Middle East key facts and maps - World

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Middle East key facts and maps

Geographical facts about Middle East. Physical map of Middle East
The main geographical facts about Middle East Asia - population, country area, capital, ethnic groups, official language, religions, industry and culture. Physical map of Middle East with cities.
The Middle East geography facts file
Regions of the World - The Middle East
The term "Middle East" applies to the belt of countries in Southwest Asia that lies between Afghanistan and Turkey. It stretches southward to include the Arabian Peninsula. The Middle East is characterized by its arid climate, its petroleum riches, and the prevalence of Islam as its predominant religion. The Middle East forms a strategic belt between the dynamic developing industrial countries of Asia and the long-developed countries of Europe.
The countries of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Cyprus form the northern belt, while toward their south lie Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and the states of the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia occupies a large part of the peninsula; Oman and Yemen share the southern part of the peninsula and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait lie along the Arabian (also known as Persian) Gulf.
Afghanistan lies in the area where the Middle East, South Asia, and Central Asia meet. The North African nations of Egypt, Sudan, and Libya are also sometimes considered part of the Middle East, for linguistic and cultural reasons.
Physical features The Middle East
The collision of the Iranian and Arabian tectonic plates with the Eurasian Plate resulted in the mountain ranges that run from Turkey to Iran. The belt between Turkey and Iran is characterized by elongated mountain ranges such as the Zagros and Alborz ranges in Iran and the Pontic and Taurus Mountains in Turkey. These ranges form part of the extensive Alpine-Himalayan Mountain Range system that was formed during the Tertiary geological period. This area is prone to earthquakes, of which there have been several in recent decades. There are plateaus in both Turkey (Anatolian Plateau) and Iran.
In contrast to the geologically active Tertiary mountain belt, the Arabian Plateau is part of an ancient and geologically stable shield.
Climate and vegetation The Middle East
The Middle East is predominantly arid to semi-arid, except for the areas that adjoin the Mediterranean, Aegean, Black and Caspian Seas. The region is characterized by high temperatures, especially in the Arabian, Syrian and Iranian deserts. In contrast, winter temperatures close to freezing point occur in the highlands and snow falls in some of the higher mountainous areas. There are great seasonal temperature differences on the plateaus, as shown by Tehran and Ankara, which reach temperatures of about 30 °C (85 °F) in summer and fall as low as freezing point in winter.
The region receives little annual rainfall, except for winter rain in the areas bordering the Mediterranean, and there is a serious shortage of fresh water in the Gulf area. Vegetation in this region is dominated by thorny scrubland.
The Euphrates and Tigris are the largest rivers in the Middle East. Several short rivers flow into the Mediterranean, Black, and Caspian Seas.
Population The Middle East
The population of the region is about 297.4 million (1998). Life expectancies have improved in recent years and now stand at 65.9 years for males and 70.3 years for females. The population growth rate is moderate, at 2.2 percent. Urbanization has been increasing steadily during recent decades and now stands at 66 percent; this reflects the decreasing importance of agriculture and pastoralism in the economies of these countries. In several countries, particularly in the Gulf States, petroleum has indirectly assisted the growth of urbanization as oil-generated revenues have been invested in urban areas and projects.
Agriculture The Middle East
Because of the arid climate, only a small part of the region can support agriculture.
The Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, with their alluvial plains and extensive irrigation, are significant agricultural areas, but their rising salinity levels constitute a major problem. The region has a great need for irrigation— Syria, for example, has built the Euphrates Dam to irrigate the northeastern part of the country. Israel has also developed areas of intensive irrigation-based agriculture.
Wheat, barley, and rice are the major cereals. Important cash crops include tobacco, sugarcane, cotton, fruits and tea. Dates are a common fruit and are cultivated in oasis areas. Livestock mostly consists of camels, sheep, and goats; herds of goats have been blamed for stripping the ground bare of vegetation, which has resulted in soil erosion and the acceleration of desertification in some areas.
Agriculture based on growing olives, grapes, citrus fruits and apples is found in the Mediterranean coastal areas.
Fishing is important in several places, including the Black and Caspian seas.
Industrialization The Middle East
Petroleum reserves are the region's most abundant resource. Oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates have economies predominantly based on petroleum exports, which makes them vulnerable to fluctuations in the price of petroleum. Petroleum prices escalated during the mid to late 1970s, but since then prices have fallen considerably. Oil wealth has facilitated the import of foodstuffs, manufactured goods, and luxury items, and has been also used for military purchases and development.
The hot, arid areas of the region are largely un-suited to the establishment of industries. The lack of fresh water is so severe in the Gulf region that desalinization plants have been set up to produce potable water. Oil-based electricity is generated in the oil-rich countries, and coal-based electricity is widely used in Turkey. Hydroelectric power is produced in Syria and Turkey.
Industries that use local materials, such as food processing, petroleum refining, and petrochemical industries, have been developed in some places. Some light consumer-based industries, including textiles, footwear, cigarettes, and paper, have also been established. The countries of the eastern Mediterranean are comparatively more industrialized than the rest of the region, but frequent conflicts with neighboring countries in the area have hampered their ability to maintain production.
Languages The Middle East
Three language families—the Indo-European, Turkic, and Semitic—are found in the Middle East. The Indo-European languages represented include Persian, Pashto, Kurdish, Armenian, and Baluchi. Turkish and Azerbaijani are Turkic languages, and Arabic and Hebrew are Semitic.
Boundary disputes and wars The Middle East
The region has experienced several conflicts and wars within the last fifty years. The Israeli-Arab conflict has been the most prominent and is yet to be resolved. Lebanon was drawn into the conflict, which adversely affected its economy.
Iraq's attempt to conquer the Arab-speaking region of southwestern Iran lasted for years, and
drained both Iraq and Iran of resources. Iraq's conquest of Kuwait, the subsequent Gulf War, the ousting of Saddam Hussein and the attempt to install a democratic regime in 2003/04 mainly by a coalition of the United States and Great Britain have seriously affected Iraq's economy.
The Kurdish-speaking area, shared by Turkey, Iraq, and Iran, has also been involved in armed conflict, in its attempt to secure independence.
The Turkish conquest of the northern, Turkish-speaking part of Cyprus has strained relations between Greece and Turkey.
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