JordanJordan (country) or Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, kingdom in the MiddleEast. Its full official name is Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (Arabic AlMamlakah al Urdunniyah al Hashimiyah). The term Hashemite refers to theJordanian monarchy‟s claim of descent from Hashim, the grandfather ofMuhammad, the prophet of Islam.Jordan‟s arid desert landscape and few natural resources belie itsimportance in the history of the modern Middle East. The territory waspart of the Ottoman Empire, which was dismantled after World War I(1914-1918) and replaced, in this part of the Middle East, by British andFrench control. Transjordan—the territory east of the Jordan River—cameunder British control, as did Palestine to the west of the Jordan River.Transjordan‟s status as an independent kingdom was recognized in 1946(the kingdom‟s name was changed to Jordan in 1949).
Jordan RiverThe Jordan River (American English) or RiverJordan (British English) (Hebrew: NeharhaYarden, Arabic: Nahr al-Urdun) is a 251kilometres (156 mi) long river in West Asia flowing tothe Dead Sea. Currently, the river serves as the easternborder of the State of Israel and of the disputed PalestinianTerritories. In Christian tradition, Jesus was baptised in itby John the Baptist. The Hashemite Kingdom ofJordan takes its name from this river.
IranIran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, country in southwesternAsia, located on the northeastern shore of the Persian Gulf. One of theworlds most mountainous countries, Iran contains Mount Damāvand, thehighest peak in Asia west of the Himalayas. The country‟spopulation, while ethnically and linguistically diverse, is almost entirelyMuslim. For centuries, the region has been the center of the Shia branch ofIslam (see Shia Islam). Iran ranks among the world‟s leaders in its reservesof oil and natural gas. As is the case in other countries in the petroleum-richPersian Gulf region, the export of oil has dominated Iran‟s economy sincethe early 20th century. In the 6th century BC the territory of present-dayIran was the center of the Persian Empire, the world‟s preeminent power atthat time. For more than 2,000 years, the region‟s inhabitants have referredto it by the name Iran, derived from the Aryan tribes who settled the arealong ago. However, until 1935, when the Iranian ruler demanded that thename Iran be used, the English-speaking world knew the country asPersia, a legacy of the Greeks who named the region after its mostimportant province, Pars (present-day Fārs). Iran was a monarchy ruled bya shah, or king, almost without interruption from 1501 until 1979, when ayearlong popular revolution led by the Shia clergy culminated in theoverthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of an Islamic republic.
Elburz Mts.Elburz Mountains, mountain range, northern Iran, extending along thesouthern shore of the Caspian Sea. The range marks the northern limit ofthe Iranian Plateau. The Elburz have an average altitude of about 1524 m(about 5000 ft). The highest peak in the system, Mount Damāvand, is 5,610m (18,406 ft) above sea level.
Mt. DamavandMount Damāvand, also called MountDemavend, extinct volcano in northern Iran, nearTehrān (Teheran). It rises 5,610 m (18,406 ft) abovesea level and is the loftiest peak of the ElburzMountains. The summit is conical and the crater stillintact. At the base are many hot springs, givingevidence of volcanic heat comparatively near thesurface of the earth. Mount Damāvand was firstascended by a European, W. Taylor Thomson, in1837. The nearby town of Damāvand is a popularsummer resort.
Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia, monarchy in southwestern Asia, occupying most ofthe Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia is a land of vast deserts andlittle rainfall. Huge deposits of oil and natural gas lie beneath thecountry‟s surface. Saudi Arabia was a relatively poor nationbefore the discovery and exploitation of oil, but since the 1950sincome from oil has made the country wealthy. The religion ofIslam developed in the 7th century in what is now Saudi Arabia.The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 by Abdul Azizibn Saud, and it has been ruled by his descendants ever since.Saudi Arabia is bounded on the north by Jordan, Iraq, andKuwait; on the east by the Persian Gulf and Qatar; on thesoutheast by the United Arab Emirates and Oman; on the south byYemen; and on the west by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. Thecountry‟s border with the United Arab Emirates is not preciselydefined. Saudi Arabia has an area of about 2,240,000 sq km (about864,900 sq mi). The capital and largest city is Riyadh.
RiyadhRiyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia, as well as its most populous city. Aninfusion of wealth from petroleum sales beginning in the 1940s helpedtransform Riyadh into a major metropolitan center, with a moderninfrastructure and transportation system.
