Middle East


Location:  North Africa and Southwest Asia

Crossroads:  3 continents meet (Europe, Asia, Africa)  Trade routes = cultural diffusion

Climate: Arid (vast deserts)  People live along rivers/coasts

Early Civilizations

Fertile Crescent

Rivers: Tigris & Euphrates


Sumerians (Cuneiform writing), wheel

Babylonians: Written Laws (Code of Hammurabi)

River: Nile (Floods – fertile soil left)


Egypt: Hieroglyphics, Pyramids, afterlife

Monotheistic Religions

One God

Judaism:  Abraham/ Moses

Covenant with Yahweh

Hebrews believed they were the chosen people

Moral code (10 commandments)

Old Testament/ Torah


Jesus seen as Son of God (Messiah

Moral life means salvation

Persecuted by Romans

Spread throughout empire

Bible ( Old & New Testament)

Equality of all believers


Mohammed: Submission to Allah

5 Pillars (Faith, Prayer, Fasting, Charity, Pilgrimage)

Influence: Spread throughout Middle East and part of Europe.  Ottoman Empire defeated Christian Byzantine Empire in 1453

“Golden Age”: Advancements in arts & science: surgery, Algebra,  astronomy.  Preserved Greek & Roman culture during Europe’s dark ages.  Introduced Numbers.

Imperialism 19th & 20th Century

Britain & France:  Took control of most land – trading advantages

Suez Canal: connects Red & Mediterranean Sea

After WWI: Br. & Fr. Divided Ottoman territories after promising Arabs independence.

Nationalist Movements: desire by Arabs for own country.  Ataturk in Turkey won independence in 1923

Arab-Israeli Conflict - causes

Zionism:  international movement for Jewish homeland

Balfour Declaration: Britain promised Jews Palestine (90% Arab)

Holocaust: WWII – 6 million Jews Dead – worldwide sympathy

Arab-Israeli Conflict - Division

UN Decision:  Palestine divided between Jews and Arabs

Israel founded, Arabs reject

Palestine Refugees:  Arabs who left, expecting to return, settle in camps.

Wars: Arab nations attacked Israel; Israel won more land (Gaza, Golan etc)

Arab-Israeli Conflict - Results

PLO: used terrorism to crush Israel: Failed.

Camp David Accords:  Egypt recognizes Israel’s right to exist.  Sadat assassinated.

Yasir Arafat: Head of PLO began talks with Begin; opposed by militants

Sharon: current president, talking harder line, violence continues.

Islamic Fundamentalism

Return to the strict laws of the Koran.

Iran: 1979 revolution; Khomeini established Islamic theocracy; women’s rights limited; took US hostages; war War w/ Iraq.

Islamic Jihad: terrorist group; attacks enemies of Islam, esp. US & Israel.  Pan Am flight, 1st World Trade Center bombing

Taliban: Afghanistan fundamentalist regime after Soviet Union left.

Al Quida: Terrorist organization – Ossama Bin Ladin.


2/3 of world’s supply

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Gulf States.

OPEC: controls supply and price of oil on world market.

US Conflict in the Middle East

Persian Gulf War: 1990 Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait; 1991 – Desert Storm; Hussein still in power.

Iraq War: 2003 US invaded Iraq as part of the War on Terror and removed Saddam Hussein from power. Search for weapons of Mass Destruction continues.  Currently attempting to form a democratic government.  Resistance within Iraq continues.

Final note

When describing the ME remember that Israel is very different.  It is Jewish, a democracy, has no oil, women are given equal rights.  It is an industrial nation with a high standard of living and good educational system.