The Middle East[note 1] is a transcontinental region centered on
Turkey (both Asian and European), and
Egypt (which is
mostly in North Africa). 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.
Arabs, Turks, Persians, Kurds, and Azeris (excluding Azerbaijan)
constitute the largest ethnic groups in the region by population.
Minorities of the
Middle East include Jews, Baloch, Greeks, Assyrians,
and other Arameans, Berbers,
Circassians (including Kabardians),
Copts, Druze, Lurs, Mandaeans, Samaritans, Shabaks, Tats, and Zazas.
In the Middle East, there is also a Romani community. European ethnic
groups that form a diaspora in the region include Albanians, Bosniaks,
Crimean Tatars, Franco-Levantines, and Italo-Levantines. Among other
migrant populations are
Bengalis as well as other Indians, Chinese,
Filipinos, Indonesians, Pakistanis, and Sub-Saharan Africans.
The history of the
Middle East dates back to ancient times, with the
(geopolitical) importance of the region being recognized for
millennia. 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.
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
of Mesopotamia, and most of what is known as the Fertile Crescent.
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.
1.1 Criticism and usage
2 Territories and regions
2.1 Territories and regions usually within the Middle East
2.2 Other definitions of the Middle East
4.1 Ethnic groups
7 See also
10 Further reading
11 External links
The term "Middle East" may have originated in the 1850s in the British
India Office. However, it became more widely known when American
Alfred Thayer Mahan
Alfred Thayer Mahan used the term in 1902 to
"designate the area between Arabia and India". 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. He labeled the area surrounding
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.
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.
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." After the series ended in 1903,
The Times removed
quotation marks from subsequent uses of the term.
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, 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,
Middle East Institute
Middle East Institute founded in
Washington, D.C. in 1946,
among other usage.
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
John Foster Dulles defined the Middle
East as "the area lying between and including
Libya on the west and
Pakistan on the east,
Iraq on the North and the Arabian
peninsula to the south, plus the
Sudan and Ethiopia." 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.
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:
Middle East unless
Near East is used by a source in a story.
Mideast is also acceptable, but
Middle East is preferred.
Middle East has also been criticised as
on a British Western perception") by Hanafi (1998).
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 2]
Perhaps because of the influence of the Western press, the Arabic
Middle East (Arabic: الشرق الأوسط ash-Sharq
al-Awsaṭ), 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 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). 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
Middle East is خاورمیانه (Khāvar-e miyāneh),
the Hebrew is המזרח התיכון (hamizrach hatikhon) and the
Turkish is Orta Doğu.
Territories and regions
For a more comprehensive list, see List of Middle Eastern countries by
Territories and regions usually 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:
GDP, bn (2012)
Per capita (2012)
Federal Absolute monarchy
Provisional presidential republic
a. ^ ^
Jerusalem is the proclaimed capital of
Israel 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
Near East and Greater Middle East
Various concepts are often being paralleled to Middle East, most
notably Near East,
Fertile Crescent and the Levant. Near East, Levant
Fertile Crescent are geographic concepts, which refer to large
sections of the modern defined Middle East, with
Near East being the
Middle East in its geographic meaning.
The countries of the South Caucasus—Armenia, Azerbaijan, and
Georgia—are occasionally included in definitions of the Middle
Greater Middle East
Greater Middle East was a political term coined by the second Bush
administration in the first decade of the 21st century, to denote
various countries, pertaining to the Muslim world, specifically Iran,
Afghanistan and Pakistan. Various
Central Asian countries
are sometimes also included.
Main article: History of the Middle East
See also: List of modern conflicts in the Middle East
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Western Wall and
Dome of the Rock
Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem
The Kaaba, located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Middle East lies at the juncture of
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
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
Median civilizations in Iran,
North Africa (Carthage/Phoenicia)
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.
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
France by the end of the 1960s. They were supplanted in
some part by the rising influence of the
United States from the 1970s
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. 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
[...] 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.
Main article: Demographics of the Middle East
See also: Largest metropolitan areas of the Middle East
Main article: Ethnic groups in the Middle East
Arabs constitute the largest ethnic group in the Middle East, followed
by Turkic people. Native ethnic groups of the region include, in
addition to Arabs, Jews, Arameans, Assyrians, Baloch, Berbers, Copts,
Druze, Kurds, Lurs, Mandaeans, Persians, Samaritans, Shabaks, Tats,
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"Migration has always provided an important vent for labor market
pressures in the Middle East. For the period between the 1970s and
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 Franceand the majority of North African states."
 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,
Lebanon from other
Arab countries are 40 to 190 per cent higher than
trade revenues between these and other
Arab countries. In Somalia,
Somali Civil War
Somali Civil War has greatly increased the size of the Somali
diaspora, as many of the best educated Somalis left for Europe, North
America and other Middle Eastern countries.
Arab Middle Eastern countries such as Turkey,
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
Turkey for these reasons during the last century. In Iran, many
religious minorities such as Christians, Baha'is and
left since the
Islamic Revolution of 1979.
