From Academic Kids
The Middle East is a region comprising the lands around the southern and eastern parts of the Mediterranean Sea, a territory that extends from the eastern Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. The Middle East is a subregion of Africa-Eurasia, or more specifically, Asia, and sometimes North Africa. The area encompasses several cultural and ethnic groups, including the Persian, Arabic, and Turkish cultures. The four main language groups are Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and Hebrew.
Most definitions of Middle East in established dictionaries and common usage are 'nations in Southwest Asia from Iran (Persia) to Egypt'. Hence, Egypt,with her Sinai Peninsula in Asia while mostly in North Africa, is commonly also considered as 'Middle East'. North African nations without Asian links like Libya, Tunisia and Morocco are increasingly being called North Africa instead, in contrast to Middle Eastern (Iran to Egypt - Asia) by international media.
Main article: History of the Middle East
Starting in the middle of the 20th century, the Middle East has been at the centre of world affairs, and is probably the modern world's most strategically, economically, politically and culturally sensitive area. It possesses huge stocks of crude oil, is the birthplace and spiritual centre of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and is the location of the long-running Arab-Israeli conflict.
The term Middle East defines a cultural area, so it does not have precise borders. It is generally taken to include: Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey, Iran (Persia), Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and the Palestinian Territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The countries of the Maghreb (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia) are frequently linked to the Middle East due to their strong historical and cultural associations, as is Sudan. The African countries Mauritania and Somalia also have links to the region. Turkey and Cyprus, although geographically inside or close to the Middle East, consider themselves to be part of Europe. Iran is usually taken to be the eastern border, although the Middle East is occasionally considered to include Afghanistan as well.
Some have criticized the term Middle East for its perceived Eurocentrism. The region is only east from the perspective of western Europe. To an Indian, it lies to the west; to a Russian, it lies to the south. 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 Persia, Afghanistan and Central Asia, Turkestan and the Caucasus. In contrast, Far East refers to the countries of East Asia e.g. China, Japan, Koreas, Hong Kong, Taiwan etc.
With the disappearance of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, Near East largely fell out of common use, 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). So in shorter words, the term Middle East came about when the UK/French part of the world used the term.
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. See fr:Proche-Orient, fr:Moyen-Orient, and de:Naher Osten for examples.
In some ways the ambiguity of Middle East is an advantage, since it can be used in changing cultural and political circumstances. The ambiguity of the term annoys some geographers, however, who have tried to popularise Southwest Asia as an alternative, although with little success. Other alternatives include: West Asia, which has become the preferred term of use in India, both by the government and by the media; Arab world, which is used in some contexts, but excludes peoples such as Israelis, Iranians and Kurds who are not Arabs; and Middle East-North Africa (MENA), which is sometimes used to encompass the zone from Morocco to Iran. A similar term the so-called Greater Middle East is sometimes used, although it is so vague that it is not always useful. It can encompass North Africa and Turkey in the west to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the east.
Regions of the Middle East
See Middle Eastern Regions for more information
- Caucasus - Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia
- Iranian Plateau
- Anatolia - Turkey
- Mediterranean Sea - Cyprus
- Arabia, see Persian Gulf States - Saudi Arabia, Qatar, U.A.E., Oman, Yemen, Bahrain - Iraq
- The Levant - Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Egypt's Sinai Peninsula
- Ancient Near East .net (http://www.ancientneareast.net/) - provides a comprehensive portal to the archaeology and ancient cultures of the Near / Middle East
- Middle East Studies Association (MESA) of North America (http://fp.arizona.edu/mesassoc/)
- University of Chicago Library - Middle East Department (http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/su/mideast/)
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