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Life in the Arab League
Life in the Arab League

Population Density of the League Members

The Arab League is a culturally and ethnically diverse league of 22 member states. As of January 1, 2007, the population of the Arab League was about 340 million people.

The most populous member state is Egypt, with a population of 80 million people. Djibouti is the least populated with around 500,000 inhabitants. Most of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf import high amounts of foreign labor. For example, the UAE's native inhabitants make up less than 20% of its overall population.

Some Persian Gulf Arab states import cheap labor from poorer Arab countries such as Yemen, while others turn to countries in Asia and Africa.


Population growth

The population of the Arab League as estimated by the CIA in the year 2007 was around 340,000,000, making it (if ranked as a single country) third after China and India in overall population. No exact figures of the League's annual population growth, fertility rate, or mortality rate are known to exist.

Most of the Arab League's population is concentrated in and around major urban areas.

Religion in the Arab World

Map showing percentages of Muslim in Arab States

Islam, Christianity, and Judaism were all founded in or near areas that are now Arab League countries. Consequently, the majority of the Arab League's citizens are either Muslims, Christians or Jews. The countries of the Arab League host several holy cities and other religiously significant locations, including Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Alexandria, Mecca, Medina, Kirkuk, Arbil, and Baghdad. Sunni Muslims make up the Majority of the Arab League's citizens. However, large numbers of Shi'a Muslims make up the majority in areas of Lebanon, Iraq, and Bahrain. Christianity is the second largest religion in the League, with over 20 million Christians living in countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, Syria, and Jordan. There are smaller Jewish populations living mainly in the western part of the Arab league. Places such as Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, all have Jewish populations. However, most Arab Jews emigrated from the Arab states to Israel after its founding in 1948. Other minor religions such as the Bahá'í Faith are practiced on a much smaller scale.

  • Muslim population - 311,093,951
  • Total population - 339,510,535

Religious percentages of the Arab League

N Country Muslims Christians Others
_  Arab League 88% 6.5% 5.5%
1  Algeria 97% 2% 1%
2  Bahrain 81.2% 9% 8.81%
3  Comoros 99% 1% n/a
4  Djibouti 94% 5% 1%
5  Egypt 90% 10% n/a
6  Iraq 95% 4.3% 0.7%
7  Jordan 93% 6% 1%
8  Kuwait 67.5% 16% 16%
9  Lebanon 55.7% 43% 1.3%
10  Libya 97% 2.4% 0.6%
11  Mauritania 100% 0% 0%
12  Morocco 95% 3% 2%
13  Oman 92.5% 5% 2.5%
14 Palestinian territories Palestine 83.5% 5% 11.5%
15  Qatar 67.5% 20% 12.5%
16  Saudi Arabia 89% 4.5% 6.5%
17  Somalia 100% 0% 0%
18  Sudan 70% 25% 5%
19  Syria 80% 20% n/a
20  Tunisia 95% 3% 2%
21  United Arab Emirates 62% 8.5% 29.5%
22  Yemen 95% 0.2% 4.8%


Major Languages of the Arab League. (The map isn't precise)
Different Dialects of Arabic in the Arab World. (The map isn't precise & ignores minority languages)

Arabic is the Arab League's official language, but additional languages are often used in the daily lives of some of the League's citizens. Currently, three major languages other than Arabic are used widely: Kurdish in northern Iraq and parts of Syria, Berber in parts of North Africa, and Somali in the Horn of Africa.

There are several minority languages that are still spoken today, such as Afar, Armenian, Hebrew, Nubian, Persian, Syriac, and Turkmen. Arabic is a non-native language to over 25% of the Arab League's population, with the Somali, Berber and Kurdish languages considered the most widely-used after Arabic.

On the other hand, Arabic is divided into over 27 dialects. Almost every Arab state has at least one local dialect of its own. they can be divided into 5 major branches, the Peninsula Arabic, which is the Arabic used in the Arabian peninsula, with around 9 main dialects, Arabic of the Nile Valley, which includes the Masri, Saedi, Sudanese and Chadic Arabic, the Arabic of the Fertile Crescent, which includes the Bedawi, Levant Arabic, Iraqi Arabic and North Mesopotamian Arabic, the Magharbi Arabic, which includes the Dialects used in Mauritania, Morocco, Libya, Algeria and Tunisia, also another category of Arabic is the other isolated dialects of Arabic, like the Judeo-Arabic, Mediterranean Arabic, Nubi Arabic, and the juba Arabic, which have greatly been affected by these communities' own pronunciation, culture and native tongue.


Ethnicity Total Estimated Date
Arabs 275,921,955 est.2007
Afars 456,000 2007
Amhara 191,000 2007
Arameans 95,300 2006
Armenians 960,500 2007
Assyrians 722,900 2007
Beja 3,779,000 2007
Berbers 77,364,100 2007
Chaldeans 961,500 2007
Cherkes 229,600 2006
Western Europeans 853,950 2007
Filipino 2,000,000 2007
Greeks 289,100 2007
Gypsies 1,260,500 2007
Han Chinese 105,590 2007
Hindi 228,900 2004
Somalis 8,882,500 2007
Jews 19,940 2007
Kurds 12,216,500 2007
Malays 516,100 2007
Nubians 9,132,000 2006
Persians 7,192,000 2006
Swahili 797,200 2006
Tigrinya 37,800 2007
Tuareg 3,242,000 2007
Turkish 852,400 2004
Turkmens 858,900 2007
Urdu 963,300 2006


