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chapter objectives. This chapter should enable you to: • Understand and explain the mostly beneficial relationships between villagers, pastoral nomads, and city dwellers in an environmentally challenging region • Know the basic beliefs and sacred places of Jews, Christians, and Muslims

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chapter objectives

This chapter should enable you to:

• Understand and explain the mostly beneficial relationships between villagers, pastoral nomads, and city dwellers in an environmentally challenging region

• Know the basic beliefs and sacred places of Jews, Christians, and Muslims

• Recognize the importance of petroleum to this region and the world economy

• Identify the geographic chokepoints and oil pipelines that are among the world’s most strategically important places and routes

• Appreciate the problems of control over fresh water in this arid region

• Know what al-Qa’ida and other Islamist terrorist groups are and what they want


The Dead Sea

Fig. 8-10, p. 206


Petra, Ancient City of trade in Jordan

Boat of Lebanon Cedar, from King Cheops (Egyptian) Tomb

Fig. 8-12, p. 206

pastoral nomadism
Pastoral Nomadism

The breeding and herding of domesticated animals for subsistence.

  • where: arid and semi-arid areas of N. Africa, Middle East, Central Asia
  • animals: Camel, Goats, Sheep, Cattle
  • transhumance: seasonal migrations from highlands to lowlands

Most nomads are being pressured into sedentary life as land is used for agriculture or mining.

Bedouin Shepherd

Somali Nomad and Tent


Bedouin Nomad

Figure 8-A, p. 209


Turkish Bazaar or suq

Fig. 8-15, p. 211


Jerusalem’s Western Wall, Temple Mount, and Noble Sanctuary. At left, below the golden dome is the Western Wall, last remnant of the Jew’s Second Temple. The dome is the Muslim’s Dome of the Rock. The black dome on the right is the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Another Muslim holy place.

Fig. 8-18, p. 214


Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher, containing the spots where many Christians believe Christ was crucified and buried.

Fig. 8-19, p. 215



• Events in the Middle East and North Africa profoundly affect the daily lives of people around the world, yet this region is often misunderstood. Misleading stereotypes about its environment and people are common, and people outside the region often associate it solely with military conflict and terrorism.

• The region has bestowed upon humanity a rich legacy of ancient civilizations, including those of Egypt and Mesopotamia, and the three great monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

• Middle Easterners include Jews, Arabs, Turks, Persians, Pashtuns, Berbers, people of sub-Saharan African origin, and other ethnic groups who practice a wide variety of ancient and modern livelihoods.

• Arabs are the largest ethnic group in the Middle East and North Africa, and there are also large populations of ethnic Turks, Persians (Iranians), and Kurds. Islam is by far the largest religion. Jews live almost exclusively in Israel, and there are minority Christian populations in several countries.



• Population growth rates in the region are moderate to high. Oil wealth is concentrated in a handful of countries, and as a whole, this is a developing region.

• The Middle East has served as a pivotal global crossroads, linking Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean. These countries have historically been unwilling hosts to occupiers and empires originating far beyond their borders.

• The margins of this region are occupied by oceans, high mountains, and deserts. The land is composed mainly of arid and semiarid plains and plateaus, together with considerable areas of rugged mountains and isolated “seas” of sand.

• Aridity dominates the environment, with at least three-fourths of the region receiving less than 10 inches (25 cm) of yearly precipitation. Plants, animals, and people have developed strategies of drought avoidance and drought endurance to live here. In addition, great river systems and freshwater aquifers have sustained large human populations.



• Many of the plants and animals upon which the world’s agriculture depends were first domesticated in the Middle East in the course of the Agricultural Revolution.

• The Middle Eastern “ecological trilogy” consists of peasant villagers, pastoral nomads, and city-dwellers. The relationships among them have been mainly symbiotic and peaceful, but city dwellers have often dominated the relationship, and both pastoral nomads and urbanites have sometimes preyed upon the villagers, who are the trilogy’s cornerstone.

• About two-thirds of the world’s oil is here, making this one of the world’s most vital economic and strategic regions.

• Since World War II, several international crises and wars have been precipitated by events in the Middle East. Strong outside powers depend heavily on this region for their current and future industrial needs. Unimpeded access to Gulf oil is one of the pillars of U.S. foreign policy.



• The Middle East and North Africa are characterized by a high number of chokepoints, strategic marine narrows that may be shut off by force, triggering conflict and economic disruption.

• Oil pipelines in the Middle East are routed both to shorten sea tanker voyages and to reduce the threat to sea tanker traffic through chokepoints but are themselves vulnerable to disruption.

• Access to fresh water is a major problem in relations between Turkey and its downstream neighbors, Egypt and its upstream neighbors, and Israel and its Palestinian, Jordanian, and Syrian neighbors.

• Al-Qa’ida and affiliated Islamist terrorist groups aim to drive the United States and its allied governments from the region and to replace them with an Islamic caliphate. Al-Qa’ida is an apocalyptic group that seeks to inflict mass casualties on its enemies, particularly on Americans in their home country.