Chapter 18
Cultural Geography of North Africa, Southwest
Asia, and Central Asia
1. North Africa
 Birthplace of earliest civilizations
 Rich cultural heritage
 Traditions and cultures have changed with modernization and
Population Patterns
 Indigenous ethnic groups, migrations, and the dramatic
climate have shaped population patterns in North Africa
 Indigenous cultures in North Africa have mixed with those
from Arabian Peninsula and Europe
The People
 Primary influence on the sub region is a mix of indigenous
and Arab cultures
Indigenous people of North Africa called Berbers
Most are farmers today
Previously they were pastoral nomads, groups of people who
move from place to place grazing their animals
Berbers are most populous in the Atlas Mountains and in the
The People
 Other principal ethnic group in North Africa - Arabs
 Egyptian civilization, 6000 years ago
 Spread throughout North Africa in the 600’s
 Bedouin - nomadic, Arabic-speaking people, migrated from
deserts of Southwest Asia, herd animals in deserts
The People
 North African peoples have had continuous contact with
Europe for hundreds of years
 French, Spanish Muslims and Romans have all influenced the
culture in this sub region
Density and Distribution
 Geographic factors, such as availability of water, influenced settlement in
North Africa
 People settled along seacoasts and in river deltas, or mouths, such as along Nile
River in Egypt
 Nile Delta region one of world's most densely populated areas
 Major population centers in North Africa are urban
 Examples:
Casablanca, Morocco
Algiers, Algeria
Tunis, Tunisia
Tripoli, Libya
Cairo, Egypt
 Cities in the region have grown rapidly
 some have not had the infrastructure, basic urban necessities such as streets and
utilities, to support this growth
Early Peoples and Civilizations
 Hunters and gatherers settled in North Africa about 10,000 years
 By 6000 BC, farming communities rise up along Nile River and
Mediterranean Sea
 Region’s farmers among the first to domesticate plants and animals
 Egyptian civilization developed along the Nile River about 6000
years ago
 Egyptians:
1. Created a calendar year with 365 days
2. Used sophisticated irrigation systems
3. Built pyramids as tombs to for their rules
4. Invented form of picture writing called hieroglyphics
Invasions of North Africa
Seventh century invasions of Arabs from Arabian Peninsula
Arabs have heavily influenced cultures of North Africa since
Arabs brought Islamic religion and culture to Morocco
Spanish Muslim and Jewish exiles fleeing Christian persecution
settled in Morocco in 1400s
Ottoman Empire conquered Algeria in 1500s
France conquered Algeria in mid 1800s
Geometric boundaries, or straight line boundaries which do not
account for natural and cultural features, exist between Libya,
Egypt and Algeria
These boundaries were drawn by European colonial powers, often
caused conflict
 During 1800’s, well-educated urban middle class adopts
nationalism, or a belief in the right of an ethnic group to have its
own independent country
Egypt gained independence from UK in 1922
Suez Canal, important shipping lane that connect the
Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea across Egypt, has made Egypt a
key power
Algeria gained independence from France in mid 1900s
Libya won independence from Italy in 1951
Then ruled by strong, Western-friendly monarchy
In 1969, coup led by Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi overthrew the
Qaddafi has ruled the oil rich country to this day
Religion and Language
 Arabs brought religion of Islam to North Africa when they invaded
 Most were Sunni, which makes up 85% of 1.5 billion Muslims world wide
 Sunnis believe that leadership should be in the hands of the Islamic community
at large
Most Berbers have adopted Islam
Calls to worship occur five times each day in countries with large Muslim
Muezzin, or crier, calls the faithful to prayer from a tower of each local mosque
Following the movements of the imam, or prayer leader, they bow and kneel,
touching foreheads to the ground in the direction of the holy city of Makkah
(Mecca) in Saudi Arabia
Arabic language also spread across North Africa
Non-Arab Muslims learned Arabic in order to read the Quran, the Islamic holy
Arabic became the regions main language
Education and Health Care
 Most young people in North Africa attend school
 Primary education is free
 Literacy rates range widely, from 52 percent in Morocco to
82 percent in Libya
 Health care has also improved recently
 People often go to government-owned hospitals for medical
treatment, but doctor shortages mean limited care for rural
The Arts
 Egyptians built towering pyramids to serve as royal tombs for
their leaders
 Arts of weaving, embroidery and metalworking in the region
are highly influenced by Islam
2. The Eastern Mediterranean
 Eastern Mediterranean birthplace of three major world
religions; Judaism, Christianity and Islam
 Different peoples have laid claim to the lands for religious
 Periods of conflict and war have resulted