MeccaAlso Makkah (ancient Macoraba), city in western Saudi Arabia, located in the Al Ḩijāz (Hejaz)region, near Jiddah. Mecca is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad (the founder ofIslam), the center of pilgrimage for Muslims, and the focal point of their daily prayers. InArabic, the city is known as Makkah al-mukkaramah (“Mecca the blessed”). Pilgrimage to thecity is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is required of all able adult Muslims at least once intheir lifetimes. The pilgrimage (hajj in Arabic) is the defining factor in the growth and life ofthe city. The influx of close to 2 million pilgrims each year during the last month of the Islamiccalendar is a grand human spectacle as well as one of the largest logistical and administrativeundertakings in the world.
United Arab EmiratesUnited Arab Emirates (UAE), federation of seven independent states located in the southeasterncorner of the Arabian Peninsula, part of the Middle East region. Once known as the TrucialStates, the UAE became an independent country in 1971.Each emirate (small state ruled by a hereditary chief called an emir) is centered on a coastalsettlement and named for that settlement. The seven member emirates are Abu Dhabi (alsoknown as Abū Zaby), „Ajmān, Dubai, Al Fujayrah, Ra‟s al Khaymah, Ash Shāriqah, and Umm alQaywayn. The city of Abu Dhabi is the federal capital, and Dubai is the largest city in thecountry.
DubaiDubai, also Dubayy, city on the northeastern coast of the United Arab Emirates(UAE), and the capital of the emirate of Dubai. The city is divided in half by DubaiCreek, which is actually an inlet of the Persian Gulf. The eastern side of the creek, thetraditional city center, is called Deira (or Dayrah), and the western side is referred tosimply as Dubai. Dubai is the chief port and commercial center of the UAE, and theprincipal shipping, trading, and communications hub of the Persian Gulf region. PortRashid, a large artificial port, lies within Dubai on the western side of the creek, andJebel Ali, the largest artificial port in the world, is located 37 km (23 mi) down thecoast to the southwest.
YemenYemen, country in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern corner of the ArabianPeninsula (Arabia). Tall mountains divide Yemen‟s coastal stretches from a desolatedesert interior. Yemen is sparsely populated—half of the country is uninhabitable—andits Arab people are largely rural. The site of several prosperous civilizations in ancienttimes, Yemen declined in importance and was a poor and forgotten land for more than athousand years. The discovery of oil in the area in the late 20th century held out theprospect of economic development and an easier life for the people of Yemen.The Republic of Yemen was created in 1990 out of the unification of the Yemen ArabRepublic (YAR) and the People‟s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY). The YAR wascommonly called North Yemen, and the PDRY was generally referred to as SouthYemen, although South Yemen was actually less to the south than to the east andsoutheast of North Yemen. Sana„a (Sanaa) is the Republic of Yemen‟s capital and largestcity.
Sana’aCity and political capital of Yemen, located in Sana„a Province, on a plateaunortheast of the port of Al Ḩudaydah. Sana„a is the commercial center of afruit-growing region. It is divided into two sections with the junctionformed by the palace of the former imams, or rulers, of Yemen. The easternsection, known as the old city, has several mosques and a market wherejewelry, silver and leather goods, silks, and carpets are made and sold.
LebanonRepublic on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Southwest Asia.Lebanon‟s coastal location, high mountain backbone, and climate havegreatly influenced the country‟s history, peoples, and economy. The coastalarea of present-day Lebanon was settled more than 7,000 years ago and laterevolved as the heart of seafaring Phoenicia. To help conduct their seatrade, the Phoenicians developed the first alphabet and colonized thewestern Mediterranean. In the early centuries AD, a largely Christianpopulation and culture arose, which later blended with—though was notoverwhelmed by—Islamic influences. Following centuries of Ottomancontrol, France ruled Lebanon under a League of Nations mandate after theOttoman Empire was defeated in World War I (1914-1918). During WorldWar II (1939-1945) Lebanon became an independent republic and for threedecades prospered under a free-market economy. However, the countryexperienced increasing hostility among rival religious groups, especiallybetween Christians and Muslims. These and other domestictensions, intensified by foreign influences, erupted into the devastatingLebanese Civil War (1975-1990). Beirut is Lebanon‟s capital, principalport, and largest city.
BeirutCapital and largest city of Lebanon, located on the Mediterranean Sea. Situated on apeninsula that projects slightly westward into the Mediterranean, Beirut is contained bythe Lebanon Mountains that rise to the east. The Mediterranean climate of the city bringshot summers and mild winters, with high humidity in the summer. The Arabic nameBeirut came from the Canaanite word for “wells” (see Canaanites); the city was sonamed because of the underground water supply in the area. The area of the city isroughly 67 sq km (26 sq mi); some sites located outside the municipal boundary arecommonly associated with the city. For decades a cultural and banking center for theMiddle East, Beirut was devastated during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). After thewar, the city began a slow rebuilding process. By the start of the 21st century Beirut‟seconomy was recovering, and evidence of war damage was steadily disappearing.
