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     Traditional definition of the Middle East      G8 definition of the Greater Middle East      Central Asia (sometimes associated with the Greater Middle East)

The Greater Middle East is a political term coined by the Bush administration[1] to englobe together various countries, pertaining to the Muslim world, specifically Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan.[2] Various Central Asian countries and the lower Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia[3] ) and Cyprus are sometimes also included. Some speakers may use the term to denote areas with significant Muslim majorities, but this usage is not universal. The Greater Middle East is sometimes referred to as "The New Middle East"[4], or "The Great Middle East Project".[5][6]

This expanded term was introduced in the U.S. administration's preparatory work for the G8 summit of 2004[3] as part of a proposal for sweeping change in the way the West deals with the Middle East.

Former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, alluded to the modern Middle East as a control lever on an area he calls the Eurasian Balkans.[7] The Eurasian Balkans consists of the Caucasus (Georgia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, and Armenia) and Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan) and Turkey. Turkey forms the northernmost part of the Middle East (though some of the country lies in the Caucasus).[8] Turkey's Western lands (i.e. the Eastern Thrace and the areas around Istanbul) are considered a part of the Southeastern Europe, and not the Middle East.



The concept of a "Greater Middle East" that puts together different regions has been criticized by several people. According to the Al-Ahram Weekly, it is unclear whether widening the Middle East facilitates the control of its numerous conflicts. "The question is, however, whether there is such a thing as a Greater Middle East extending beyond the traditional geographical boundaries of the region. And, if so, what are the common features shared by the different countries now identified as parts of a body that would extend from Pakistan in the east to Morocco in the west? Take, for example, the call for the creation of an independent Arab state in Palestine. Does it follow that there should be a similar call for an independent Kurdish state or for an independent state in Kashmir? If all these countries are parts of one entity, should there not exist similar solutions for similar problems?"[9] Dominique de Villepin has said "One has also to avoid a uniform approach, as one can not treat the Maghreb with the same pattern as the Middle East or the Persian Gulf states, nor can one concentrate everything on the security issue. To be successful, our approach must be global, taking into consideration all the political, economic, social, cultural, educational aspects."[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b Haeri, Safa (2004-03-03). "Concocting a 'Greater Middle East' brew". Asia Times. Retrieved 2008-08-21.  
  2. ^ Ottaway, Marina & Carothers, Thomas (2004-03-29), The Greater Middle East Initiative: Off to a False Start, Policy Brief, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 29, Pages 1-7
  3. ^ a b Perthes, V., 2004, America's "Greater Middle East" and Europe: Key Issues for Dialogue, Middle East Policy, Volume XI, No.3, Pages 85-97.
  4. ^ Nazemroaya, Mahdi Darius (2006-11-18). "Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a “New Middle East”". Global Research. Retrieved 2008-08-21.  
  5. ^ “Great Middle East Project” Conference by Prof. Dr. Mahir Kaynak and Ast.Prof. Dr. Emin Gürses in SAU
  6. ^ Turkish Emek Political Parties
  7. ^ Zbigniew Brzezinski, "The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geo-strategic Imperatives" Cited in (Nazemroaya, 2006).
  8. ^ Map of Greater Middle East
  9. ^ Mohamed Sid-Ahmed, On the Greater Middle East, Al-Ahram

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Middle East article)

From Wikitravel

Asia : Middle East

The Middle East is a world region in Western Asia and North-eastern Africa. The term was created by British military strategists in the 19th century, and definitions of the Middle East vary; it is not simply a geographical term, but also a political one, connoting that it separates Europe ("the West") from the Far East, and the traditional trade route of choice between these two extremes.


As one of the wellsprings of human civilisation in the ancient and medieval worlds, the birthplace of several world religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Bahai) and an area of much modern economic and political importance, the Middle East remains a popular destination for travellers.

Ethnically, the region is extremely mixed. Arabs, Jews, Persians and Turks are the largest groups, but there are several substantial minorities — Kurds, Armenians and others — with their own languages, customs and sometimes their own countries. Every invading army — from Alexander and the Romans through Genghis Khan to the 19th century colonial powers — has left descendants behind. There are also substantial numbers of workers from other countries coming to the region for higher pay — mainly Afghan, Pakistani for jobs like construction labourer, with Egyptians, Philipinos, more Pakistanis, and some westerners in the more skilled jobs.

Almost every country in the Middle East has a Muslim majority (with the notable exception of Israel which has a Jewish majority), with Iran, Iraq and Bahrain mainly Shia, other areas mainly Sunni, and both with minorities of the other — and the legal systems in most of these countries are influenced by Islamic Law; a few are entirely based on it.

Cultural geography

North Africa is similar to the Middle East in many ways — language, religion, culture and some ethnic groups. Some writers include Egypt, or even Sudan and Libya, in their use of the term "Middle East".

On the other side, Central Asia also has much in common with the Middle East. Ethnic groups and languages are different, but the religion, much of the food, clothing, and architecture are similar. Iran could be counted as part of either region; at one point most of Central Asia was part of the Persian Empire.

The border between southeastern Europe and the Middle East is also unclear. Many writers include Turkey in their usage of "Middle East" and we include it above, but Turkey is also very much a European country. Large parts of Turkey and all of Lebanon and Israel are also clearly Mediterranean regions. On the other hand, several countries usually considered European — Greece, Cyprus and to some extent the Balkans — also have Middle Eastern aspects to their culture.

