Cultural
Characteristics of the
Middle East
Background
 Arab
peoples make up almost the entire
populations of Jordan, Syria, Egypt,
Lebanon, and other states of Southwest
Asia.
 Arab culture has a long history and rich
traditions.
 Many other cultures also live in the region.
Background
 Christianity
and Judaism are major
religions practiced in Southwest Asia.
 Most people there are Muslims.
 This means that they practice the religion
of Islam.
 Ninety percent of people in the region are
Muslims.
Arab
 Arabs
comprise most of the population of
Southwest Asia.
 However, many Arabs also live in Northern
Africa, Canada, Europe, and the United
States.
 Most Arabs practice Islam and speak
Arabic.
 Small numbers of Arabs practice other
religions.
Arab
 Islam
consists mostly of two different
groups.
 The majority of Muslims practice Sunni
Islam.
 Most others practice Shi’a Islam.
 Sunnis and Shi’a disagree about who is in
charge of the Muslim world.
Jewish

Israel is home for much of the Jewish population
in the Southwest Asia.
 Many of the people who live in Israel today were
born there.
 However, the ancestors of these people moved
to Israel from many other countries, often from
other Southwest Asian countries.
 Much of this migration happened during the 20th
century, after the formation of Israel in the late
1940s.
Jewish

Jewish people differ in their religious beliefs,
though most practice some form of Judaism.
 For example, some Jews believe that Jewish
people who convert to another religion should
not be considered Jewish any more.
 The Law of Return in Israel says that a Jew from
any other country can automatically have
citizenship in Israel.
 Sometimes Jews who no longer practice
Judaism have been denied the Law of Return.
Berber
 Another
minority group in the region are
the Berbers.
 Most Berbers live in North Africa and were
the first group to settle that region.
 They still live a traditional way of life today.
 Berbers have their own languages.
Berber
 Many
Berber tribes live in the mountains
and deserts.
 Most Berbers living in mountainous areas
are farmers.
 Berbers who live in the desert tend to live
near an oasis.
 Berbers that do not farm are nomadic.
Berber
 The
majority of Berber tribes are Muslim.
 Some Berbers practice other religions, too.
 Traditional Berber cuisine has stayed the
same for hundreds of years.
Bedouin
 The
Bedouin are another ethnic group.
 They speak Arabic.
 Many Bedouin used to be nomadic.
 Their most important animal is the camel.
 Now, the Bedouin live mostly in Saudi
Arabia, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq.
Bedouin
 Most
Bedouin now live in cities and are not
nomadic.
 Bedouin tribes are ruled by tribal leaders
called sheikhs. Most Bedouins practice
Islam.
 The Bedouin are well known for their dress
and music, which is mostly sung.
 Music is used to perform traditional
Bedouin ceremonies.
Kurdish
 Southwest Asia
is also home to the
Kurdish people.
 The Kurds live in several countries
throughout the region.
 These include Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and
Iran. Almost one-fifth of the population of
Turkey is Kurdish.
 Kurdish religion used to be made up of a
mixture of several different religions.
Kurdish
 Most
Kurds today are Muslims.
 Kurdish Muslims are usually less strict
about certain Islamic practices.
 There are fewer laws for how Kurdish
women should dress than there are for
Iranian and Arab women.
 Kurds share many aspects of their culture
with Iranians.
Turkish
 The
Turks are an ethnic group based on
language—Turkish.
 They live mostly in Turkey and Iran.
 Most of the people who live in Turkey are
of Turkish descent.
 Most Turks practice some form of Islam.
 Like Kurds, Turkish people are rarely strict
about some Islamic practices.
Turkish
 However,
Kurds and Turks in Turkey often
fight over issues not related to religion.
 For example, education is a controversial
issue between these two groups.
 The Turkish people are well known for
their architecture.
 Mosques in Turkey are a good example of
Turkish architecture.
Persian

The Persians are an ethnic group that lived in
Iran before the arrival of Islam in the 7th century.
 Persians make up about half of Iran’s current
population.
 They have their own language called Persian or
Farsi.
 Most Persians in Iran today practice Shi’a Islam,
but some are Sunni and other religions.
Persian

Persian women have faced many challenges as
a result of strict cultural and religious practices.
 Through struggle, Persian women have
increased their personal freedoms over the past
forty years.
 Persian art and architecture is also well known.
 Many people consider Persian rugs to be among
the finest in the world.
Literacy and Development





Education is free in many countries in the
Southwest Asia.
Many students are required to attend school
through high school.
Fighting often keeps students from showing up
at school.
Many students also live so far from the schools
that getting to school is difficult.
The literacy rates for people over fifteen years of
age are: 77% in Syria; 79% in Iran; 95% in
Israel; and 79% in Saudi Arabia.
Literacy and Development
 The
literacy rates in Israel are higher than
in other Southwest Asian countries.
 In all of these countries, more men tend to
be able to read and write than women.
 This is especially true in Syria, Iran, and
Saudi Arabia.
 Overall in some countries women’s
education is not valued as much as men’s
education.
Literacy and Development
 Women
receive a different education than
men in some areas.
 Literacy has a large impact on a country’s
development.
 For example, an increase in the literacy
rate often leads to an increase in individual
rights.
 Literacy rates also have an impact on a
country’s economy.
Summary
 Describe
the different ethnic groups that
make up the Middle East.
 How does literacy and education affect the
Middle East?
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Cultural Characteristics of the Middle East