Chapter 4, Northern Africa and Southwestern Africa 


Map of the Middle East
Interactive map of the Middle East

one of the world's great physical and human junctions
culture hearths 

 Babylonian agricultural clay token

       King Tut, Egypt 

dominance of Islamic religion and Arabic language
strategic importance of region
Where do the countries of the Middle East stand in terms of core and periphery? 
global choke points

Gulf of Hormuz choke point                                    Suez Canal choke point

world regional dominated by arid climate
scarce water resources 
population density is greatest near adequate water supply
rapid population growth


early civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt

Mesopotamia, located in a region that included parts of what is now eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, and 
most of Iraq, lay between two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates. The name Mesopotamia is a Greek word 
meaning "between the rivers." Its oldest known communities date from 7000 B.C. Several civilizations 
flourished in the region. 

Islam, Christianity, and Judaism

Geography of Islam

roots of Islam:

Mohammed (571-632)
Qur’an (Koran)
Islam became a unifying factor in the region and throughout the world. Christians weren’t 
the only ones who went out to convert the people of the world (whether they wanted to be 
converted or not). Over the next centuries, areas of the Middle East, Europe, Asia and 
Africa converted to Islam.

The rise of Islam carried with it the rise of Arab culture. While Europe lay under the Dark 
Ages, the Arab community produced a remarkable culture. Art, architecture, science and 
many other disciplines flourished during this period. 

The Five Pillars of Islam

1. Shahada, "There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet"
2. Salat, mandatory prayer 5 times a day
3. Zakat, almsgiving - give money to the poor
4. Sawm, fasting during Ramadan (somewhat like Christian Lent)

5. Hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca

Islam: Sunni and Shi'ite (or Shi'a)

Sunni Muslim:
     - 85 % of all Muslims are Sunni Muslims
     - wanted successors of Mohammed to be based on leadership qualities 

Shi'ite Muslim:
     - wanted successors of Mohammed to be based on family lineage 
     - generally more conservative

shari'a -  Islamic law; no separation of church and state (e.g., Pakistan, Afghanistan)

Arab and Islamic Political Movements

Arab League
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)
Organization of the Islamic Conference

Islamic Jihad Hizbollah
Hamas Taliban


"Islamic fundamentalism" versus "Islamic revivalism"
secularism vs religious rule - Iran made the leap in 1979 with Ayatollah Khomeni 
How does economic prosperity influence religious unrest?


Dry Climates and Natural Vegetation

Sahara Desert

temperature range: large day-night differences
light, variable precipitation dominates this region

Clashing Plates - what does this have to do with oil? 


Tigris and Euphrates Rivers

Oil Resources
oil rich countries, oil poor countries
2/3 of known world oil reserves 
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
strategic importance of oil
enormous reserves of oil and natural gas have elevated standard of living for small 
minority of total population
OPEC member countries

Environmental Problems

overpopulation - strain on environment
air and water pollution


arid, harsh environment
population restricted to coastal areas (why?)
50 % urban 
emigration employment
colonial influences on farming, trade


Nile River

Interactive Map of Egypt: Journey Down the Nile River (Outstanding!)

Nile Waters Agreement and Cold War Politics
U.S. foreign aid 
Suez Canal (why was/is it important to world powers?)

Population dynamics: concentration on Nile = over 90%  

Fritz the camel at Giza

Egypt Population Map 

Egypt Land Use


Persian Gulf region map

Heart of Arab world (Arabian Peninsula, Fertile Crescent)
Strategic importance: location, oil, holy war against Israel

Oil Wealth

Infrastructure projects, increase military strength
Oil-yes, Water-no: S Arabia, Gulf states
Oil-yes, water-yes: Iraq, Syria
Countries that need donations from better-off nations: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen

Population and People

Population clusters along coast, rivers
Rapid population growth rate (Arab)
Large proportion of young (see population pyramids for region)
Foreign worker migration equals 30% pop. in S. Arabia, Gulf states
Population also includes refugees from Iraq, Lebanon, Israel
70% urban (why?)

Economic Activity

reliance on skilled immigrant oil workers (although many of these returned home 
because of the Gulf War)
low intensity farming, nomadic herding
trying to develop diversified economy (the "don't put all your eggs in one basket" rule; 
oil refineries, petrochemicals, food processing, investing abroad)
difficulty unifying, even concerning mutual economic interests


Population Distribution and Population Dynamics
Ethnic Differences 
Diversified, High-Tech Economy 
Diversifying Trade Links

Poverty in Gaza and West Bank

40 % Palestinian pop. in refugee camps
50% unemployment
Israelis in Gaza, West Bank have separate roads, economic support 
inequity in water use, availability for Palestinians 
(75% water goes to Israelis and for low price)

The Arab-Israeli Conflict 

British Mandate



post-war 1967

Israeli Border with Lebanon 

The Palestinian Question

Palestinian homeland
  Palestinian refugees
  expansion of Jewish settlements in Jerusalem and West Bank

Har Homa (Abu Ghnaim) settlement has fostered much animosity with Palestinians. Israel 
eventually plans to locate up to 60,000 settlers here. 

Peace Talks

Peace Accords

  14% of territory in the West Bank is to be returned to Palestinian control 
increased security, prevention of acts of terrorism

Jerusalem, Sacred City 

Dome of the Rock

Jerusalem, considered to be capital by both Israelis and Palestinians, 
sacred place to 3 world religions


Map of Turkey
Turkey population density map

Turkey, Where East Meets West

  More modernized, westernized than Iran
  wealth spread more evenly 
  Secular state - trying to avoid becoming "too Islamic" 
  both agriculture and industry (35% arable land) 

Ankara, Turkey

Map of Turkey's Kurdish area

Oil and Upheaval in Iran 

Map of Iran
Iran population density map

  higher population growth than Turkey 
  Persian descent (like the Turks, also not Arab)
  predominantly Shi'ite Muslim
  approx. 60 % urban
  agriculture: little arable land, not as developed
  industrial development: western-style development under Shah
  However, under Ayatollah Khomeni: fundamentalist-style Islam, isolation 
effects of war with Iraq (1980-1990) 
  strategic importance: oil, choke point (Strait of Hormuz), reputed funding of anti-west 
activities (though that appears to be changing)

Map of Iraq

Saddam Hussein 

Kuwait oil fire during Gulf War
  land of ancient empires (i.e., Mesopotamia) 
70% urbanization
  Kurdish situation in north
  60 percent Shi'ite Muslim in south
major oil reserves
strategic location at northern end of Persian Gulf 
large areas of irrigated farmlands
  10 year war with Iran (1980-1990) 
  Iraq invasion of Kuwait in 1990
Gulf War ,  January 16, 1991- March 3, 1991; permanent cease fire April 6, 1991

Martyr's Monument in Baghdad

Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq


Continuing Tensions
Cold War Impacts 
Gulf War Impacts
Trends in the Postwar 1990s
Oil, Water, and Environmental Issues