 In Israel today, Jewish and Palestinian people both claim
rights to the same lands
Population Patterns
 Migrations, claims to ancestral homes, boundary disputes
have influenced pop. patterns in the eastern Mediterranean
 Inhabited by millions of Arab and Jewish people
 Jewish people speak Hebrew, and if they are religious,
practice Judaism
 Arabs speak Arabic, and primarily practice Islam
The People
 7.1 million people living in E. Mediterranean are Israelis
living in Israel
80% are Jewish
Jews trace heritage to Israelites
Israelites in ancient times settled in Canaan, land shared
today by Israel and Lebanon
Israelites believed that God had given them this area as a
Over time, many Jews moved to other countries
The People
 In 1948, Israel founded as a Jewish state
 Arabs in the region did not want Jewish state
 Tensions between Arabs and Jews have led to
many wars
 Palestinians – Arabs displaced from their homes
during wars with Israel, forced to live as
refugees in neighboring countries such as Syria,
Lebanon and Jordan
Density and Distribution
 Dry climate causes majority in Eastern Mediterranean to live
along Euphrates River
Some of the highest population densities in Southwest Asia
Lebanon - population density of 941 people per square mile
Region is primarily urban
More than 75% of people in Israel, Jordan and Lebanon live in
Over 50% in Syria and Palestine live in cities
Israel has experienced intense immigration since founding in 1948
1 million Jews have migrated from former Soviet Union since
People of Israel have migrated from more than 100 countries,
making it ethnically diverse
History and Government
 Eastern Mediterranean home to three of the world's
major religions
 Has shaped politics and culture here for centuries
 Due to proximity to Europe, Africa and Asia, Eastern
Mediterranean has been occupied throughout history
Early Civilizations
 Region has been occupied by important cultures and empires
 Ebla, Syria was an important commercial trade center by
3000 BC
 populated by hundreds of thousands of people by around
2400 BC
 Damascus, Syria, one of the oldest cities in the world,
continuously settled
Religion as History
 Three major religions began here: Judaism, Christianity, and
 All share many beliefs, particularly monotheism, or belief in
one god
 Jerusalem is of special importance to all three religions
 One of the oldest of the monotheistic faiths
 Trace origin to the ancient Israelites, who created kingdom
of Israel along the eastern Mediterranean coast
 Jerusalem was their capital and religious center
 Jews recorded their history in the Hebrew Bible, consisting
of the Torah, the prophets and the sacred writings
 In 30 AD, Jewish teacher named Jesus began preaching and
gathering followers
 Followers believed they would go to heaven after death
 Became basis for Christianity
 Christian Scriptures included the Hebrew Bible (Old
Testament), the New Testament (writings and teachings of
Jesus and early Christian communities)
 States that AD 610, revelations from God came to
Muhammad a merchant in the city of Mecca in the Arabian
Peninsula (Saudi Arabia)
Followers claimed he was last in line of prophets, or
messengers, that included Abraham and Jesus
By AD 700, Islam spread through the region and into Europe
Muslims built mosques, or houses of worship
Independence and Conflict
 Over time, Islamic empires in region rose and fell
 Physical geography limited sub regions economic
 Lacked resources such as minerals, wood and coal to fuel
industrial revolution like Europe
 By late 1800s, European powers controlled large areas in the
eastern Mediterranean
Arab-Israeli Conflict
 Jews expelled from their homeland by the Romans
 Jews settled in communities all over the world, often experiencing
Many Jews, called Zionists, began to call for a return to Palestine
After WWII, wars broke out among Jews, Arabs and British forces
in the region
UN decided in 1947 to divide Palestine into a Jewish state and an
Arab state
When British withdrew form the area, the Jews proclaimed the
Independent state of Israel in 1948
Arabs and Israelis fought 6 wars in next 25years
In 1948 and 1967 conflicts, victorious Israeli forces occupied Arab
Religion and Language
 Majority who practice Islam follow Sunni branch
 Arabs in Syria and Lebanon follow the Shia branch
 Jews and Christians make up only a small percentage of the population
 Most Jews live in Israel
 Christians live in Lebanon and Syria
 During Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, Muslims fast during daylight
 Many Muslims dress modestly
 Some Muslim women wear a veil over their face and completely cover
their hands and feet
 Primary language is Arabic
Education and Health Care
 Compulsory and free
 Literacy rates vary from 76 percent in Syria to 96 percent in
 Hospitals are often government owned
3. The Northeast
 Primarily Turkey, Iraq and Iran
 Region where cultures are fundamentally tied to religions
 Islam is the most practiced of them all.
 Islam now the fastest growing religion in the world.
