persians, Jews,
Armenians, Georgians, Kurds, Aramean Syriacs, Azeris, Circassians, Berbers, Somalis, Greeks,
Samaritans, Turkmens, Pashtuns, Baluch, Habesha(mainly Eritrean habesha), and Nubians.

Religions

The Middle East is very diverse when it comes to religions, most of which originated there.
Islam in its many forms is by far the largest religion in the Middle East, but other faiths, such as
Judaism and Christianity, are also important. There are also important minority religions like
Bahá'í, Yazdanism, Zoroastrianism.

Languages

Languages of the Middle East span many different families, including Indo-European, Afro-
Asiatic, and Altaic.

Arabic in its numerous varieties and Persian are most widely spoken in the region, with Arabic
being the most widely spoken language in the Arab countries. Other languages spoken in the
region include Armenian, Syriac (a form of Aramaic), Azeri, Berber languages, Circassian,
Persian, Gilaki language and Mazandarani languages, Hebrew in its numerous varieties, Kurdish,
Luri, Turkish and other Turkic languages, Urdu, Punjabi, Balochi, Sindhi, Somali and Greek. In
Turkey, Kurdish, Dimli (or Zaza), Azeri, Kabardian, and Gagauz languages are spoken, in
addition to the Turkish language. Several modern South Arabian languages are also spoken.

English is also spoken, especially among the middle and upper class, in countries such as Egypt,
Jordan, Israel, Iraq, and Kuwait.[27][28] French is spoken in Algeria, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco,
Syria, and Egypt. Urdu is spoken in many Middle Eastern countries, such as Arab states the
United Arab Emirates, Israel, and Qatar, which have large numbers of Pakistani immigrants. 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.[29][30] Romanian is spoken mostly as a secondary
language by people from Arab-speaking countries that made their studies in Romania. It is
estimated that almost half a million Middle Eastern Arabs studied in Romania during the
1980s.[31] Russian language is also spoken by a large portion of the Israeli population, due to
emigration in the late 1990s.

Economy

Burj Al Arab, the world's tallest hotel located in Dubai.

Middle Eastern economies range from nations being very poor (such as Gaza and Yemen) to
extremely wealthy nations (such as UAE and Saudi Arabia). 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 International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook Database of April
2008, the three largest Middle Eastern economies in 2007 were Turkey ($ 663,419,000,000),
Saudi Arabia ($ 376,029,000,000) and Iran ($ 294,089,000,000) in terms of Nominal GDP[32];
and Turkey ($ 887,964,000,000), Iran ($ 752,967,000,000) and Saudi Arabia ($
564,561,000,000) in terms of GDP-PPP.[33] When it comes to per capita (PPP) based income, the
three highest ranking countries are Qatar ($80,900), Kuwait ($39,300) and the United Arab
Emirates ($37,300). The two lowest ranking countries in the Middle East, in terms of per capita
income (PPP) are Afghanistan ($1,000) and 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 Turkey and
Egypt). Industries of the Middle Eastern region includes 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. Tourism, with the exception
of Turkey and Egypt, remains largely unexplored and is underdeveloped due to the conservative
nature of the region as well as the political turmoil in certain regions of the Middle East. In
recent years, however, countries such as the UAE, Bahrain, and Jordan have begun experiencing
greater number of tourists due to improving tourist facilities and the relaxing of tourism-related
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 Labor Organization,
was 13.2%,[34] and among youth is as high as 25%,[35] up to 37% in Morocco and 73% in Syria.[36]

