TerminologyThe term "Middle East" may have originated in the 1850s in the British [[India Office. However, it became more widely known when [[United States|American naval strategist [[Alfred Thayer Mahan used the term in 1902 to "designate the area between Arabia and India". During this time the [[British Empire|British and [[Russian Empires were vying for influence in , a rivalry which would become known as [[The Great Game. Mahan realized not only the strategic importance of the region, but also of its center, the [[Persian Gulf. He labeled the area surrounding the Persian Gulf as the Middle East, and said that after Egypt's [[Suez Canal, it was the most important passage for Britain to control in order to keep the Russians from advancing towards [[British Raj|British India. Mahan first used the term in his article "The Persian Gulf and International Relations", published in September 1902 in the ''[[National Review (London)|National Review'', a British journal. Mahan's article was reprinted in ''[[The Times'' and followed in October by a 20-article series entitled "The Middle Eastern Question," written by Sir [[Ignatius Valentine Chirol. During this series, Sir Ignatius expanded the definition of ''Middle East'' to include "those regions of Asia which extend to the borders of [[India or command the approaches to India." After the series ended in 1903, ''The Times'' removed quotation marks from subsequent uses of the term. Until [[World War II, it was customary to refer to areas centered around and the eastern shore of the Mediterranean as the " ", while the " " centered on [[China, and the Middle East then meant the area from to [[Burma, namely the area between the Near East and the Far East. In the late 1930s, the British established the [[Middle East Command, which was based in [[Cairo, for its military forces in the region. After that time, the term "Middle East" gained broader usage in Europe and the United States, with the [[Middle East Institute founded in [[Washington, D.C. in 1946, among other usage. The corresponding adjective is ''Middle Eastern'' and the derived noun is ''Middle Easterner''. While non-Eurocentric terms such "Southwest Asia" or "Swasia" has been sparsedly used, the inclusion of an African country, Egypt, in the definition questions the usefulness of using such terms.
Criticism and usageThe description ''Middle'' has also led to some confusion over changing definitions. Before the [[World War I|First World War, "Near East" was used in English to refer to the [[Balkans and the [[Ottoman Empire, while "Middle East" referred to , the [[Caucasus, , Central Asia, and [[Turkestan. In contrast, "Far East" referred to the countries of [[East Asia (e.g. [[China, [[Japan, [[Korea, etc.) With the disappearance of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, "Near East" largely fell out of common use in English, while "Middle East" came to be applied to the re-emerging countries of the [[Islamic world. However, the usage "Near East" was retained by a variety of academic disciplines, including [[archaeology and [[ancient history, where it describes an area identical to the term ''Middle East'', which is not used by these disciplines (see [[Ancient Near East). The first official use of the term "Middle East" by the [[Federal government of the United States|United States government was in the 1957 [[Eisenhower Doctrine, which pertained to the [[Suez Crisis. Secretary of State [[John Foster Dulles defined the Middle East as "the area lying between and including [[Libya on the west and on the east, and on the North and the Arabian peninsula to the south, plus the and [[Ethiopia." In 1958, the [[United States Department of State|State Department explained that the terms "Near East" and "Middle East" were interchangeable, and defined the region as including only , , [[Israel, [[Lebanon, [[Jordan, , , , [[Bahrain, and [[Qatar. The [[Associated Press Stylebook says that Near East formerly referred to the farther west countries while Middle East referred to the eastern ones, but that now they are synonymous. It instructs:
Use ''Middle East'' unless ''Near East'' is used by a source in a story. ''Mideast'' is also acceptable, but ''Middle East'' is preferred.The term ''Middle East'' has also been criticised as [[Eurocentric ("based on a British Western perception") by Hanafi (1998).
