Encyclopedia BritannicaStanding atop a wall that separates a Shi'ite neighbourhood from a Sunni one in west Baghdad, demonstrators protest the establishment of such walls as well as the U.S. presence in Iraq.
Iraqis batter a statue of Saddam Hussein with their shoes, a traditional sign of contempt.
On June 25 a young supporter of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad holds up a campaign poster for the dark-horse candidate in the Iranian presidential election. The conservative Ahmadinejad won in a landslide.
During the holy month of Ramadan, families break their daily fast at sunset. Neighbors and friends are often invited to enjoy a meal with many dishes. Women usually spend most of the morning preparing the food. After everyone has enjoyed the main meal, the family serves sweets, drinks, and fruit. (Amman, Jordan, October 2007)
Also known as the Sultanahmet Mosque, the Blue Mosque gets its name from the over 20,000 blue and white tiles that line its interior walls. One of the most sacred parts of the mosque is the mihrab (a small niche that shows Muslims which direction to face while praying). The mihrab in the Blue Mosque contains a piece of the sacred Black Stone from the Kaaba in Mecca. (Istanbul, Turkey, August 2007)
The interior of the Blue Mosque's main dome is a single space. The dome is supported by four pillars known as elephant feet. Each is 16 feet in diameter. Light pours in through 260 windows. The Blue Mosque is a source of pride for Turks, 90 percent of whom are Sunni Muslim. (Istanbul, Turkey, August 2007)
A Muslim worshipper studies the Koran at one of Turkey's mosques. Muslims believe the Koran to be the word of Allah (God) as revealed to the prophet Muhammad. Some Muslims work to memorize the text of the Koran in order to internalize its messages. A person who has memorized the entire texts is called a hafiz. (Istanbul, Turkey, August 2007)
The Ka'bah surrounded by Muslim pilgrims, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Many of Iran's Muslims strictly observe religious customs. Here, men gather for a Friday prayer service.
A woman weaves a traditional carpet on an upright loom. Women do most of the weaving. (Kabul, Afghanistan, 2004)
A musical group, dressed in native costume, performs at a conference in Kabul. Performances such as this were strictly forbidden when the Taliban was in power in Afghanistan. (Kabul, Afghanistan, 2004)
The mausoleums of Sheikh Safi od-Din in Ardabil, Iran.
Schoolgirls talk outside of a girl's school with their teacher. From elementary to high school, education is segregated by gender, with girls in all schools being required to follow strict dress codes. (Mashhad, Iran, May 2007)
Women gather for prayers at a mosque in Tehran. As in many aspects of life in Iran, men and women generally worship separately. Most mosques are built with separate prayer areas for women and men. (Tehran, Iran, April 2008)
Woman wearing a burka.
At meals, Afghans usually sit on the floor around a mat on which food is served in communal dishes. In urban areas such as Kabul, the diet is usually more varied than in rural areas, but poverty and food shortages limit what many Afghans eat, regardless of where they live. (Kabul, Afghanistan, 2004)
In the Middle East, Islam is the dominant religion. Islam's followers, Muslims, worship in mosques, like the one in Iran shown here. The women in the foreground have their heads covered, as required by Islamic law in Iran. In most other countries, Muslim women can choose whether to wear a veil or head cover.
An Anglican funeral procession is held for Basil Fleihan, a former minister of economy who was injured in the bombing that killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005. Fleihan died two months later. Funerals in Lebanon involve a procession of family and friends from the home of the individual to the church, mosque, or cemetery. The more important the individual, the larger the procession, especially if the person was a religious or political figure. (Beirut, Lebanon, April 2005)
CultureGramsMost Afghan homes are composed of a wood frame with mud-brick walls. The home is surrounded by high mud walls, which provide security from enemies, seclusion for women, and a pen for animals. The various rooms are arranged around an open courtyard. (Kabul, Afghanistan, June 2008)
Beirut has long been considered one of the best places for higher education in the Arab world. The city has many universities catering to French, English, and Arabic educated students. These university friends are from three of Lebanon's sectarian groups: Orthodox Christian, Sunni Muslim, and Shi'i Muslim. All attend the same university and have classes together. (Beirut, Lebanon, August 2005)
Access to the Internet is provided to computer users at an Internet café in Saudi Arabia. A large, interconnected computer network, the Internet links millions of people around the world and has revolutionized communications.
Some 80 percent of Jordanians live in urban areas, where large villas such as this are common among the wealthy. (Amman, Jordan, September 2007)
Sections of Beirut's suburbs are called the “poverty belt.” Rapid urbanization created a demand for housing, so multi-story concrete buildings were built quickly, without much regulation. The government has not been able to provide steady electricity for the nation, and water supplies are always scarce. Many families have access to water for only a few hours per day, so they pump enough for their daily needs into rooftop storage tanks, pictured in the foreground. (Beirut, Lebanon, April 2005)
Carpets are displayed from floor to ceiling in this rug merchant's shop. Afghanistan was a leading provider of these woven rugs, but years of war have limited production. (Kabul, Afghanistan, 2004)
These Afghan children are dressed in traditional clothing. Some of the boys wear the kamees, which consists of a knee-length shirt (perahan) worn over baggy trousers (partoog) that are pulled tight with a drawstring. The only girl in the picture wears a scarf to cover her hair. (Kabul, Afghanistan, 2004)
Two young boys share a bike: one rides while the other balances on the back. Few Afghans own cars. Most get around by bike, on foot, or by bus or mini-bus. (Kabul, Afghanistan, June 2008)
Sheep carcasses hang in a row outside a Kabul butcher shop. Most Afghans are Muslim and, therefore, avoid pork. Lamb is one of the most common alternatives. Kebabs often feature lamb, and it also shows up in a variety of dishes with vegetables and rice. (Kabul, Afghanistan, October 2008)
Two young goat herders share the road with passing vehicles. On the left, a man pushes a well-stocked fruit cart. Agriculture and pastoralism (livestock raising) are integral parts of Afghanistan's economy. Products of these industries, like the goats and fruit above, are usually sold domestically. (Kabul, Afghanistan, June 2008)
Beneath an ornate ceiling in Dubai's Ibn Battuta Mall is a sign at the entrance to a coffee shop. Western food establishments such as this one are increasingly common in the United Arab Emirates. The Ibn Battuta Mall is a sprawling complex featuring exhibits that chronicle the explorations of famed 14th-century adventurer Ibn Battuta. (Dubai, United Arab Emirates, January 2008)
As evening falls on the sand dunes near Dubai, a camel trainer watches over his resting animals. In the desert, temperatures can be extremely hot during the day but drop sharply at night. (Dubai, United Arab Emirates, January 2008)
World Book OnlinePetroleum accounts for most of the total value of Iran's exports. The country's chief oil-exporting terminal is at Kharg Island in the Persian Gulf.
The distinctive Kingdom Tower, completed in the early 21st century, stands out as a landmark in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's capital.
Cultural impressions of the middle east 2011
IranPresidentMahmoud AhmadinejadIranSupreme Religious LeaderAyatollah Ali KhameneiIraqPrime Minister:Nouri MalikiSaudi ArabiaHead of state, prime minister:King Abdullah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz Al SaudLibyaColonel Muammar GaddafiAfghanistanPresidentHamid Karzai