The Middle East (Arabic: الشرق الأوسط, Ash-Sharq al-Áwsaṭ; Hebrew: המזרח התיכון, HaMizrakh HaTikhon), also known as the Near East, is a region that spans southwestern Asia and northern Africa. Throughout history it has been a center of world affairs, dating back to ancient times. The world's three major religions—Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—have their origins in this region.
Starting in the middle of the 20th century, the Middle East has been at the center 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 center of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and is the location of the long-running Arab-Israeli conflict.
The term Middle East defines a general area, so does not have precise borders. It is generally taken to include: Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Turkey, 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 of 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 (although the 'Middle East Technical University' is located in Ankara, Turkey). To the east, Afghanistan and Pakistan are often linked to the Middle East.
Regions and Countries
The Middle East includes the following countries:
- Persian Plateau
- Arabian Peninsula
- North Africa
- Northeast Africa
- Middle East By CIA World Factbook