Notes
1. ^ Beaumont (1988), p. 16
2. ^ Koppes, C.R. (1976). "Captain Mahan, General Gordon and the origin of the term "Middle
East"". Middle East Studies 12: 95–98. doi:10.1080/00263207608700307.
3. ^ Melman, Billie. The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing: 6 The Middle East / Arabia,
Cambridge Collections Online. Retrieved January 8, 2006.
4. ^ 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 p. 12-13.
5. ^ Laciner, Dr. Sedat. "Is There a Place Called ‘the Middle East’?", The Journal of Turkish
Weekly]", June 2, 2006. Retrieved January 10, 2007.
6. ^ Adelson (1995), p. 22-23
7. ^ Adelson (1995), p. 24
8. ^ Adelson (1995), p. 26
9. ^ a b Davison, Roderic H. (1960). "Where is the Middle East?". Foreign Affairs 38: 665–675.
10.^ Held, Colbert C. (2000). Middle East Patterns: Places, Peoples, and Politics. Westview Press.
pp. 7.
11.^ Shohat, Ella. "Redrawing American Cartographies of Asia". City University of New York.
Retrieved on 2007-01-12.
12.^ Hanafi, Hassan. "The Middle East, in whose world?". Nordic Society for Middle Eastern
Studies. Retrieved on 2007-01-12.
13.^ Anderson, Ewan W., William Bayne Fisher (2000). The Middle East: Geography and
Geopolitics. Routledge. pp. 12–13.
14.^ "'Near East' is Mideast, Washington Explains", The New York Times (August 14, 1958).
15.^ Goldstein, Norm. The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. New York:
Basic Books, 2004. ISBN 0465004881 p. 156
16.^ 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
17.^ Goldschmidt (1999), p. 8
18.^ Louise, Fawcett. International Relations of the Middle East. (Oxford University Press, New
York, 2005)
19.^ "Chapter 7: Middle East and Arid Asia". IPCC Special Report on The Regional Impacts of
Climate Change: An Assessment of Vulnerability. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC). 1997. http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc/regional/index.htm.
20.^ Sweeney, Jerry J., William R. Walter. "Preliminary Definition of Geophysical Regions for the
Middle East and North Africa". Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
21.^ "ASTER Image Gallery: The Dead Sea". NASA.
22.^ a b Beaumont (1988), p. 22
23.^ Muehlberger, Bill. "The Arabian Plate". NASA, Johnson Space Center.
24.^ a b c Beaumont (1988), p. 86
25.^ Beaumont (1988), p. 85
26.^ "Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)".
27.^ "World Factbook - Jordan".
28.^ "World Factbook - Kuwait".
29.^ 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).
30.^ Reports of about 300,000 Jews that left the country after WW2
31.^ Evenimentul Zilei
32.^ IMF, World Economic Outlook Database, April 2008: Nominal GDP list of countries in 2007:
[1]
33.^ IMF, World Economic Outlook Database, April 2008: GDP-PPP list of countries in 2007: [2]
34.^ "Unemployment Rates Are Highest in the Middle East". Progressive Policy Institute (August
30, 2006).
35.^ Navtej Dhillon, Tarek Yousef (2007). "Inclusion: Meeting the 100 Million Youth Challenge".
Shabab Inclusion.
36.^ Hilary Silver (September 200). "Social Exclusion: Comparative Analysis of Europe and Middle
East Youth". Middle East Youth Initiative Working Paper. Shabab Inclusion.

References
 Adelson, Roger (1995). London and the Invention of the Middle East: Money, Power, and
War, 1902-1922.. Yale University Press. ISBN 0300060947.
 Anderson, R., Seibert, R., & Wagner, J. (2006). Politics and Change in the Middle East
(8th Ed. ed.). Prentice-Hall.
 Barzilai, Gad.,Klieman Aharon.,Shidlo Gil (1993). The Gulf Crisis and its Global
Aftermath. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-08002.
 Barzilai, Gad. (1996). Wars, Internal Conflicts and Political Order. State University of
New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-2943-1.
 Beaumont, Peter, Gerald H. Blake, J. Malcolm Wagstaff (1988). The Middle East: A
Geographical Study. David Fulton.
 Goldschmidt Jr., Arthur (1999). A Concise History of the Middle East. Westview Press.

 "Middle East - Articles by Region" - Council on Foreign Relations: "A Resource for
Nonpartisan Research and Analysis"
 "Middle East - Interactive Crisis Guide" - Council on Foreign Relations: "A Resource for
Nonpartisan Research and Analysis"
 Middle East Department University of Chicago Library
 Middle East Economic Digest: "The leading information source on business in the
Middle East" - magazine website
 Middle East News from Yahoo! News
 Middle East at the Open Directory Project

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