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Useful Notes / The Middle East

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One of the world's most volatile regions, the traditional definition of the Middle East, pictured to the right and which the countries listed down below go by, are the countries of Western Asia that are south of The Caucasus. The Greater Middle East political definition, coined in the Early 2000's by the George W. Bush Administration, throws in the entirety of North Africa as far west as Morocco, which is just south of Spain (while the traditional Middle East only includes Egypt, as it is a transcontinental country in both North Africa and Western Asia), as well as Mauritania in West Africa, Djibouti and Somalia in East Africa, and Afghanistan and Pakistan in South Asia, fitting more closely with Arab World and Muslim World respectively (note that the three terms are technically not synonymous). The Caucasus and Central Asia are sometimes also included in the Greater Middle East due to sociopolitical connections. The Near East, mainly in texts originating in Europe (both English and foreign texts), is described as the Levant (Cyprus, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, as well as Hatay Province in Turkey) plus Iraq, while the Middle East is the area around Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and all those other -stans. This can cause a mess for translators as well, so you always better make sure what the author's definition of the term is and preferably attach your own definition if writing about it yourself.
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The Middle East is generally considered the "cradle of civilization" (to the West, at least; it is now generally accepted that multiple civilization cradles sprung up across the world independently from each other); the earliest civilizations in the world (in the modern sense of the word) - Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian - developed in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) and the surrounding areas about 5000 years ago; Ancient Egypt showed up at about the same time as Sumer, and Mesopotamian and Egyptian empires would later trade territory in the Levant. The whole area served as an important cultural and trade center in ancient times.

One should note that not all of the Middle East is autocratic and theocratic like Saudi Arabia. Some states are more liberal (and desert-covered) than others. Additionally, not everyone in the Middle East is even Muslim, as Egyptian Coptic Christians, Israeli Jews and Lebanese Maronite Christians, among others, would point out. Likewise, even leaving aside Turkey, Israel and Iran (Turks, Jews and Persians, respectively), not everyone in the Middle East is Arab, as Albanians, Armenians, Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syrians (yes, those Assyrians), Azerbaijanis, Georgians, Greeks, Kurds, Slavs, migrant South Asians, and Turkmens, among many others, would point out.

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Also note that the Middle East is not just a big desert, as countries like Turkey, Israel, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Iran are covered with forests and mountains. It even snows in the Middle East, with Lebanon and Iran having ski resorts and the latter being hit by the deadliest blizzard in history in 1972.

Countries

Anatolia

Capital: Ankara
Largest City: Istanbul

Mediterranean Sea

Capital & Largest City: Nicosia
Capital & Largest City: North Nicosia

Sinai Peninsula

Capital & Largest City: Cairo

Fertile Crescent

Capital & Largest City: Baghdad
Capital & Largest city: Jerusalem (limited recognition)
Capital & Largest City: Amman
Capital & Largest City: Beirut
Proclaimed Capital: Jerusalem
Administrative Center: Ramallah
Largest City: Gaza City
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Capital & Largest City: Damascus

Arabian Peninsula

Capital & Largest City: Manama
Capital & Largest City: Kuwait City
Capital & Largest City: Muscat
Capital & Largest City: Doha
Capital & Largest City: Riyadh
Capital: Abu Dhabi
Largest City: Dubai
Capital & Largest City: Sana'a (de jure)

Iranian Plateau

Capital & Largest City: Tehran

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