This study provides an overview of Arab culture. It must be emphasized that there is no “one” Arab culture or society. The Arab world is full of rich and diverse communities, groups and cultures. Differences exist not only among countries, but within countries as well. It is impossible to talk about groups of people without generalizing. It then follows that it is hard to talk about the culture of a group without generalizing. This handbook attempts to be as accurate and specific as possible, but inevitably contains such generalizations. Treat these generalizations with caution and wariness. They do provide insight into a culture, but the accuracy and usefulness will depend on the context and specific circumstances.
WHERE IS THE ARAB WORLD?
• The Arab world stretches from Morocco across Northern Africa to the Persian Gulf. The Arab world is more or less equal to the area known as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Although this excludes Somalia, Djibouti, and the Comoros Islands which are part of the Arab world. • It can also be defined as those countries where Arabic is the dominant language. • Arab countries are religiously and ethnically diverse with Islam being the dominant religion in most countries. • 22 Arab countries/areas: Algeria, Bahrain, the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. • Iran and Turkey are not Arab countries.
The Arab “homeland” stretches some 5,000 miles – nearly twice the distance between New York and San Francisco – from the Atlantic coast of northern Africa in the west to the Arabian Sea in the east, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to Central Africa in the south. It covers an area of 5.25 million square miles. By comparison, the United States comprises 3.6 million square miles. With 72% of its territory in Africa and 28% in Asia, the Arab world straddles 2 continents, a position that makes it one of the world’s most strategic regions. Long coastlines give it access to vital waterways: the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the Arabian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.
STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF ARAB WORLD
World Oil Reserves Distribution
• 22 countries.
• Location and source of the 3 monotheists’ religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. • The cradle of civilization.
• Multitude of ethnic and linguistic groups.
• Close to 60% of earth’s oil reserves are at or near the Arabian Peninsula. • Saudi Arabia possesses the world’s largest reserves of oil.
WHAT IS AN ARAB?
• Over 200 million Arabs worldwide.
•To be an Arab, is not to come from a particular race or lineage. •To be an Arab, like an American, is a cultural trait rather than racial. •The Arab world includes Muslims, Christians and Jews.
• Any person who adopts the Arabic language is typically called an Arab. • Arabic is the official and original language of the Qur’an, the Islamic holy book.
COMMOM MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ARABS
• All Arabs are Muslims, and all Muslims are Arab:
O Arabs are religiously diverse groups, There is a significant numbers of Arab Christians in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq. Arabs make up between 15-18% of the Muslim world. • The Arab world is backwards and uncivilized:
O Actually represents a highly developed culture and civilization where modern cities mingle with ancient ones. • The Arab world is one big desert:
O Truly geographically complex and diverse.
• Stereotypes of Arab males:
O All are “oil-rich Sheiks” as in the West; there are economically diverse segments of the population. O Mad dictators, there are various types of political systems in Arab world. O Terrorists. Overwhelming majority are law abiding citizens with families and a wide variety of occupations....
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