chapter objectives
This chapter should enable you to:
• Understand and explain the mostly beneficial relationships between villagers,
pastoral nomads, and city dwellers in an environmentally challenging region
• Know the basic beliefs and sacred places of Jews, Christians, and Muslims
• Recognize the importance of petroleum to this region and the world economy
• Identify the geographic chokepoints and oil pipelines that are among the world’s
most strategically important places and routes
• Appreciate the problems of control over fresh water in this arid region
• Know what al-Qa’ida and other Islamist terrorist groups are and what they want
Fig. 8-CO (a), p. 198
Fig. 8-1, p. 200
Fig. 8-2, p. 200
Table 8-1, p. 201
Fig. 8-3a, p. 202
Fig. 8-3b, p. 202
Fig. 8-4, p. 203
Fig. 8-5a, p. 204
Fig. 8-5b, p. 204
Egypt’s Western Desert – “Seas of Sand”
Fig. 8-6, p. 204
Fig. 8-7, p. 204
Petra, Ancient City
of trade in Jordan
Fig. 8-8, p. 205
Mountains in
Turkey near
the Black Sea
Fig. 8-9, p. 205
The Dead Sea
Fig. 8-10, p. 206
Taurus Mountains of southeastern Turkey
Fig. 8-11, p. 206
Petra, Ancient City
of trade in Jordan
Boat of Lebanon Cedar, from King Cheops (Egyptian) Tomb
Fig. 8-12, p. 206
Fig. 8-13, p. 207
Pastoral Nomadism
The breeding and herding of
domesticated animals for
Bedouin Shepherd
Somali Nomad and Tent
 where: arid and semi-arid areas of
N. Africa, Middle East, Central Asia
 animals: Camel, Goats, Sheep,
 transhumance: seasonal
migrations from highlands to
Most nomads are being pressured
into sedentary life as land is used
for agriculture or mining.
Bedouin Nomad
Figure 8-A, p. 209
Fig. 8-14, p. 210
Turkish Bazaar or suq
Fig. 8-15, p. 211
Fig. 8-16, p. 212
Fig. 8-17, p. 213
Figure 8-B, p. 214
Jerusalem’s Western Wall, Temple Mount, and Noble Sanctuary. At left, below
the golden dome is the Western Wall, last remnant of the Jew’s Second
Temple. The dome is the Muslim’s Dome of the Rock. The black dome on the
right is the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Another Muslim holy place.
Fig. 8-18, p. 214
Jerusalem’s Church
of the Holy
Sepulcher, containing
the spots where
many Christians
believe Christ was
crucified and buried.
Fig. 8-19, p. 215
The Ka’aba in Mecca’s Great Mosque during the Hajj.
Fig. 8-20, p. 216
Fig. 8-21, p. 219
Egpyt’s Suez Canal, one of many contested
sites in the region.
Fig. 8-22, p. 220
Figure 8-C, p. 221
Fig. 8-24, p. 223
Fig. 8-25, p. 224
Fig. 8-26, p. 225
Fig. 8-27, p. 228
• Events in the Middle East and North Africa profoundly affect the daily lives of
people around the world, yet this region is often misunderstood. Misleading
stereotypes about its environment and people are common, and people outside
the region often associate it solely with military conflict and terrorism.
• The region has bestowed upon humanity a rich legacy of ancient civilizations,
including those of Egypt and Mesopotamia, and the three great monotheistic
faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
• Middle Easterners include Jews, Arabs, Turks, Persians, Pashtuns, Berbers,
people of sub-Saharan African origin, and other ethnic groups who practice a
wide variety of ancient and modern livelihoods.
• Arabs are the largest ethnic group in the Middle East and North Africa, and there
are also large populations of ethnic Turks, Persians (Iranians), and Kurds. Islam
is by far the largest religion. Jews live almost exclusively in Israel, and there are
minority Christian populations in several countries.
• Population growth rates in the region are moderate to high. Oil wealth is
concentrated in a handful of countries, and as a whole, this is a developing
• The Middle East has served as a pivotal global crossroads, linking Asia, Europe,
Africa, and the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean. These countries have
historically been unwilling hosts to occupiers and empires originating far
beyond their borders.
• The margins of this region are occupied by oceans, high mountains, and
deserts. The land is composed mainly of arid and semiarid plains and plateaus,
together with considerable areas of rugged mountains and isolated “seas” of
• Aridity dominates the environment, with at least three-fourths of the region
receiving less than 10 inches (25 cm) of yearly precipitation. Plants, animals,
and people have developed strategies of drought avoidance and drought
endurance to live here. In addition, great river systems and freshwater aquifers
have sustained large human populations.
• Many of the plants and animals upon which the world’s agriculture depends
were first domesticated in the Middle East in the course of the Agricultural
• The Middle Eastern “ecological trilogy” consists of peasant villagers, pastoral
nomads, and city-dwellers. The relationships among them have been mainly
symbiotic and peaceful, but city dwellers have often dominated the relationship,
and both pastoral nomads and urbanites have sometimes preyed upon the
villagers, who are the trilogy’s cornerstone.
• About two-thirds of the world’s oil is here, making this one of the world’s most
vital economic and strategic regions.
• Since World War II, several international crises and wars have been precipitated
by events in the Middle East. Strong outside powers depend heavily on this
region for their current and future industrial needs. Unimpeded access to Gulf
oil is one of the pillars of U.S. foreign policy.
• The Middle East and North Africa are characterized by a high number of
chokepoints, strategic marine narrows that may be shut off by force, triggering
conflict and economic disruption.
• Oil pipelines in the Middle East are routed both to shorten sea tanker voyages
and to reduce the threat to sea tanker traffic through chokepoints but are
themselves vulnerable to disruption.
• Access to fresh water is a major problem in relations between Turkey and its
downstream neighbors, Egypt and its upstream neighbors, and Israel and its
Palestinian, Jordanian, and Syrian neighbors.
• Al-Qa’ida and affiliated Islamist terrorist groups aim to drive the United States
and its allied governments from the region and to replace them with an Islamic
caliphate. Al-Qa’ida is an apocalyptic group that seeks to inflict mass casualties
on its enemies, particularly on Americans in their home country.

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