TranslationsThere are terms similar to ''Near East'' and ''Middle East'' in other European languages, but since it is a relative description, the meanings depend on the country and are different from the English terms generally. In [[German language|German the term ''[[:de:Naher Osten|Naher Osten'' (Near East) is still in common use (nowadays the term ''Mittlerer Osten'' is more and more common in press texts translated from English sources, albeit having a distinct meaning) and in [[Russian language|Russian [[:ru:Ближний Восток|Ближний Восток or ''Blizhniy Vostok'', [[Bulgarian language|Bulgarian [[:bg:Близък Изток|Близкия Изток, [[Polish language|Polish ''[[:pl:Bliski Wschód|Bliski Wschód'' or [[Croatian language|Croatian ''[[:hr:Bliski istok|Bliski istok'' (meaning ''Near East'' in all the four Slavic languages) remains as the only appropriate term for the region. However, some languages do have "Middle East" equivalents, such as the [[French language|French [[:fr:Moyen-Orient|Moyen-Orient, [[Swedish language|Swedish [[:sv:Mellanöstern|Mellanöstern, [[Spanish language|Spanish [[:es:Oriente Medio|Oriente Medio or Medio Oriente, and the [[Italian language|Italian [[:it:Medio Oriente|Medio Oriente.In Italian, the expression "Vicino Oriente" (Near East) was also widely used to refer to Turkey, and ''Estremo Oriente'' (Far East or Extreme East) to refer to all of Asia east of Middle East Perhaps because of the influence of the Western press, the Arabic equivalent of ''Middle East'' (Arabic: الشرق الأوسط ''ash-Sharq al-Awsaṭ'') has become standard usage in the mainstream Arabic press, comprising the same meaning as the term "Middle East" in North American and Western European usage. The designation, ''[[Mashriq'', also from the Arabic root for ''East'', also denotes a variously defined region around the [[Levant, the eastern part of the Arabic-speaking world (as opposed to the '' '', the western part). Even though the term originated in the West, apart from Arabic, other languages of countries of the Middle East also use a translation of it. The [[Persian language|Persian equivalent for Middle East is خاورمیانه (''Khāvar-e miyāneh''), the Hebrew is המזרח התיכון (''hamizrach hatikhon'') and the Turkish is Orta Doğu.
Territories and regions
Territories and regions usually considered within the Middle EastTraditionally included within the Middle East are (Persia), [[Asia Minor, , the [[Levant, the [[Arabian Peninsula, and . In modern-day-country terms they are these: :a. [[Jerusalem is the [[Jerusalem Law|proclaimed capital of Israel, which is [[Positions on Jerusalem|disputed and the actual location of the [[Knesset, [[Israeli Supreme Court, and other governmental institutions of Israel. [[Ramallah is the actual location of the government of Palestine, whereas the proclaimed capital of Palestine is [[East Jerusalem, which is [[Positions on Jerusalem|disputed. :b. Controlled by the [[Houthis due to the [[Yemeni Civil War (2015–present)|ongoing war. Seat of government moved to Aden.
Other definitions of the Middle EastVarious concepts are often being paralleled to Middle East, most notably Near East, [[Fertile Crescent and the Levant. Near East, Levant and Fertile Crescent are geographic concepts, which refer to large sections of the modern defined Middle East, with Near East being the closest to Middle East in its geographic meaning. Due to it primarily being Arabic speaking, the region of North Africa is sometimes included. The countries of the [[South Caucasus—[[Armenia, [[Azerbaijan, and [[Georgia (country)|Georgia—are occasionally included in definitions of the Middle East. The was a [[Political geography|political term coined by the [[George W. Bush administration|second Bush administration in the first decade of the 21st century, to denote various countries, pertaining to the [[Muslim world, specifically , , and . Various [[Central Asian countries are sometimes also included.