Map of the Middle East
Map of the Middle East
Palestinian Territories
Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates

Turkey and to a lesser extent Azerbaijan are also often considered (at least in part) part of the Middle East, as a sort of border region between Europe and Asia. Egypt is as well, but this is more tenuous, as even Sinai is geologically and politically part of Africa. Even the inclusion of Iran is to a degree controversial—it is often considered to be a Central Asian nation.

  • Amman - experiencing a massive change from a quiet sleepy village to a bustling metropolis
  • Beirut - a true cosmopolitan city, the commercial and financial hub of Lebanon
  • Baghdad - once a favored destination on the 'hippie trail' and packed full of sights, now one of the most dangerous cities on Earth
  • Damascus - credited with being the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world, the old-walled city in particular feels very ancient
  • Dubai - most modern and progressive emirate in the United Arab Emirates, developing at an unbelievable pace
  • Jerusalem - containing the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Old City, this city is sacred for Jews, Christians and Muslims
  • Mecca - forbidden for non-Muslims to enter, this is the holiest city in Islam mostly known for the Hajj
  • Riyadh - with most forms of entertainment banned, few sights of interest and a brutal climate, Riyadh is mostly a city to just watch
  • Tehran - a bustling metropolis of 14 million people, it is a cosmopolitan city, with great museums, parks, restaurants and warm friendly people
  • Dead Sea - the water is far too salinated for marine inhabitation - hence the name - and it keeps you afloat
  • Empty Quarter - the name Empty Quarter explains pretty well what it is.. a vast, inhospitable, empty desert
  • Madain Saleh - a Nabataean city hewed out of rock in the same style as Jordan's far more famous Petra
  • Palmyra - stunning ruins and a lush oasis adjacent to the city
  • Persepolis - the ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire during the Achaemenid dynasty, close to modern Shiraz
  • Petra - one of the 'New Seven Wonders', Petra is the breathtaking capital of the Nabataean kingdom from around the 6th century BC
  • Samarra - archaeological and Shi'a holy sites, including the tombs of several Shi'a Imams in Iraq
  • Sea of Galilee - known for its Gospel associations with the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, thus a pilgrimage destination for Christians
  • Shibam - known as 'Manhattan of the Desert', a unique, sixteenth century, mud-built, high rise apartment buildings complex

Get in

By plane

The largest hub for flights in the region is Dubai, from where you can reach virtually any point in the Middle East. After Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi , Tehran and Istanbul are the ones with good intercontinental connections. Tel Aviv is served by flights from most Western countries, though due to the political situation, it is not possible to fly from there to anywhere in the Middle East besides Turkey, Egypt and Jordan. However, there are direct flights from large European hubs to most major cities in the region.

By boat

See Ferries in the Mediterranean.


Arabic is the primary language of the region, and the main language in all Middle Eastern countries except Iran (where Persian predominates), Turkey (Turkish) and Israel (Hebrew). Even in those countries, Arabic is fairly common as a second language; in Israel, Arabic is a second official language. Yiddish, Kurdish, Azeri, Armenian and several other languages are also spoken in some regions.

English is moderately common in tourist areas and generally rare elsewhere. In Turkey, some German is spoken because many Turks work in Germany.

A fancy Arabic mixed grill. Clockwise from top: lamb kofta, chicken shish tawuk, beef shish kebab, rozz (Arabic rice), vegetables.
A fancy Arabic mixed grill. Clockwise from top: lamb kofta, chicken shish tawuk, beef shish kebab, rozz (Arabic rice), vegetables.

Cookery provides obvious evidence of the extent of Middle Eastern influence. Turkish doner kebab, Greek gyros and the shawarma of the Arab countries (everywhere from Oman to Morocco) are all basically the same dish. A traveller going overland from Europe to India will find very similar dishes — notably flat breads and kebabs — in every country from Greece to India. These are also seen in Central Asia and even China. Many Greek dishes are closer to Iranian cooking than to Italian.

Stay safe

Planning a visit to the Middle East can be complicated in various ways:

  • Some countries and territories in the area, such as Iraq and the Gaza Strip, are in a state of war and should not be visited. See War zone safety if you must go.
  • Some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, do not issue tourist visas except for a few expensive tours.
  • Some countries in the region have strict Islamic Law, with heavy penalties for homosexuality, adultery and other offenses.
  • Many countries in the region do not recognize the state of Israel for many reasons. These nations may refuse you entry if you have an Israeli visa or an Israeli stamp in your passport, or even a visa for another country that was issued in Israel. The Israeli authorities will generally help you avoid these problems by providing a visa as a separate document so it is not in your passport, however now this has been discontinued; see the Israel article for details. Only Turkey, Egypt and Jordan have official relations with Israel.
  • For most of the area, suggestions in Tips for travel in developing countries apply

Simple English

and the G8's Greater Middle East.]]

The Greater Middle East (also known as "The New Middle East") is a political term coined by the Bush administration to englobe together various countries, pertaining to the Arab world and Iran, marginal countries such as Pakistan and Kashmir. Various Central Asian countries and the lower Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia) and Cyprus,Turkey, and Greece are sometimes also included. Some speakers may use the term to denote areas with significant Muslim majorities, but this usage is not universal.


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