CyprusIndependent country and third largest island in theMediterranean Sea, after Sicily and Sardinia. Cyprus lies in thenortheastern part of the Mediterranean, about 65 km (40 mi)south of Turkey and 110 km (65 mi) west of Syria. Nicosia is thecapital and largest city.Steep, narrow mountains line the island‟s northern coast, and anextensive mountain system rises in the south. At the center of theisland, between the mountains, lies the fertile Mesaoria plain, thesite of Nicosia. Wide bays and small inlets indent the rockycoastline, which is broken in places by long, sandy beaches.Summers in Cyprus are hot and dry, and rain is scarce on theisland, except during the winter months. Cyprus is vulnerable todrought, and most crops require irrigation
Nicosiacity in northern Cyprus, capital of the country, on the Pedhieos River.Nicosia is mainly a commercial and administrative center and has somesmall-scale manufacturing industries. Products include processedfood, clothing, textiles, and footwear. The city is served by an internationalairport at Larnaca, about 34 km (about 21 mi) to the southeast. SelimiyeMosque (1209-1325), formerly the Cathedral of Saint Sophia, is a majorlandmark. Also of interest are the Cyprus Museum, the Cyprus HistoricalMuseum and Archives, and the Folk Art Museum.
IsraelIsrael (country), country in southwestern Asia, formed in 1948 as a Jewishstate in the historic region of Palestine, and located on the eastern shore ofthe Mediterranean Sea. Israel is bounded on the north by Lebanon, on thenortheast by Syria, on the east by Jordan, and on the southwest by Egypt.Its southernmost tip extends to the Gulf of Aqaba, an arm of the Red Sea.Israel‟s isolated position as a Jewish state surrounded by Arab andpredominantly Islamic countries has influenced nearly every aspect of itsforeign relations, demography, and economic policy throughout its history.The origins of the present-day struggle between Israel and Arab nationspredate the creation of Israel. Throughout the early 20th centuryPalestine, as the birthplace of Judaism and site of the ancient HebrewKingdom of Israel, became a center of Jewish immigration, encouraged andorganized by a movement known as Zionism. Jews clashed with thePalestinian Arab inhabitants of the region throughout the Britishadministration of Palestine from 1918 to 1948. In the years after World WarII (1939-1945) the United Nations (UN) developed a plan to partitionPalestine into separate Jewish and Arab states.
JerusalemJerusalem (Hebrew Yerushalayim; Arabic Al Quds), city lying at theintersection of Israel and the West Bank, located between theMediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea, about 50 km (about 30 mi) southeastof the Israeli city of Tel Aviv-Yafo. Jerusalem is composed of two distinctsections: West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem. West Jerusalem, which isinhabited almost entirely by Jews, has been part of Israel since Israel wasestablished in 1948. East Jerusalem, which has a large Palestinian Arabpopulation and recently constructed Jewish areas, was held by Jordanbetween 1949 and the Six-Day War of 1967. During the war, East Jerusalemwas captured by Israel, which has administered it since. Israel claims thatJerusalem is its capital, but Palestinians dispute the claim and the UnitedNations has not recognized it as such. Jews, Christians, and Muslimsconsider Jerusalem a holy city, and it contains sites sacred to all threereligions..
Mt. ZionMount Zion is the eastermost hill lying in the Old City section ofJerusalem. The hill, whose name came to signify the “holy hill” ofGod, was the center of political and cultural life of the ancientHebrews.
BahrainOfficially Kingdom of Bahrain, independent Arab nation inwestern Asia, part of the region known as the Middle East.Bahrain is made up of 36 islands on the western side of thePersian Gulf, between Saudi Arabia to the east and Qatarto the west. The main island, also known as Bahrain, ishome to the country‟s capital and largest city, Manama..Bahrain entered recorded history about 5,000 years ago asa commercial trading center. Long under the influence ofmore powerful neighbors, it came under the domination ofIran in the 17th century. The al-Khalifa family, originatingfrom the central Arabian Peninsula, establishedthemselves as Bahrain‟s rulers in 1783 and has ruled eversince. A series of treaties in the 19th century gave Britaincontrol over Bahrain‟s defense and foreign affairs. TheBritish influence lasted until Bahrain became independentin 1971.