Main article: Religion in the Middle East
Islam is the largest religion in the Middle East. Here, Muslim men are
prostrating during prayer in a mosque.
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
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
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
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
Modern South Arabian languages
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
Persian is the second most spoken language. While it is primarily
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
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
and Kuwait. It is also a main language in some Emirates of the
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
speak Hebrew and English as well. The largest Romanian-speaking
community in the
Middle East is found in Israel, where as of
1995[update] Romanian is spoken by 5% of the population.[note
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
United Arab Emirates (where
50–55% of the population is South Asian), and Qatar, which have
large numbers of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian immigrants.
This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to
reflect recent events or newly available information. (December 2016)
Economy of the Middle East
Economy of the Middle East and
Middle East economic
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[update], according to the CIA World Factbook, all nations
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
Saudi Arabia ($467,601) and Iran
($385,143) in terms of Nominal GDP. Regarding nominal GDP per
capita, the highest ranking countries are
Qatar ($93,204), the UAE
Kuwait ($45,920) and
Cyprus ($32,745). Turkey
Iran ($839,438) and
Saudi Arabia ($589,531) had the
largest economies in terms of GDP-PPP. When it comes to per capita
(PPP)-based income, the highest-ranking countries are
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,
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
begun attracting greater number of tourists because of improving
tourist facilities and the relaxing of tourism-related restrictive
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%, and among youth is as high as 25%, up
to 37% in
Morocco and 73% in Syria.
Abu Dhabi - UAE
Amman - Jordan
Ankara - Turkey
Baghdad - Iraq
Beirut - Lebanon
Cairo - Egypt
Damascus - Syria
Doha - Qatar
Dubai - UAE
Istanbul - Turkey
Jerusalem - Israel
Kuwait City - Kuwait
Manama - Bahrain
Mecca - Saudi Arabia
Ramallah - Palestine
Riyadh - Saudi Arabia
Sana'a - Yemen
Tabriz - Iran
Tehran - Iran
Tel Aviv - Israel
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.
Middle East portal
Biomedical research in the Middle East
Mental health in the Middle East
Middle East Studies Association of North America
Middle East Youth Initiative
Middle Eastern cuisine
Middle Eastern music
State feminism § Middle East
Timeline of Middle Eastern history
^ Arabic: الشرق الأوسط, translit. Ash-Sharq
al-Awsaṭ; Armenian: Միջին Արևելք, translit. Miǰin
Arevelk’; Azerbaijani: Orta Şərq; Central Kurdish:
ڕۆژھەڵاتی ناوین, Rojhelatî Nawîn; French:
Moyen-Orient; Georgian: ახლო
აღმოსავლეთი; Greek: Μέση Ανατολή,
translit. Mési Anatolí; Hebrew: המזרח התיכון,
translit. Ha'Mizrah Ha'Tihon; Kurmanji Kurdish: Rojhilata Navîn;
Persian: خاورمیانه, translit. Xāvar-Miāne; Somali:
Bariga Dhexe; Turkish: Orta Doğu; Urdu: مشرق وسطی,
translit. Maśriq Vosta
^ 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
^ According to the 1993 Statistical Abstract of
Israel there were
250,000 Romanian speakers in Israel, at a population of 5,548,523
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Regions of Africa
Gulf of Guinea
African Great Lakes
East African Rift
Great Rift Valley
Rift Valley lakes
Horn of Africa
Gulf of Aden
Gulf of Tadjoura
Indian Ocean islands
Cataracts of the Nile
Gulf of Aqaba
Gulf of Guinea
Guinean Forests of West Africa
Inner Niger Delta
Central Highlands (Madagascar)
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East African montane forests
Greater Middle East
Islands of Africa
List of countries where Arabic is an official language
Portuguese-speaking African countries
Regions of Asia
Greater Middle East
Sea of Galilee
Russian Far East
Baikalia (Lake Baikal)
Sakhalin Island Arc
Northern Silk Road
Central Mountain Range
Gulf of Tonkin
Yangtze River Delta
Pearl River Delta
Greater Middle East
Strait of Hormuz
Greater and Lesser Tunbs
Gulf of Oman
Gulf of Aqaba
Gulf of Aden
Arabian Peninsula coastal fog desert
Jordan Rift Valley
Pir Panjal Range
Indus River Delta
Indus Valley Desert
Eastern coastal plains
Western Coastal Plains
Meghalaya subtropical forests
Lower Gangetic plains moist deciduous forests
Northwestern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows
Great Rann of Kutch
Little Rann of Kutch
False Divi Point
Bay of Bengal
Gulf of Khambhat
Gulf of Kutch
Gulf of Mannar
Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Greater Sunda Islands
Lesser Sunda Islands
Bird's Head Peninsula
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Ring of Fire
BNF: cb11941591f (data)
Coordinates: 29°N 41°E / 29°N