Middle East Overview

Middle East Overview

The Middle East is located at the confluence of the continents that form the Old World: Asia, Africa and Europe. It presents a coastline full of cutouts and geographic accidents, being surrounded by seas and oceans: to the north, Black and Caspian seas; to the south, the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea (part of the Indian Ocean); to the west, Red and Mediterranean seas.

Several channels and straits that interconnect these seas have become important strategic points, where, over the centuries, geopolitical conflicts between nations interested in controlling them have occurred.


The Middle East is part of the Islamic world, a region that extends, in a west-east direction, from the Atlantic coast of Africa to the border between Pakistan and India, and, in a north-south direction, from Kazakhstan and Russia to the African lakes region. With a certain spatial discontinuity, we find manifestations of this Islamized world in other countries, such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, Pakistan and Indonesia.

In 29 countries in the region, followers of Islam make up the majority of the population (more than 76%). In 7 others they are more than 51%, constituting, therefore, a respectable demographic, economic and political force. There are also 14 other countries where followers of Islam represent less than 50% of the population.

Geographical position and borders of the Middle East

According to CountryAAH, the territorial extension of the Middle East is about 7.2 million km 2 , being formed by 15 States, of different sizes: the five largest (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and Iraq) occupy almost 85% of the regional space .

Countries: 1. Afghanistan, 2. Saudi Arabia, 3. Bahrain, 4. Qatar, 5. United Arab Emirates, 6. Yemen, 7. Iran, 8. Iraq, 9. Israel, 10. Jordan, 11. Kuwait, 12 Lebanon, 13. Oman, 14. Syria, 15.Turkey.


The whole region is under the control of dry and hot continental air masses, both in winter and in summer. At the edges of the oceans and seas, the effect of maritimity softens the effect of this mass, and the humidity in the air rises a little. Inland, the mountainous relief imposes a decrease in temperatures, and snow occurs at points above 3,000 or 4,000 meters of altitude.

About three quarters of the Middle East are under the control of arid and semi-arid climates. The presence of large deserts favors the maintenance of climatic extremes. Winds of more than 100 kilometers per hour, laden with sand and stone, appear suddenly and force the nomadic caravans to stop and protect themselves. The rains, which in most of the region are scarce, when they occur, appear in a violent and sudden way, often concentrating in a few hours of a single day of the year. This favors the formation of the dunes, which can reach more than 150 meters in height.


The climatic conditions in force in the Middle East determine the formation of extremely poor vegetation, which makes human occupation difficult. The landscape is mostly composed of completely bare soils, in which sand and stones are the only visible elements. In stretches where rain occurs, steppes and maquis appear, landscapes formed by shrubs and dry grasses. In some places, the higher humidity of the soil allows the emergence of oases, where date palm trees and green vegetation grow.

Drought is well represented by the rarity of forests. In Israel, about 6% of the national territory is covered by forests. In neighboring Lebanon, this share drops to 5.1% and, in Syria, it drops to around 1.2%. In other countries in the Middle East, the forest area is less than 1% of the national space.


Three large ethnic groups occupy the Middle East: the Turks, concentrated in the north, with decreasing density towards the east; the Iranians, also concentrated to the north but with decreasing density to the west; and the Semites, concentrated in the center and south of the region.

Each of the three large groups is divided into several subgroups, and diversity is growing with regional migrations. Some of these diversities are expressed through ethnicities, languages ​​and religions.


Virtually the entire Middle East has great difficulties in obtaining water, which makes farming extremely difficult. Despite this, due to low industrialization and small urbanization, the predominant economic activity in most countries in the region, taking into account the area occupied and the employed population, is agriculture (from the point of view of wealth generation) , oil stands out).

The arid climate determines the need for intensive use of naturally wetter regions, such as the Mediterranean coast and river valleys. Most of the water consumed in the region is used for irrigation, but as the use of this technology is expensive, many regions do not have this resource to obtain good agricultural productivity. As a result, food production is compromised and agriculture does not develop.

In the Middle East, in general, industrialization is poorly developed. In large cities and mainly in the capitals, some industrial branches appear, mostly traditional, the most important being food and textiles (originated from tapestry and handmade weaving). The production and quality of wool carpets produced by hand in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan are known worldwide and reach a high price. Some countries have a certain industrial diversification, such as Israel (chemical and military), Turkey (cement, phosphates and steel), in addition to Iran and Iraq (automobile and steel), but none of them are among the most important in the world in any product. .

Oil is the biggest driver of the regional industry. Most oil-exploiting countries in the Middle East have made several hundred billion dollars from exports of oil in the past few decades; even so, its economic future is uncertain, as investments in infrastructure and improvement of the population’s living conditions were low, not counting those that squandered the patrimony with wars, such as, for example, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait.

Regional conflicts

The Middle East is a region of great political instability. Its geographical position, at the confluence of the three continents that form the Old World, contributed to the region being the scene of intense territorial disputes since antiquity.

Several other factors have influenced the determination of regional instability: religious antagonisms; the great diversity of cultures; the multiple forms of political and economic organization; and the interests of the great industrial powers for oil.

Among contemporary regional conflicts deserve a more careful analysis, both its severity and for his persistence, pales question-tina and the wars between Arabs and Jews .

Middle East Overview