ManamaManama, also Al Manamah, city in northeastern Bahrain, capital of the country, on thenortheastern shore of Bahrain Island, in the Persian Gulf, near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The portdeveloped and the city began to be modernized in the 1950s and 1960s, as a result of proceedsfrom the sale of petroleum. Industries include oil refining, dhow (an Arab boat with triangularsail) building, fishing, and pearling; pearling was once the citys chief economic activity. Thetown is connected by a causeway with adjoining Al Muḩarraq, site of an international airport. In1958 Manama was declared a free-transit port. The Arabian Gulf University (1980) and theUniversity of Bahrain (1986) are here. Population (2003 estimate) 139,000.
QatarQatar, nation occupying the Qatar Peninsula, which extendsnorthward from the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula intothe Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia shares Qatar‟s southernborder, and the island nation of Bahrain lies off its westernshores. Like most of Arabia, the Qatar Peninsula is a hot and drydesert land with no surface water and few native plants andanimals. Most of the people live in cities, particularly Doha, thenational capital. The country is rich in oil and natural gas, andthe exploitation of these resources dominates its prosperouseconomy. The al-Thani clan has ruled Qatar as an emirate (amonarchy with an emir as head of state) since the late 19thcentury. Like several of its neighbors, Qatar came under Britishprotection in the early 20th century. It became fullyindependent in 1971. The emirate was a relatively poor stateuntil the mid-20th century, when its vast petroleum reserveswere discovered and exploited. Qatar is now one of the world‟swealthiest countries per capita.
DohaDoha, also Ad Dawḩah, eastern Qatar, capital and largest city of thecountry, on the Persian Gulf. It has a large, artificial deepwater port, whichwas opened in 1969 and serves as a major transshipment center for cargo ofthe Persian Gulf nations. Shrimping and shrimp processing are importantindustries. The University of Qatar (1973) and the National Museum (1975)are here. The marketplace and the Government House (1969) are majorlandmarks. More than half the population of Qatar resides in Doha.
IraqIraq, country in the Middle East that has been central to three wars since 1980. Some of theworld‟s greatest ancient civilizations—Assyria, Babylonia, and Sumer—developed in the areathat now makes up Iraq. The modern state of Iraq was created in 1920 by the Britishgovernment, whose forces had occupied it during World War I (1914-1918). The country isofficially named the Republic of Iraq (Al Jumhūrīyah al-„Iraqia in Arabic). Baghdād is the capitaland largest city.Iraq is situated at the northern tip of the Persian Gulf. Its coastline along the gulf is only 30 km(19 mi) long. Thus, the country is nearly landlocked. Its only port on the gulf, Umm Qaşr, issmall and located on shallow water, and only small craft can dock there.Iraq is potentially one of the richest countries in the world. It contains enormous deposits ofpetroleum and natural gas. It is endowed with large quantities of water, supplied by its twomain rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, and their tributaries. Iraq‟s location between thosetwo great rivers gave rise to its ancient Greek name, Mesopotamia (“the land between therivers”).Most of Iraq‟s people are Arabs. Iraq has been politically active in the Arab world, with most ofits regimes trying to advance pan-Arab or partial Arab political unification under Iraqileadership. The country has had tense relations with its eastern neighbor, Iran, resulting in acostly war in the 1980s (see Iran-Iraq War). At times it has claimed neighboring Kuwait, mostrecently in 1990, leading to the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Iraq was involved in all the Arab-Israeli wars except the Suez Crisis of 1956 (see Arab-Israeli Conflict).Set up as a monarchy, Iraq became a republic in 1958. It became a dictatorship dominated by asingle party in 1968. That dictatorship came under the control of Saddam Hussein in 1979.Under his leadership, Iraq‟s regional and foreign policies were ambitious, often involving greatrisk. In the late 20th century Iraq attained a high international profile, unprecedented in themodern history of the Middle East, but at an exorbitant political price. The dictatorship failed invarious attempts to topple Arab regimes and to achieve leadership status in the Arab world oreven in the Persian Gulf region. It failed in eight years of war in the 1980s to bring down theregime of neighboring Iran. It conquered Kuwait in 1990 but was forced to relinquish it by acoalition of Western and Arab countries in the Persian Gulf War.
BaghdadBaghdād or Bagdad, capital of Iraq, in central Iraq, on the Tigris River. Baghdād is the center ofair, road, and railroad transportation in Iraq. It is the leading manufacturing city of thecountry, with oil refineries, food-processing plants, tanneries, and textile mills. Among thehandcrafted wares produced in Baghdād are cloth, household utensils, jewelry, leathergoods, felt, and rugs, which may be purchased in the bazaars. Consisting of rows of small shopsor stalls, these bazaars have long been a feature of the city. Educational institutions in the cityinclude the University of Baghdād (1957), al-Mustansiriyah University (1963), and theUniversity of Technology (1974).
