Southwest Asia or Middle East, geographic and cultural region located in southwestern Asia and northeastern Africa. The geopolitical term Middle East, first coined in 1902 by United States naval officer Alfred Thayer Mahan, originally referred to the Asian region south of the Black Sea between the Mediterranean Sea to the west and India to the east. The first civilizations of the Middle East, which grew in the valleys of the Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates rivers, are among the oldest in the world. Alphabets, law codes, and cities all began in the Middle East, as did the world’s three great monotheistic religions, Judaism (13th century B.C), Christianity (1st century to 4th century A.D) and Islam (7th century A.D). Of the three, Islam continues to mark the region most profoundly. More than 90 percent of the people of the Middle East are Muslims. Land and Resources:
The total land area of the Middle East is 7.3 million sq km (2.8 million sq mi). Much of the region consists of flat plains or plateaus. Extensive desert areas stretch across the southern reaches, including the Libyan Desert and Arabian Desert in Egypt, the Rub‘ al Khali in southern Saudi Arabia, and the Syrian Desert at the junction of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq. Climate:
Rainfall and temperature vary considerably across the Middle East and even within countries. While the desert regions of Iran may receive no rain at all for several years. Temperatures also vary by region. Ankara in the central plateau region of Turkey averages 0° C (32° F) in January and 23° C (73° F) in July. In contrast, low-lying coastal regions of the Arabian Peninsula (the large peninsula south of Jordan and Iraq) and those bordering the Mediterranean Sea experience much more moderate winter temperatures: Jiddah in western Saudi Arabia averages 24° C (75° F) in January and 31° C (89° F) in July. Lowland desert areas in the interior regions of the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Iraq, and Egypt experience...
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