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Characteristics of the
Middle East
 Arab peoples make up almost the entire
populations of Jordan, Syria, Egypt,
Lebanon, and other states of Southwest
 Arab culture has a long history and rich
 Many other cultures also live in the region.
 Christianity and Judaism are major
religions practiced in Southwest Asia.
 Most people there are Muslims.
 This means that they practice the religion
of Islam.
 Ninety percent of people in the region are
 Arabs comprise most of the population of
Southwest Asia.
 However, many Arabs also live in Northern
Africa, Canada, Europe, and the United
 Most Arabs practice Islam and speak
 Small numbers of Arabs practice other
 Islam consists mostly of two different
 The majority of Muslims practice Sunni
 Most others practice Shi’a Islam.
 Sunnis and Shi’a disagree about who is in
charge of the Muslim world.
 Israel is home for much of the Jewish population
in the Southwest Asia.
 Many of the people who live in Israel today were
born there.
 However, the ancestors of these people moved
to Israel from many other countries, often from
other Southwest Asian countries.
 Much of this migration happened during the 20th
century, after the formation of Israel in the late
 Jewish people differ in their religious beliefs,
though most practice some form of Judaism.
 For example, some Jews believe that Jewish
people who convert to another religion should
not be considered Jewish any more.
 The Law of Return in Israel says that a Jew from
any other country can automatically have
citizenship in Israel.
 Sometimes Jews who no longer practice
Judaism have been denied the Law of Return.
 Another minority group in the region are
the Berbers.
 Most Berbers live in North Africa and were
the first group to settle that region.
 They still live a traditional way of life today.
 Berbers have their own languages.
 Many Berber tribes live in the mountains
and deserts.
 Most Berbers living in mountainous areas
are farmers.
 Berbers who live in the desert tend to live
near an oasis.
 Berbers that do not farm are nomadic.
 The majority of Berber tribes are Muslim.
 Some Berbers practice other religions, too.
 Traditional Berber cuisine has stayed the
same for hundreds of years.
 The Bedouin are another ethnic group.
 They speak Arabic.
 Many Bedouin used to be nomadic.
 Their most important animal is the camel.
 Now, the Bedouin live mostly in Saudi
Arabia, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq.
 Most Bedouin now live in cities and are not
 Bedouin tribes are ruled by tribal leaders
called sheikhs. Most Bedouins practice
 The Bedouin are well known for their dress
and music, which is mostly sung.
 Music is used to perform traditional
Bedouin ceremonies.
 Southwest Asia is also home to the
Kurdish people.
 The Kurds live in several countries
throughout the region.
 These include Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and
Iran. Almost one-fifth of the population of
Turkey is Kurdish.
 Kurdish religion used to be made up of a
mixture of several different religions.
 Most Kurds today are Muslims.
 Kurdish Muslims are usually less strict
about certain Islamic practices.
 There are fewer laws for how Kurdish
women should dress than there are for
Iranian and Arab women.
 Kurds share many aspects of their culture
with Iranians.
 The Turks are an ethnic group based on
 They live mostly in Turkey and Iran.
 Most of the people who live in Turkey are
of Turkish descent.
 Most Turks practice some form of Islam.
 Like Kurds, Turkish people are rarely strict
about some Islamic practices.
 However, Kurds and Turks in Turkey often
fight over issues not related to religion.
 For example, education is a controversial
issue between these two groups.
 The Turkish people are well known for
their architecture.
 Mosques in Turkey are a good example of
Turkish architecture.
 The Persians are an ethnic group that lived in
Iran before the arrival of Islam in the 7th century.
 Persians make up about half of Iran’s current
 They have their own language called Persian or
 Most Persians in Iran today practice Shi’a Islam,
but some are Sunni and other religions.
 Persian women have faced many challenges as
a result of strict cultural and religious practices.
 Through struggle, Persian women have
increased their personal freedoms over the past
forty years.
 Persian art and architecture is also well known.
 Many people consider Persian rugs to be among
the finest in the world.
Literacy and Development
 Education is free in many countries in the
Southwest Asia.
 Many students are required to attend school
through high school.
 Fighting often keeps students from showing up
at school.
 Many students also live so far from the schools
that getting to school is difficult.
 The literacy rates for people over fifteen years of
age are: 77% in Syria; 79% in Iran; 95% in
Israel; and 79% in Saudi Arabia.
Literacy and Development
 The literacy rates in Israel are higher than
in other Southwest Asian countries.
 In all of these countries, more men tend to
be able to read and write than women.
 This is especially true in Syria, Iran, and
Saudi Arabia.
 Overall in some countries women’s
education is not valued as much as men’s
Literacy and Development
 Women receive a different education than
men in some areas.
 Literacy has a large impact on a country’s
 For example, an increase in the literacy
rate often leads to an increase in individual
 Literacy rates also have an impact on a
country’s economy.
 Describe the different ethnic groups that
make up the Middle East.
 How does literacy and education affect the
Middle East?