HistoryThe Middle East lies at the juncture of [[Eurasia and [[Africa and of the [[Mediterranean Sea and the [[Indian Ocean. It is the birthplace and [[Spirituality|spiritual center of religions such as , , , [[Manichaeism, [[Yezidi, [[Druze, [[Yarsan and [[Mandeanism, and in Iran, [[Mithraism, [[Zoroastrianism, [[Manicheanism, and the [[Baháʼí Faith. Throughout its history the Middle East has been a major center of world affairs; a strategically, economically, politically, culturally, and religiously sensitive area. The region is one of the regions were agriculture was independently discovered, and from the Middle East it was spread, during the Neolithic, to different regions of the world such as Europe, the Indus Valley and Eastern Africa. Prior to the formation of civilizations, advanced cultures formed all over the Middle East during the [[Stone Age. The search for agricultural lands by agriculturalists, and pastoral lands by herdsmen meant different migrations took place within the region and shaped its ethnic and demographic makeup. The Middle East is widely and most famously known as the [[Cradle of civilization. The world's earliest civilizations, Mesopotamia ([[Sumer, [[Akkadian Empire|Akkad, [[Assyria and [[Babylonia), [[ancient Egypt and [[Kish civilization|Kish in the Levant, all originated in the Fertile Crescent and [[Nile Valley regions of the ancient Near East. These were followed by the [[Hittites|Hittite, [[Greeks|Greek, [[Hurrians|Hurrian and [[Urartian civilisations of [[Asia Minor; [[Elam, [[History of Iran|Persia and [[Medes|Median civilizations in , as well as the civilizations of the [[History of the Levant|Levant (such as [[Ebla, [[Mari, Syria|Mari, [[Tell Brak|Nagar, [[Ugarit, [[Canaan, [[Aramea, [[Mitanni, [[Phoenicia and [[Israel) and the [[Arabian Peninsula ([[Majan (civilization)|Magan, [[Sheba, [[Iram of the Pillars|Ubar). The Near East was first largely unified under the [[Neo Assyrian Empire, then the [[Achaemenid Empire followed later by the [[Macedonian Empire and after this to some degree by the [[History of Iran|Iranian empires (namely the [[Arsacid Empire|Parthian and [[Sassanid Empires), the [[Roman Empire and [[Byzantine Empire. The region served as the intellectual and economic center of the Roman Empire and played an exceptionally important role due to its periphery on the [[Sassanid Empire. Thus, the [[Ancient Rome|Romans stationed up to five or six of their legions in the region for the sole purpose of defending it from Sassanid and Bedouin raids and invasions. From the 4th century CE onwards, the Middle East became the center of the two main powers at the time, the [[Byzantine empire and the [[Sassanid Empire. However, it would be the later [[Caliphate|Islamic Caliphates of the [[Middle Ages, or [[Islamic Golden Age which began with the Islamic conquest of the region in the 7th century AD, that would first unify the entire Middle East as a distinct region and create the dominant ic [[Arab ethnic identity that largely (but not exclusively) persists today. The 4 caliphates that dominated the Middle East for more than 600 years were the [[Rashidun Caliphate, the [[Umayyad caliphate, the [[Abbasid caliphate and the [[Fatimid caliphate. Additionally, the [[Mongols would come to dominate the region, the [[Kingdom of Armenia (Antiquity)|Kingdom of Armenia would incorporate parts of the region to their domain, the [[Seljuk Empire|Seljuks would rule the region and spread Turko-Persian culture, and the [[Franks would found the [[Crusader states that would stand for roughly two centuries. Josiah Russell estimates the population of what he calls "Islamic territory" as roughly 12.5 million in 1000 – [[Anatolia 8 million, [[Syria (region)|Syria 2 million, and 1.5 million. From the 16th century onward, the Middle East came to be dominated, once again, by two main powers: the [[Ottoman Empire and the [[Safavid dynasty. The modern Middle East began after [[World War I, when the Ottoman Empire, which was allied with the [[Central Powers, was defeated by the British Empire and their allies and [[partitioning of the Ottoman Empire|partitioned into a number of separate nations, initially under British and French Mandates. Other defining events in this transformation included the establishment of Israel in 1948 and the eventual departure of European powers, notably [[United Kingdom|Britain and [[France by the end of the 1960s. They were supplanted in some part by the rising influence of the United States from the 1970s onwards. In the 20th century, the region's significant stocks of [[crude oil gave it new strategic and economic importance. Mass production of oil began around 1945, with Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Iraq, and the [[United Arab Emirates having large quantities of oil. Estimated [[Oil reserves#Estimated reserves by country|oil reserves, especially in Saudi Arabia and Iran, are some of the highest in the world, and the international oil cartel [[OPEC is dominated by Middle Eastern countries. During the Cold War, the Middle East was a theater of ideological struggle between the two superpowers and their allies: [[NATO and the United States on one side, and the [[Soviet Union and [[Warsaw Pact on the other, as they competed to influence regional allies. Besides the political reasons there was also the "ideological conflict" between the two systems. Moreover, as [[Louise Fawcett argues, among many important areas of contention, or perhaps more accurately of anxiety, were, first, the desires of the superpowers to gain strategic advantage in the region, second, the fact that the region contained some two-thirds of the world's oil reserves in a context where oil was becoming increasingly vital to the economy of the Western world [...] Within this contextual framework, the United States sought to divert the Arab world from Soviet influence. Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, the region has experienced both periods of relative peace and tolerance and periods of conflict particularly between [[Sunnis and [[Shiites.