The People
 Ethnic populations in Northeast migrated from Central Asia
and Arabian Peninsula
 Religion of Islam has become a dominant aspect of these
 Present day Turkey (formerly Anatolia) has been occupied by
many different peoples in past 8000 years
Turks migrated to the peninsula around AD 1000 from
Central Asia
One group, known as Ottoman Turks, built the Ottoman
OT ruled much of the eastern Mediterranean for more than
600 years
Spanned an area that covered northern Africa, western Asia
and southeastern Europe
Most Turks practice Islam, speak Turkish
 Appr. 67 million people live in Iran (formerly Persia)
 Iran means “land of the Aryans”, or Indo-Europeans who
came from Southern Russia
 Iranians speak Farsi, or Persian
 Approximately 90 percent practice Shia Islam
 Majority of people living in Iraq are Arabs (migrated from
Arabian peninsula)
 Most Arabs in Iraq are Shia Musliams
 Only about 35 percent are Sunni
 Iraqi’s mostly speak Arabic
 Have lived for more than 2000 years in the mountainous
border areas of Turkey, Iraq and Iran
Most are Sunni Muslims
Most speak Kurdish, language related to Farsi
Kurds call their territory Kurdistan
Kurds have not gained independence, despite several tries
Density and Distribution
 Most populous countries in Northeast are Turkey and Iran
(around 70 million each)
Large cities and towns are common
Large cities:
Istanbul, Turkey
Baghdad, Iraq
Tehran, Iran
These cities dominate social and cultural life in their
respective countries
Civilizations and Empires
 Many civilizations arose in Mesopotamia, the area between the
Tigris and Euphrates rivers (present day Iraq)
This area became one of the worlds first culture hearths, or centers
where cultures developed and spread outward
Mesopotamia part of a large agricultural region known as the
Fertile Crescent
Mesopotamia was home to the Sumerian civilization
Sumerians mastered farming by using irrigation
Made great progress in mathematics and engineering, and created
a code of law
Developed a writing system call cuneiform, using wedge shaped
symbols written on clay tablets
Civilizations and Empires
 Phoenician civilization, began along eastern Mediterranean
coast, around 3000 BC
 Developed a new alphabet in which letters stood for sounds,
formed the basis for modern alphabets
 500 BC, Persian Empire extended across the region
 Persians built ganats ,or underground canals, meant to
prevent water from evaporating in surface canals
Civilizations and Empires
 Ottoman Empire, 1000 – 1600, present day Turkey
 Spanned an area that covered northern Africa, western Asia
and southeastern Europe
The Modern Era
 Europeans controlled much of Northeast by late 1800s
 Britain controlled Iraq until 1932
 Since Iraq has experienced turmoil
 Ottoman Empire ended during WWI
 Turkey established in 1923
 In Iran, their secular (non – religious) government was
overthrown during the Islamic Revolution of 1979
 Clerics, or mullahs, came to power, continue to rule today
The Era of Oil
 Oil discovered in Persian Gulf in early 1900s
 In late 1950’s, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela
formed OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting
 In 1973, OPEC placed an embargo, or ban on trade, to the US
after becoming angry at US support of Israel in Arab-Israeli
Language and Religion
 Most people who live in this region speak Arabic
 This is not the case in Iran and Turkey, however
 In Turkey, Turkic peoples speak Turkish
 In Iran, Persians speak Persian or Farsi
 Shia Muslims are the most populous religious group in both
Iraq and Iran
 In Turkey, majority of Muslims are Sunni, but Turkey is more
Education and Health Care
 Required through grade 6 in Iraq and grade 8 in Turkey
 Literacy rate 80 percent in Iran and 86 percent in Turkey
 Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, education in Iran has
become more religious in focus
 Hospitals are government owned and often suffer from
doctor shortages
4. The Arabian Peninsula
 A mix of tradition and modernity, religion and growing
 People of the peninsula have adapted to this climate,
especially the nomadic peoples
Population Patterns
 Harsh desert climate of Arabian Desert has led most people
to live along the coasts.