SyriaSyria (Arabic Suriyah), officially Al Jumhuriyah al Arabiyah as Suriyah(Syrian Arab Republic), republic in southwestern Asia, bounded on thenorth by Turkey, on the east by Iraq, on the south by Jordan and Israel, andon the west by Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea. Syria has an area of185,180 sq km (71,498 sq mi). The capital and largest city is Damascus, alsospelled Dimashq.
DamascusDamascus or Dimashq, capital and chief city of Syria, in southwestern Syria, on theBaradá River, near the Anti-Lebanon Mountains in the southwestern part of the country.The greater part of Damascus, including the rectangular ancient city, is on the southbank of the Baradá. Modern suburbs extend from the north bank.Damascus has long been an important commercial center. In former times it was famousfor dried fruit, wine, wool, linens, and silks. Damask, a type of patterned fabric, wasnamed for the silk fabrics woven in Damascus. The city was notable also for themanufacture and transshipment of damascened steel sword blades, which wereexceptionally hard and resilient. Today the city is the trading center forfigs, almonds, and other fruit produced in the surrounding region. Industries inDamascus include handicrafts, such as the weaving of silk cloth and the making ofleather goods, filigreed gold and silver objects, and inlaid wooden, copper, and brassarticles. Among the citys other manufactures are processed food, clothing, and printedmaterial
OmanOman, nation occupying the southeastern corner of the ArabianPeninsula (see Arabia). Oman is a desert country in which highmountain peaks gaze down on dazzling white sand beaches. It isthe principal home of the Ibadis, a minority Islamic sect distinctfrom both Sunni and Shia Islam (see Islam). For centuries a hub ofIndian Ocean trade, Oman was an imperial power from the 17ththrough the 19th century. Oman is ruled by a monarch called asultan, and the country‟s official name is the Sultanate of Oman.Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) borderOman to the west. The Arabian Sea (part of the Indian Ocean) liesto the east and the Gulf of Oman to the north. Its northernmostextension, on the Musandam Peninsula (separated from the rest ofOman by the UAE), overlooks the Strait of Hormuz and has a fewmiles of Persian Gulf coastline. Masqaţ, also known as Muscat, isthe capital of Oman and the center of the country‟s largestmetropolitan area.
MuscatMasqaţ or Muscat, city and capital of Oman, located on the northeastern coast of thecountry on the Gulf of Oman (an arm of the Arabian Sea, itself part of the Indian Ocean).Flanked by steep cliffs and hills, the city lies almost exactly on the Tropic of Cancer.Masqaţ is the center of an expanding metropolitan area encompassing severalneighboring cities. Once the country‟s leading port, Masqaţ‟s harbor has been surpassedby the nearby modern port facilities at Maţraḩ and Mina Qaboos. Also close to Masqaţ areMina al-Fahl, a loading terminal for oil supertankers and, farther west, an internationalairport. Modern highways link Masqaţ with other Omani cities and with the United ArabEmirates.
KuwaitKuwait (country), nation in the Middle East, located at thenorthwestern tip of the Persian Gulf. Kuwait is a small, desertcountry, but it possesses a strategic stretch of Persian Gulfcoastline and significant petroleum reserves. Kuwaiticitizens, who are Arab Muslims, make up less than half of thecountry‟s population—most of the remainder are immigrantworkers..For many years Kuwait was a minor emirate whose economycentered on sea trade and especially pearl exports. The discoveryof oil in the 20th century transformed all aspects of Kuwaitisociety, and today the country has one of the highest per capitaincomes in the world. In 1990 neighboring Iraq invadedKuwait, precipitating the 1991 Persian Gulf War, in which aninternational force expelled the Iraqis.
Kuwait CityKuwait (city), city, capital of Kuwait and a port on Kuwait Bay (an arm of the PersianGulf). Also called Al Kuwait. Wealth from oil fields in the coastal desert and in the gulfhas been used to make the city one of the most modern in the Middle East. An importantoil port, Kuwait produces petrochemicals and other petroleum products and is a tradeand financial center. Shrimp and pearls are obtained from the Persian Gulf. The city isthe site of Kuwait University (1962); vocational, technical, and teachers colleges; and astate museum. Founded in the early 18th century, Kuwait was once considered aterminus for a projected Berlin-Baghdād railway. It began to expand after World War II.In the early 1990s, however, it faced the difficulties of recovering from the severedamage inflicted during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and the Persian Gulf War. Thename is also spelled Al Kuwayt, Kuweit, or Koweit. Population (2003 estimate)1,222,000.