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The Middle East or the Middle Eastern is a reference term used to denote the area that does not really have an exact boundary but largely lies between south-west Asia and northern Africa. Known for its long and heavy history, the Middle East even today reminds one of political conflicts. Middle East is the home of the three major religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and also Yezidi, Zoroastrianism, and the Bahai Faith. Pertaining to the Suez Crisis of 1957, the first official usage of the term "Middle East" came from the U.S. President Eisenhower, who in his doctrine mentioned the term explained as the region between Libya (West) and Pakistan, with Syria and Iraq (North) to the southern Arabian Peninsula.

The arid conditions around the region are compensated by some major rivers providing fertility and irrigation facilities to a limited extent. The source of crude oil, Middle East remains an economically sensitive area in modern times. One may also be cautious about the political, cultural and religious sensitivity while in the Middle East. Most of the population has occupied the area for a relatively longer period than most geographical races have elsewhere. The sense of belonging in the Middle East can be a very insightful thing to note.

Having no particular borders, loose usage of the term 'Middle East' has also been criticized by many for its tendency to appear as a classification done by the West.

Geography

In the northern countries like Turkey and Armenia, the summers are hot and dry with mild winters. Towards the interiors, harsher weather and drier winters are prevalent. Armenia has some of the Eurasian mountain ranges extending in, a bit of forest and fast-flowing rivers providing for fertility. The countries on the eastern side like Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and north-west Iran are abundant with mountains, but are extremely dry and mostly unfriendly to agriculture. However conditions in the region are suitable to have made opium farming an economic culture in Afghanistan.

The majority of Iran is arid, but subtropical towards the coasts. The terrain varies between mountains, and discontinuous plains along coasts. Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman open out to the sea after large areas of arid deserts with extreme temperatures over their main lands. The Israel climate can be hot and dry in southern and eastern desert areas but is largely temperate. Central mountains, low coastal plains, the southern desert Nedev and the Jordan Rift Valley mark the variations in the Israeli terrain.  

The controversial territorial borders around the Gaza Strip and West Bank are in constant debate. Palestine - Israel conflicts are centred mainly about the same. The Lebanon climate is mostly Mediterranean with mild cool winters, hot and dry summers with mountains in Lebanon receiving regular snow-fall. Lebanon has a long strip of coastline against the Mediterranean Sea on the West, and is bordered with Syria by the "anti-Lebanon" Mountains.

UAE (United Arab Emirates) on south-eastern region of the peninsula and located below Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, has its northern and eastern borders with the Persian Gulf. No specific border exists with neighbouring Oman. A coastal terrain merges into the vast arid areas inwards from the sea to the south and some mountainous terrain towards the east.

History, people and culture

The political history of Middle East is laden primarily with conflicts between different religious groups probably owing to being the birthplace of many major religions, including Islam, Judaism, Yezidi and Christianity.

The earliest civilizations in the Middle East region are found in Mesopotamia (mainly Iran) and Egypt. The fertile Nile region was the basis of a beginning of the region's major developments in the early period (3,500 BC). By the turn of the 6th century BC several empires like the Macedonian Empire founded by Alexander ruled the Middle East as others including the expanding Roman Empire built important States in the region, over the centuries. By the 1st century BC, the Roman Empire included the Middle East as a part of the bigger territory joined by Europe and North Africa.

By the 7th century AD, the Islamic conquest of Persia led to the rise of the Islamic Caliphate. The influences of the Romans and the spread of Christianity in the region gradually lost place. Northern Africa came to become the peripheral to most Muslim centres. Morocco, however, broke free to form one of the most advanced societies of the time (800's - 1100's).

Since the end of the 1100's the region faced attacks by Turks and Mongols when the dominance of the Caliphate lost significance. Next were the Ottoman troops who expanded into Europe through the Middle East. By the 1700's the Ottoman troops lost most of Europe. Although western parts of Asia such as Bosnia and Albania had mostly a population converted to Islam, the region is not believed to have been absorbed into the culture of Islam.

European domination settled on the Middle Eastern stretch ruled by the Ottoman Turks as they needed to be economically regulated over failing policies. As the Ottoman expanse shrunk, the world saw a change in the control power of the region. Turkey was an alliance of Germany, facing a tough defeat from the Allied Forces. This saw the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire and an awakening of Arab nationalism. Syria became a French protectorate and while Iraq and Palestine became British mandate territories. Palestine was partitioned with the eastern part becoming the "Emirate of Transjordan" ruled by the Abdullah, and the West a British territory which lasted till the mid 1900's.

American involvement in the Middle East has been faced with conflict. The possibilities of a United Arab military force was ended with the peace treaty signed by Anwar Saddat. Yasser Arafat led the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) against Israel and Western targets (primarily American) since 1975. The fall of the Soviet saw various conflicts and complications with political borders in the middle-eastern countries. The Kuwait issues had given rise to the Gulf war of America against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. The conflicts continued in the 2006 American attacks on Iraq.

Culturally, the Middle Eastern region is built on an extensive legacy of folk and urban ancient heritage. The arts, science, literature, mathematics and legislation were in advanced implementation mostly in Persia, Egypt and Sumer. A lasting impression is believed to have left the cultures of Greece and Rome. Today, the Middle East is renowned for its rich cultural contribution. Being the home to three major world religions, a colourful entertainment industry with an interesting tradition of folk music and dance, and a growing economy makes the Middle East an exciting destination.
 
Places of tourist interest and night life

  • Mecca - The holy city of Mecca is a pilgrimage destination for all Muslims in the world with the religious binding of having to visit it at least once in a lifetime. This is the centre of the Islamic world located in the Makkah Province of Saudi Arabia. Entry into the Mecca has strict rules. A tourist needs to be a certified Muslim from the local mosque and women below 45 should be accompanied by the male head of the family.
  • Dubai desert safari - One of the most exciting events in the Middle East is the Dubai desert safari in the UAE. The adventure includes sand skiing and dune bashing. The real wild fun comes alive when professional drivers drive around the desert climbing dune-mountains, given the joy ride of a lifetime inside a vehicle for an hour or more. To witness the breathtaking sunsets, the drivers navigate tourists to special zones after the rides.
  • Dubai beaches - Most famous for its cosmopolitan population, Dubai offers great beaches which are perfect for the night parties and water sports. Outdoor recreation in Dubai beaches primarily include volleyball, snorkelling, scuba diving, swimming, sailing, sunbathing, picnicking and private parties. The most famous of the beaches is the Jumeirah beach close to the Arabian Gulf. Other beaches include Al Mamzar Park, Deira and the Corniche.
  • Amman - Here is the place where modern Jordan and ancient Middle East blend into the capital mountain city of Amman. Jordan with all its preserved history, even from the stone-age, makes Jordan Archaeological Museum a definite destination. Amman also offers a great night life with its cosmopolitan influence pretty vividly felt.
  • Baalbek - Situated in northern Beirut, Baalbek ruins is one of Lebanon's greatest treasures. Roman temples in considerable numbers to a triad of the gods, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury are monuments from centuries of Roman occupation. An entire day may be spent appreciating the intricate stone work of the Baalbek ruins. Guided tours are available for exciting insights into ancient Roman and Lebanese cultures.


The entertainment and night life in the Middle East is vibrant in most of the capital cities. A rich tradition of music and dance makes them exciting tourist destinations for the lovers of music, dance and culture.



Original Authors: Shampa
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 17/11/2009
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