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Western Asia [1]

Western Asia, West Asia, Southwest Asia or Southwestern Asia are terms that describe the westernmost portion of Asia. The terms are partly coterminous with the Middle East - which describes geographical position in relation to Western Europe rather than location within Asia. Due to this perceived Eurocentrism, international organizations such as the United Nations,[2] have replaced Middle East and Near East with Western Asia. This region and Europe are collectively referred to as Western Eurasia.



Western Asia is located directly south of Eastern Europe.



Cedar forest in winter, located in Lebanon

Western Asia is primarily arid and semi-arid, and can be subject to drought; nonetheless, there exists vast expanses of forests and fertile valleys. The region consists of grasslands, rangelands, deserts, and mountains. Water shortages are a problem in many parts of West Asia, with rapidly growing populations increasing demands for water, while salinization and pollution threaten water supplies.[3] Major rivers, including the Tigris and Euphrates, provide sources for irrigation water to support agriculture.

There are two wind phenomena in Western Asia: the sharqi and the shamal. The sharqi (or sharki) is a wind that comes from the south and southeast. It is seasonal, lasting from April to early June, and comes again between late September and November. The winds are dry and dusty, with occasional gusts up to 80 kilometers per hour (50 miles per hour) and often kick up violent sand and dust storms that can carry sand a few thousand meters high, and can close down airports for short periods of time. These winds can last for a full day at the beginning and end of the season, and for several days during the middle of the season. The shamal is a summer northwesterly wind blowing over Iraq and the Persian Gulf states (including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait), often strong during the day, but decreasing at night. This weather effect occurs anywhere from once to several times a year.[4]


The mountainous village of Pyrgos, overlooking Morphou Bay, in Cyprus.

While Western Asia mainly contains areas with low relief, Turkey, Iran, and Yemen include mountainous terrain. The Anatolian Plateau is sandwiched between the Pontus Mountains and Taurus Mountains in Turkey. Mount Ararat in Turkey rises to 5,165 meters. The Zagros Mountains are located in Iran, in areas along its border with Iraq. The Central Plateau of Iran is divided into two drainage basins. The northern basin is Dasht-e Kavir (Great Salt Desert), and Dasht-e-Lut is the southern basin.

In Yemen, elevations exceed 3,700 meters in many areas, and highland areas extend north along the Red Sea coast and north into Lebanon. A fault-zone also exists along the Red Sea, with continental rifting creating trough-like topography with areas located well-below sea level.[5] The Dead Sea, located on the border between the West Bank, Israel, and Jordan, is situated at 418 m (1371 ft) below sea level, making it the lowest point on the surface of the Earth.[6]

Khinalug village in Azerbaijan is the highest and most isolated settlement in the Caucasus

A large lowland belt is located on the Arabian Peninsula, from central Iraq, through Saudi Arabia, and to Oman and the Arabian Sea. The Euphrates and Tigris rivers cut through the lowland belt in Iraq and flow into the Persian Gulf. Rub'al KhāLī, one of the world's largest sand deserts, spans the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula in Saudi Arabia, parts of Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Jebel al Akhdar is a small range of mountains located in northeastern Oman, bordering the Gulf of Oman.


Three major tectonic plates converge on Western Asia, including the African, Eurasian, and Arabian plates. The boundaries between the tectonic plates make up the Azores-Gibraltar Ridge, extending across North Africa, the Red Sea, and into Iran.[7] The Arabian Plate is moving northward into the Anatolian plate (Turkey) at the East Anatolian Fault,[8] and the boundary between the Aegean and Anatolian plate in eastern Turkey is also seismically active.[7]

Water resources

Several major aquifers provide water to large portions of Western Asia. In Saudi Arabia, two large aquifers of Palaeozoic and Triassic origins are located beneath the Jabal Tuwayq mountains and areas west to the Red Sea.[9] Cretaceous and Eocene-origin aquifers are located beneath large portions of central and eastern Saudi Arabia, including Wasia and Biyadh which contain amounts of both fresh water and saline water.[9] The Nubian aquifer system underlies large areas of North Africa.[9] The Great Manmade River project in Libya utilizes an extensive network of pipelines to transport water from the Nubian aquifer to its population centers. Groundwater recharge for these deep rock aquifers is on the order of thousands of years, thus the aquifers are essentially non-renewable resources.[10] Flood or furrow irrigation, as well as sprinkler methods, are extensively used for irrigation, covering nearly 90,000 km² across Western Asia for agriculture.[11]

Countries in Western Asia

Regions of Asia described by UN:      North Asia      Central Asia      Western Asia      South Asia      East Asia      Southeast Asia

The countries and territories of Western Asia according to the UN Subregion, listed below:

Though not included in the UN subregion of Western Asia, Iran is commonly included within Western Asia, and sometimes Afghanistan and Egypt (which has some territory in Asia) are included in a broader definition of "Western Asia". It should also be noted that Afghanistan can be considered Central Asian[12][13], South Asian,[14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27] or West Asian.[28]