The People
 Most people in the subregion are Arabs
 Most Arabs are Muslims
 Descent from ancient groups such as Egyptians, Phoenicians,
Saharan Berbers
 Today, many immigrants have come to the Arabian Peninsula
from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Iran in search of good
Density and Distribution
 Harsh desert, lush coastal climates dictate where the
majority of people live on the AP
In Bahrain, 89 percent of the population live in Manama and
Al Muharraq, its two main cities
Discovery of oil in the early 1900s led to increased wealth,
modernization and immigration in many Arab countries
In the United Arab Emirates, immigrants make up a majority
of the population (only 15-20 % of pop. are citizens)
Foreign workers make up greater than 50 percent of Qatar’s
population and more than 60 percent in Kuwait
History and Government
 Conquering empires have imposed cultures on peoples of the
Arabian Peninsula that remain influential to this day
 People of the region sought protection from Great Britain in
fighting off rule by other outsiders, such as the Ottoman
Early Cultures and Conquests
 Vibrant cultures have existed on the AP for 5000 years
 Large settlements have existed primarily along the coast
 Powerful family ruled Arabian Peninsula beginning around
Arabs struggled against invasion by Ottoman Empire
Threatened by the Ottoman Empire, Arabs signed treaties
with GB for protection in the 1800-early 1900s
Kuwait, Bahrain and Quatar signed treaties with GB as well
Saudi Arabia was established in 1932
 Kuwait gains independence from GB - mid 1900s
 United Arab Emirates - established in 1971
 UAE formed from a group of tribal sheikhdoms, or territories ruled
by an Islamic religious leader
Kuwait and Qatar are ruled by emirs, or princes
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman are monarchies
Saudi Arabia follows sharia’ah, or Islamic law, based on the Quran
Standards of living vary widely across AP
Urban countries with oil wealth have relatively high standards of
Qatar’s oil and gas reserves have given its people one of the
highest per capita incomes in the world
 Foreign workers are bringing their own cultures to the area
 Large cities are growing in need for more foreign workers to
support growing industries
 Sunni and Shia Muslims dominant on the peninsula
 Many believe in making a pilgrimage, or haji, to Mecca at
least once in their life
Ibadhism, found in Oman, differs form Shia and Sunni sects
Ibadhists practice a moderate conservatism, choose ruler by
communal consensus and consent
Oman is the only Islamic country to have a majority Ibadhi
Wahhabi sect of Sunni branch, advocates the literal teachings
of the Quran
Education and Health Care
 Most children and young people attend school
 Kuwait, 83 % literacy
 Qatar, 89% literacy
 Barain, 89% literacy
 Health care varies widely from country to country, and even
more widely from urban to rural
 Government owned hospitals are not always fully staffed
 Private health care available, but often associated with a
particular social or religious group
5. Central Asia
 A crossroads of cultures and empires
 A destination for people emigrating from their homelands to
escape harsh political or economic situations
Population Patterns
 Challenges for Central Asia:
 Invasions
 Domination by numerous empires
 Rugged landscape
The People
 Afghanistan, located at southern tip of Central Asia
 Mountainous country
 Home to many ethnic groups due to migrations and invasions
 Pashtun is the predominant ethnic group
Density and Distribution
 Afghanistan – 30 million people, most populous country in
Central Asia
Population has been shaped by conflict
1915, 1 million Armenians in Turkey killed, deported or died
of illness at hands of Ottoman Turks
20 percent of Armenia's people left looking for better life
Georgia, 300,000 have left or been displaced
Majority of Tajikistan’s people live and work in river valleys
History and Government
 Location of C.A. has left people vulnerable to centuries of
 After centuries of foreign domination, countries of C.A.
working to find economic and political stability
Cultures and Conquest
 Cultural roots go back 2500 years
 Kingdom of Urartu dates back to 800 BC
 Ruled the entire Caucasus region
 Beginning in 100BC, parts of CA prospered from the Silk
Road, trade route connecting China with the Mediterranean
 Many cities along this route thrived as trading centers
Cultures and Conquest
 In 1200s AD, Genghis Khan and Mongol forces invade area and
establish empire
Negatives: killed many
Positives: Brought paper money and safer trade routes
Armenia resisted
Today, Armenia is an enclave - territory that is culturally or
ethnically different from surrounding larger cultures
Over 90 percent of Armenians practice Christianity
People of Azerbaijan, Islamic, surrounded by Christian Caucasus,
form an exclave, or a distinct group of people who are isolated
from the main or larger part of the country
During 1900’s, Central Asia dominated by Soviet Union
 Numerous CA countries declared independence when Soviet
Union dissolved in 1991
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 prompted fighting by
the mujahedeen, or freedom fighters
After Soviets left, the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban took
control of most of country
Poverty and unemployment widespread across CA
2001, US overthrows Taliban in Afghanistan in retaliation for
New Afghan government still faces many challenges,
corruption, resurgent Taliban
Language and Religion
 Majority speak Turkic languages
 Russia remains official language in Kazakhstan
 Islam dominant religion, with most practicing Sunni branch
 Christianity majority in two countries, Armenia and Georgia
Education and Health Care
 Public education, mandatory through secondary school in a
few countries
 Tajikistan – 88 % literacy
 Armenia and Georgia – 99% literacy
 Health care weakened by breakup of Soviet Union

Chapter 18