The Middle East
Cultural
Geography
Three major ethnic groups of the
Middle East
• Arabs
• Persians
• Turks
*The major religion is Islam, followed by
Christianity and Judaism.
Two cultural tools came from the
Middle East…
• Western alphabet
• Western numbers
Three religions originated in this
region:
• Judaism
• Christianity
• Islam
Countries with the Largest Muslim
Population
1. Indonesia
183,000,000
6. Iran
62,000,000
2. Pakistan
134,000,000
7. Egypt
59,000,000
3. India
121,000,000
8. Nigeria
53,000,000
4. Bangladesh
114,000,000
9. Algeria
31,000,000
10. Morocco
29,000,000
5. Turkey
66,000,000
* Arabs make up only 20% of the total
Muslim population of the world.
To whom does the term Arabic
refer?
* People who speak Arabic and share a
common culture…
By what factors are Arabs united?
* Their language, customs, and (to some
extent) their religion
Muslims practice Islam
• The word Islam means “submission or
surrender to the will of God.”
• An Arab merchant named Muhammed
taught that there was only one Allah, or
God.
• He said that he was God’s messenger.
• His teachings are the foundation of Islam.
Don’t get confused!
• All 3 Middle Eastern Religions (Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam) are monotheistic (belief in
one god)
• Christians, however, believe in God as a trinity
(father, son, holy spirit) and that Jesus was God’s
son
• Muslims believe that Muhammed was God’s
messenger (not son)
• Jews believe that the Messiah has not yet arrived
• All 3 share the same foundation through the
lineage of Abraham
Abraham’s Genealogy
HAGAR
ABRAHAM
Ishmael
12 Arabian
Tribes
SARAH
Isaac
Jacob
12 Tribes of
Israel
Esau
Five pillars of Islam…
• The hajj (the
pilgrimage to the city
of Mecca, the
birthplace of
Muhammed)
• Belief in one God
• Prayer 5 times daily
• The giving of alms
• Fasting during the
holy month of
Ramadan
The hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) is
an important aspect of Islam
*Millions travel to Mecca each year!
Mecca road sign
What about these required prayers?
The mandatory prayers
performed 5 times a day:
* dawn
* noon
* late afternoon
* sunset
* before going to bed
Wash before praying.
Face Mecca and use a prayer
rug.
 The call to prayer by the
muezzin in the minaret.

Pray in the mosque on Friday.
2
 Those who complete the
pilgrimage can add the title
hajji to their name.
5
Three non-Arab Muslim groups
include…
•
•
•
•
•
•
Turks
Persians
Kurds
Indonesians
Pakistanis
Nigerians
How do the Turks and Persians differ
from the Arabs?
• Although they share the Muslim religion,
their customs and languages are different
from those of the Arabs.
What foundations of faith do
Christians and Jews have that are
comparable to the five pillars?
The Ten Commandments
Which Middle Eastern people are nonMuslim, and where do they live?
• Christians—Cyprus and Lebanon
• Jews—Israel
How are the roles of Middle Eastern
women different from those of the
United States and Western Europe?
• In many Middle Eastern countries, women
and men are expected to live apart more
often.
• Generally speaking, women have less
power and opportunity in the Middle East.
In some countries, laws limit their conduct
and they must follow strict rules.
Currently, the M.E. is experiencing a rise in conflict
between the two major groups of muslims- Sunni and
Shia. This has caused religious conflict in the area that
goes back more than a 1000 years.
Other factors contributing to unrest:
1. Cultural conflicts
2. Non-democratic governments
3. Lack of economic development
Bazaars
• Bazaars are outdoor
markets where many
of the same items
traded long ago are
still traded today.
• Textiles, fine carpets,
and farm products are
often traded.
OPEC, the Organization of
Petroleum Exporting Countries
• This organization was formed to help the
oil-producing countries get a fairer price for
their oil.
More oil facts:
• The Middle East and North Africa produce
1/3 of the world’s oil annually.
• Saudi Arabia produces the most oil annually
(over 3 billion barrels)!
• Oil-rich nations use oil money to produce
schools, airports, highways, ports, hospitals,
and factories.
Agriculture in Israel
• To farm their harsh lands, the early settlers
of Israel developed two special kinds of
farms:
* a moshav (cooperative farm)
* a kibbutz (collective farm)
Israel uses advanced agricultural technology
to farm the arid land.
Arts and Recreation
• Storytellers are highly regarded in this
region.
• Muslim artists are known for their
calligraphy.
• Camel racing is a popular traditional sport.
• Sports and recreation in this area combine
old and new pastimes.
Middle Eastern Governments
• Absolute rulers have complete power.
Their authority cannot be challenged.
• Most Middle Eastern rulers have traditional
titles such as sultan or emir.
• Many governments in the Middle East rely
on Islamic law, or sharia, to govern them
fully or partially.
More recently, the Middle East has received a
great deal of attention for an anti-government
Afghan terrorist group.
• There is a Muslim extremist group that has added
a sixth pillar of Islam. This sixth pillar is the
“jihad,” or “holy war.” It includes the belief that
dying in the name of Allah sends one directly to
heaven.
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The Middle East