Territory and region data

Country, with flag Area
(per km²)
Capital Nominal GDP
Per capita (2009) Currency Government Official languages
Turkey Turkey1 783,562 72,561,312 95 Ankara $1.028 trillion $13,920 (2008 est.) Turkish lira Parliamentary Democracy Turkish
Arabian Peninsula:
 Bahrain 665 791,000 1,189 Manama $19.4 billion $24,500 Bahraini Dinar Constitutional monarchy Arabic
 Kuwait 17,820 3,100,000 174 Kuwait City $114.9 billion $37,000 Kuwaiti dinar Constitutional Hereditary Arabic
 Oman 212,460 3,200,000 15 Muscat $52.3 billion $16,300 Omani Rial Absolute monarchy Arabic
 Qatar 11,437 1,409,000 123 Doha $92.5 billion $65,600 Qatari Riyal Monarchy Arabic
 Saudi Arabia 1,960,582 28,686,633 15 Riyadh $379.5 billion $13,200 Riyal Absolute monarchy Arabic
 United Arab Emirates 82,880 6,888,888 8 Abu Dhabi $228.6 billion $33,200 UAE dirham Federal Constitutional Monarchy Arabic
 Yemen 527,970 23,580,000 45 Sanaá $26.2 billion $1,100 Yemeni rial Republic Arabic
Armenia Armenia 29,800 3,245,900 109 Yerevan $8.7 billion $2,700 Armenian dram Presidential republic Armenian
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan 86,600 8,922,000 103 Baku $43.0 billion $4,900 Azerbaijani manat Presidential republic Azerbaijani
Georgia (country) Georgia 69,700 4,385,841 63 Tbilisi $11.0 billion $2,500 Georgian lari Presidential democratic republic Georgian
 Cyprus 9,250 801,622 90 Nicosia $23.2 billion $28,900 Euro Republic Greek, Turkish
 Iraq 438,317 31,234,000 71 Baghdad $70.1 billion $2,200 Iraqi dinar Parliamentary democracy Arabic, Kurdish
 Israel 20,770 7,509,000 361 Jerusalem disputed $194.5 billion $26,100 Israeli new sheqel Parliamentary democracy Hebrew, Arabic
 Jordan 92,300 6,318,677 68 Amman $22.5 billion $3,600 Jordanian dinar Constitutional monarchy Arabic
 Lebanon 10,452 4,224,000 404 Beirut $52.6 billion $13,700 Lebanese pound Parliamentary democracy Arabic
Palestinian territories Palestine not fully sovereign 6,220 4,148,000 667 Jerusalem disputed $6.6 billion $1,600 Dinar, pound
Presidential republic Arabic
 Syria 185,180 21,906,00 118 Damascus $54.4 billion $2,500 Syrian pound Presidential republic Arabic

Territories sometimes included

Country, with flag Area
Population Density
(per km²)
Capital GDP (Total) Per capita Currency Government Official languages
UN Subregion of Southern Asia, (Iranian Plateau):
 Iran 1,648,195 74,196,000 45 Tehran $331.8 billion $4,500 Iranian rial Islamic Republic (a Theocratic Republic) Persian
 Afghanistan 647,500 31,889,923 49 Kabul $13.3 billion $400 Afghani Islamic Republic Dari, Pashto
UN Subregion of Northern Africa:
 Egypt 1,001,449 77,498,000 77 Cairo $188.0 billion $2,400 Egyptian pound Semi-presidential republic (democracy) Arabic



1 The figures for Turkey includes Eastern Thrace, which is not a part of Anatolia.

Use in ethnicity statistics

The Canadian government uses "West Asian" in its statistics.[29][30]

See also

Other subregions of Asia




  1. ^ National Geographic Style Manual
  2. ^ United Nations Cartographic Section Web Site, United Nations Statistics Division
  3. ^ "Chapter 7: Middle East and Arid Asia". IPCC Special Report on The Regional Impacts of Climate Change: An Assessment of Vulnerability. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 1997. 
  4. ^ Taru Bahl, M H Syed, ed (2003). Encyclopaedia of the Muslim World. New Delhi: Anmol Publications. pp. 20. ISBN 9788126114191. Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  5. ^ Sweeney, Jerry J., William R. Walter. "Preliminary Definition of Geophysical Regions for the Middle East and North Africa" (PDF). Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. 
  6. ^ "ASTER Image Gallery: The Dead Sea". NASA. 
  7. ^ a b Beaumont (1988), p. 22
  8. ^ Muehlberger, Bill. "The Arabian Plate". NASA, Johnson Space Center. 
  9. ^ a b c Beaumont (1988), p. 86
  10. ^ Beaumont (1988), p. 85
  11. ^ "Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)". 
  12. ^ The 2007 Middle East & Central Asia Politics, Economics,and Society Conference University of Utah.
  13. ^ "Regional Economic Outlook: Middle East & Central Asia" May 2006, International Monetary Fund.
  14. ^ CIA world factbook, Afghanistan - Geography (Location: Southern Asia)
  15. ^ Center for South Asia Studies: University of California, Berkeley
  16. ^ Center for South Asia Outreach UW-Madison
  17. ^ Department of South Asia Studies: University of Pennsylvania
  18. ^ South Asia: Data, Projects, and Research
  20. ^ Afghanistan-Tajikistan Bridge Links Central, South Asia [2] Refers to Afghanistan as South Asian and Tajikistan as Central Asian
  21. ^ University of Washington Jackson School of International Studies: The South Asia Center
  22. ^ Syracruse University: The South Asia Center
  23. ^ Center for South Asian Studies
  24. ^ this sources admits in certain contexts that Tibet and Afghanistan are South Asian
  25. ^ Organization - Center for South Asian Studies - Oscar
  26. ^ University of Hawaii at Manoa | South Asia Collection
  27. ^ Rutgers, SAS South Asian Studies: - Home
  28. ^ Ethnic Origin (247), Single and Multiple Ethnic Origin Responses (3) and Sex (3) for the Population of Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2006 Census
  29. ^ Statistics Canada: Population Groups (28) and Sex (3) for the Population of Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2006 Census
  30. ^


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