Ethnic groupsconstitute the largest ethnic group in the Middle East, followed by various [[Iranian peoples and then by [[Turkic people|Turkic speaking groups ([[Turkish people|Turkish, [[Azeris, and ). Native ethnic groups of the region include, in addition to Arabs, [[Arameans in Syria|Arameans, Assyrians, [[Baloch peoples|Baloch, [[Berbers, , [[Druze, , , , [[Lurs, [[Mandaeans, , [[Samaritans, [[Shabak people|Shabaks, [[Tat people (Iran)|Tats, and [[Zazas. European ethnic groups that form a diaspora in the region include [[Albanians, [[Bosniaks, [[Circassians (including [[Kabardians), [[Crimean Tatars, [[Greeks, [[Levantines (Latin Christians)|Franco-Levantines, [[Levantines (Latin Christians)#Italian Levantines|Italo-Levantines, and [[Iraqi Turkmens. Among other migrant populations are [[Overseas Chinese|Chinese, [[Filipinos in Saudi Arabia|Filipinos, [[Indians in Saudi Arabia|Indians, [[Indonesians in Saudi Arabia|Indonesians, [[Pakistanis, [[Pashtuns, [[Romani people|Romani, and [[Afro-Arabs.
Migration"Migration has always provided an important vent for labor market pressures in the Middle East. For the period between the 1970s and 1990s, the Arab states of the Persian Gulf in particular provided a rich source of employment for workers from Egypt, Yemen and the countries of the Levant, while Europe had attracted young workers from North African countries due both to proximity and the legacy of colonial ties between France and the majority of North African states." According to the [[International Organization for Migration, there are 13 million first-generation migrants from [[Arab nations in the world, of which 5.8 reside in other Arab countries. Expatriates from Arab countries contribute to the circulation of financial and human capital in the region and thus significantly promote regional development. In 2009 Arab countries received a total of US$35.1 billion in [[remittance in-flows and remittances sent to [[Jordan, and [[Lebanon from other Arab countries are 40 to 190 per cent higher than trade revenues between these and other Arab countries. In , the [[Somali Civil War has greatly increased the size of the [[Somali diaspora, as many of the best educated Somalis left for Middle Eastern countries as well as [[Europe and [[North America. Non-Arab Middle Eastern countries such as , [[Israel and are also subject to important migration dynamics. A fair proportion of those migrating from Arab nations are from ethnic and religious minorities facing racial and or religious persecution and are not necessarily ethnic Arabs, Iranians or Turks. Large numbers of [[Kurdish people|Kurds, [[Jewish people|Jews, Assyrians, [[Greek people|Greeks and [[Armenian people|Armenians as well as many [[Mandeans have left nations such as Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey for these reasons during the last century. In Iran, many religious minorities such as [[Christians, [[Baháʼí Faith|Baháʼís and [[Zoroastrians have left since the [[Iranian Revolution|Islamic Revolution of 1979.
ReligionsThe Middle East is very diverse when it comes to [[Major religious groups|religions, many of which originated there. is the largest religion in the Middle East, but other faiths that originated there, such as and , are also well represented. Christians represent 40.5% of Lebanon, where the [[President of Lebanon|Lebanese president, half of the cabinet, and half of the parliament follow one of the various Lebanese Christian rites. There are also important minority religions like the [[Baháʼí Faith, [[Yarsanism, [[Yazidism, [[Zoroastrianism, [[Mandaeism, [[Druze, and [[Shabak people#Religious beliefs|Shabakism, and in ancient times the region was home to [[ancient Mesopotamian religion|Mesopotamian religions, [[ancient Canaanite religion|Canaanite religions, [[Manichaeism, [[Mithraic mysteries|Mithraism and various [[monotheist [[gnostic sects.