In the Maghreb (North Africa) most of the population speaks Arabic although there is a significant Berber population. Arab and Berber identity in these countries is generally defined situationally by both language and ancestry. In Morocco, Berber speakers form about 60% of the total population; in Algeria, they represent about 30% of the population. In Libya, they form about 20% of the population. Moroccan Arab speaking Group are of a Berber (Imazighen) origins confirmed by HLA genes in Arabic-speaking Moroccans [1] There are much smaller isolated Berber communities in Mauritania and one oasis in Egypt's Western Desert. The nomadic Tuareg people whose traditional areas straddle the borders of several countries in the Sahara desert, are Berber. Government worries about ethnic separatism, and condescending attitudes towards the mainly rural Berber-speaking areas, led to the Berber communities being denied full linguistic and cultural rights; in Algeria, for example, Berber chairs at universities were closed, and Berber singers were occasionally banned from singing in their own language, although an official Berber radio station continued to operate throughout. These problems have to some extent been redressed in later years in Morocco and Algeria; both have started teaching Berber languages in schools and universities, and Algeria has amended its constitution to declare Berber a fundamental aspect of Algerian identity (along with Islam and Arabness.) In Libya, however, any suggestion that Berbers might be non-Arab remains taboo.


Nubians, Found in Northern Sudan and Southern Egypt,are a differant Ethnicity from their upper and southern Arab neighbors n Egypt and Sudan, numbering over 2 million in Sudan and Egypt. The Nubian people in Sudan inhabit the region between Wadi Halfa in the north and Aldaba in the south. The main Nubian groups from north to south are the Halfaweyen, Sikut (Sickkout), Mahas, and Danagla. They speak different dialects of the Nubian language.

In ancient times Nubians were depicted by Egyptians as having very dark skin, often shown with hooped earrings and with braided or extended hair. Ancient Nubians were famous for their vast wealth, their trade between central Africa and the lower Nile valley civilizations, including Egypt, their skill and precision with the bow, their 23-letter alphabet, the use of deadly poison on the heads of their arrows, their great military, their advanced civilization, and their century-long rule over the united upper and lower Egyptian kingdoms.


In the northern regions of Iraq (15-20%) and Syria (5-8%) live the Kurds, an ethnic group who speak Kurdish, a language closely related to Persian, not Arabic, except insofar as like Persian, it has absorbed Arabic vocabulary. The nationalist aspiration for self-rule or for a state of Kurdistan has created conflict between Kurdish minorities and their governments in Iran (20-28%) and Turkey (25-30%) (99% of Kurds are Muslim).


Somalia is a Muslim country, but many Somalis just recognize themselves as Somali instead of Arab despite centuries-old ties to Arabia.[1] Although Somalia joined the Arab League in 1974, accords Arabic official language status, and Arabic is spoken by Somalis in commerce, religion and education, the country's primary language is Somali. The population also predominantly consists of ethnic Somalis with small communities of Indian, Indonesian, Italians, Britons, and Portuguese.

Djibouti, whose demographics are approximately 60% Somali and 35% Afar, is in a similar position. Arabic is one of the official languages, 94% of the nation's population is Muslim, and its location on the Red Sea places it in close proximity to the Arabian Peninsula.

Other non-Arabs

The Arab world is also home to significant populations of Turkmen, Assyrians/Syriacs, and Armenians, a high percentage of whom do not identify as Arab.

Many Jews in Israel have roots in Arab countries, from where most were expelled in the first decades following the creation of Israel and the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

Since most modern borders of the Arab world are products of Western imperial powers, they often ignore distinct ethnic and geographic boundaries. Thus, in addition to regions with large Arab populations being located in non-Arab countries (such as the Turkish province of Hatay, populated mainly by indigenous Iskanderun Syrians, and the Iranian province of Khuzestan, which has a minority of Iranian Arabs), many peripheral states of the Arab world have border-straddling minorities of non-Arab peoples, as is the case with the non-Arab Black Africans of southern Sudan and southern Mauritania.

Many Arab countries in the Persian Gulf have sizable (10–30%) non-Arab populations, usually of a temporary nature, at least in theory. Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman has a sizeable Persian speaking minority. The same countries also have Hindi-Urdu speakers and Filipinos as sizable minority. Balochi speakers are a good size minority in Oman. Countries like Bahrain, UAE, Oman and Kuwait have significant non-Muslim / non-Arab minorities (10–20%) like Hindus and Christians from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines.

Many non-Arab countries bordering the core Arab world states have large Arab populations, as is the case in Chad, Israel, Turkey, Mali, Niger, and Senegal.

Comparison of population to area and GDP

Country Area (km²) Population (est. 2007) GDP PPP (in million $)
 Arab League 13,676,641 340,043,965 1,860,193
 Algeria 2,381,740 33,333,216 250,000
 Bahrain 665 708,573 18,000
 Comoros 2,170 711,417 1,275
 Djibouti 23,000 496,374 1,878
 Egypt 1,001,450 80,335,036 334,400
 Iraq 437,072 27,499,638 50,720
 Jordan 92,300 6,053,193 30,000
 Kuwait 17,820 2,505,559 55,910
 Lebanon 10,400 4,224,000 51.474
 Libya 1,759,540 6,036,914 72,680
 Mauritania 1,030,700 3,270,065 8,124
 Morocco 446,550 33,757,175 152,500
 Oman 212,460 3,204,897 44,530
Palestinian territories Palestine 6,220 4,018,332 5,327
 Qatar 11,437 907,229 26,370
 Saudi Arabia 2,149,690 27,601,038 366,200
 Somalia 637,657 9,118,773 5.575
 Sudan 2,505,810 39,379,358 97,470
 Syria 185,180 19,314,747 77,660
 Tunisia 163,610 10,276,158 89,740
 United Arab Emirates 83,600 4,444,011 129,500
 Yemen 527,970 22,230,531 20,630

See also


  1. ^ David D. Laitin, Politics, Language, and Thought, (University of Chicago Press: 1977), p.50


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