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Explain how the following five factors have influenced settlement and the economies of major Middle Eastern countries.


Traditional Middle East in dark green and Greater Middle East in light green
Traditional Middle East in dark green and Greater Middle East in light green

A. absolute and relative locations
B. climate
C. major physical characteristics
D. major natural resources
E. population size

Click here for Economics: It's More Than Oil, an overview of Middle Eastern economies.
Click here for a powerpoint of geography in the Middle East

A. Absolute and Relative Locations

  • The Middle East is located between Europe and Asia.
  • Because of the Middle East's location, it has been used for trading routes dating back 5,000 years.
  • One example of foreign countries using the Middle East for trading comes between the French and the Ottoman Empire.
  • In 1526, Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire allowed the French to trade within his empire without paying taxes, making the Middle East a profitable location to trade in.
  • In the long run, exemption from paying taxes harmed the Ottoman Empire, because it gave Europeans the advantage over local merchants. Meaning, since Europeans were exempt from paying taxes, they could produce, and sell, goods for much cheaper than the local merchants, harming the local merchants economy.
  • Multimedia.pngClick here for an interactive look at the growing trade routes, many of which passed through the Middle East
  • lessonplan.jpgClick here for a lesson plan on the Silk Road. This lesson plan touches upon the importance of the Middle East and its place in the trading system.

B. Climate

  • The Middle East is so large that the climate varies from country to country, sometimes even within countries
  • The climate is mainly considered hot and dry
  • The desert areas receive little to no rain, while areas closer to the water can receive high amounts of rain
  • Many storms that pass over the Middle East become sandstorms
  • More than 6,000 years ago, the Middle East was home for the world's first known urban culture, Mesopotamia.
  • People living in Mesopotamia, the Sumerians, used the region's climate to harvest goods for trade to the Roman Empire.
  • For example, the Sumerians used the annual flooding of the Nile River for their regular harvest, using this produce to become major trading partners with the Roman Empire.
  • Click here for more info

iran desert.jpg
Desert in Central Iran
iran forests.JPG
Forests in Coastal Iran


C. Major Physical Characteristics

  • Rivers were a key part in the settlement of cities. In Egypt, people took advantage of the flooding of the Nile for harvesting and for exporting goods to the Roman Empire. Irrigation systems to control the Nile or Mesopotamian Rivers also allow for the government to collect taxes.
  • Mountain ranges are a way to keep cultures separated; they serve as natural barriers. For example, the Taurus Mountains in Turkey separate Asia Minor from the rest of Asia. The Atlas Mountains in Morocco separate that country from the rest of Africa.
  • Mountains have also served as a refuge for minorities that are being oppressed.
    • Examples include the Christians in Lebanon; Ismaelis in Afghanistan; Alawites in Syria; Berbers in North Africa; and Kurds in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.
  • Silk Routes allowed for trade and also for Turkic migration to Anatolia.
  • The Fertile Crescent (Iraq, Syria, Turkey) between the Tigris and Euphrates led people to settle there 6,000 years ago.
  • Click here for a list of major physical characteristics in the Middle East

D. Major Natural Resources

  • Oil makes countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Iraq, Iran, and Algeria richer. Laborers from countries that are not rich in oil (Jordan, Egypt) come to these places in order to make money and send it home.
    • Click here for an article on Middle Eastern oil from PBS
  • Countries that make most of their money off of selling natural resources to outside buyers are called rentier states.
    • In rentier states there is less of a need to tax the citizens.
    • Citizens often have little say in the economy or even in the government.
  • Because money comes so easily from selling oil, there is less incentive to increase the productivity in production or in diversifying the sources of wealth. State bureaucracy and public industries become bloated.
  • Due to the unequal distribution in wealth between countries, laborers who come from the poor countries to work are often treated as second class citizens.
  • Wealth in today's Middle East comes from petroleum. The Middle East contains 2/3 of the world's known petroleum reserves.
  • More than 6,000 years ago, the Middle East was home for the world's first known urban culture, Mesopotamia.

oil and gas.gif
The red are gasfields and pipelines, the blue are oilfields and piplines.


E. Population Size

  • Creates a strain on the economy.
    • Click here for an article from the New York Times on the population challenges
  • Population has doubled in the last century.
  • A lot of population growth is in states that are not rich in natural resources.
  • As of the early 2000's, an estimated 350 million people live in the Middle East, based on the following countries:
    • Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel.

This chart is according to information by indexmundi.com. Click here for the full page on the Middle East.
Country Name
Population

Pakistan
190,291,129
2012
Turkey
79,749,461
2012
Iran
78,868,711
2012
Iraq
31,129,225
2012
Afghanistan
30,419,928
2012
Uzbekistan
28,394,180
2012
Saudi Arabia
26,534,504
2012
Yemen
24,771,809
2012
Syria
22,530,746
2012
Tajikistan
7,768,385
2012
Israel
7,590,758
2010
Jordan
6,508,887
2012
Kyrgyzstan
5,496,737
2012
United Arab Emirates
5,314,317
2012
Turkmenistan
5,054,828
2012
Lebanon
4,140,289
2012
Oman
3,090,150
2012
Kuwait
2,646,314
2012
Qatar
1,951,591
2012
Bahrain
1,248,348



Sources
1. Economics. Accessed April 25, 2008. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/globalconnections/mideast/themes/economics/index.html
2. Geography. Accessed April 25, 2008. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/globalconnections/mideast/themes/geography/index.html
3. Population. Accessed February 13, 2012 http://www.cotf.edu/earthinfo/meast/MEpeo.html