LanguagesThe five top languages, in terms of numbers of speakers, are [[Arabic dialects|Arabic, [[Persian language|Persian, [[Turkish language|Turkish, [[Kurdish languages|Kurdish, and [[Hebrew languages|Hebrew. Arabic and Hebrew represent the [[Afro-Asiatic languages|Afro-Asiatic [[language family. Persian and Kurdish belong to the [[Indo-European languages|Indo-European language family. Turkish belongs to [[Turkic languages|Turkic language family. About 20 minority languages are also spoken in the Middle East. Arabic, with all its dialects, are the most widely spoken languages in the Middle East, with [[Modern Standard Arabic|Literary Arabic being official in all North African and in most West Asian countries. Arabic dialects are also spoken in some adjacent areas in neighbouring Middle Eastern non-Arab countries. It is a member of the [[Semitic languages|Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic languages. Several [[Modern South Arabian languages such as [[Mehri language|Mehri and [[Soqotri language|Soqotri are also spoken Yemen and Oman. Another Semitic language such as [[Aramaic language|Aramaic and its dialects are spoken mainly by Assyrians and [[Mandaeans. There is also an [[Berber languages|Oasis Berber-speaking community in Egypt where the language is also known as [[Siwa language|Siwa. It is a non-Semitic Afro-Asiatic language. [[Persian language|Persian is the second most spoken language. While it is primarily spoken in and some border areas in neighbouring countries, the country is one of the region's largest and most populous. It belongs to the [[Indo-Iranian languages|Indo-Iranian branch of the family of [[Indo-European languages. Other Western Iranic languages spoken in the region include [[Achomi language|Achomi, [[Daylami language|Daylami, [[Kurdish languages|Kurdish dialects, [[Semnani language|Semmani, [[Luri language|Lurish, amongst many others. The third-most widely spoken language, [[Turkish language|Turkish, is largely confined to Turkey, which is also one of the region's largest and most populous countries, but it is present in areas in neighboring countries. It is a member of the [[Turkic languages, which have their origins in Central Asia. Another Turkic language, [[Azerbaijani language|Azerbaijani, is spoken by Azerbaijanis in Iran. [[Hebrew languages|Hebrew is one of the two official languages of [[Israel, the other being Arabic. Hebrew is spoken and used by over 80% of Israel's population, the other 20% using Arabic. [[English language|English is one of the official languages of Akrotiri and Dhekelia. It is also commonly taught and used as a second language, especially among the [[middle class|middle and [[upper classes, in countries such as , [[Jordan, , [[Kurdistan, , [[Qatar, [[Bahrain, [[United Arab Emirates and . It is also a main language in some Emirates of the United Arab Emirates. [[French language|French is taught and used in many government facilities and media in [[Lebanon, and is taught in some primary and secondary schools of and . [[Maltese language|Maltese, a Semitic language mainly spoken in Europe, is also used by the [[Maltese in Egypt|Franco-Maltese diaspora in Egypt. [[Armenian language|Armenian and [[Modern Greek|Greek speakers are also to be found in the region. [[Georgian language|Georgian is spoken by the Georgian diaspora. [[Russian language|Russian is spoken by a large portion of the Israeli population, because of [[Aliyah from the Commonwealth of Independent States in the 1990s|emigration in the late 1990s. Russian today is a popular unofficial language in use in [[Israel; news, radio and sign boards can be found in Russian around the country after Hebrew and Arabic. [[Northwest Caucasian languages|Circassian is also spoken by the diaspora in the region and by almost all Circassians in Israel who speak Hebrew and English as well. The largest [[Romanian language|Romanian-speaking community in the Middle East is found in [[Israel, where Romanian is spoken by 5% of the population.According to the 1993 ''Statistical Abstract of Israel'' there were 250,000 Romanian speakers in Israel, at a population of 5,548,523 (census 1995). [[Bengali language|Bengali, [[Hindi and [[Urdu are widely spoken by migrant communities in many Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia (where 20–25% of the population is South Asian), the United Arab Emirates (where 50–55% of the population is South Asian), and Qatar, which have large numbers of i, [[Bangladeshi and [[Indian immigrants.
EconomyMiddle Eastern economies range from being very poor (such as Gaza and Yemen) to extremely wealthy nations (such as Qatar and UAE). Overall, , according to the CIA World Factbook, all nations in the Middle East are maintaining a positive rate of growth. According to the [[World Bank's ''World Development Indicators'' database published on July 1, 2009, the three largest Middle Eastern economies in 2008 were Turkey ($794,228), Saudi Arabia ($467,601) and Iran ($385,143) in terms of [[List of countries by GDP (nominal)|Nominal GDP.The World Bank: World Economic Indicators Database. ''GDP (Nominal) 2008.''
See also* [[Etiquette in the Middle East * [[Hilly Flanks * [[Maayan (magazine)|''Maayan'' (magazine) * [[MENASA * [[Mental health in the Middle East * [[Middle Eastern cuisine * [[Middle Eastern music * [[Middle East Studies Association of North America * [[Orientalism * * [[Timeline of Middle Eastern history
Further reading* * * * * * * Cleveland, William L., and Martin Bunton. ''A History Of The Modern Middle East'' (6th ed. 201