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Middle Eastern Assocation

Background The Middle East (or, formerly more common, the Near East[1]) is a region that spans southwestern Asia and northeastern Africa. It has no clear boundaries, often used as a synonym to Near East, in opposition to Far East. The term "Middle East" was popularized around 1900 in the United Kingdom. The corresponding adjective to Middle East is Middle-Eastern and the derived noun is Middle-Easterner.

The history of the Middle East dates back to ancient times, and throughout its history the Middle East has been a major centre of world affairs. The Middle East is also the historical origin of three of the world’s major monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Middle East generally has an arid and hot climate, with several major rivers providing for irrigation to support agriculture in limited areas. Many countries located around the Persian Gulf have large quantities of crude oil.

Tourist Attractions

Holy Land: Israel & Palestine

Dome of the Rock (Al Aqsa Mosque): an Islamic shrine which houses the Foundation Stone, the holiest spot in Judaism and is a major landmark located on the Temple Mount. It was completed in 691, making it the oldest extant Islamic building in the world. Significance stems from the religious beliefs regarding the rock at its heart.

Western (Wailing) Wall: Important Jewish religious site; over half the wall, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the SecondTemple period, being constructed around 19 B.C. by Herold the Great. The remaining layers were added from the 7th century onwards.


Jeita Grotto: Kartstic limestone caves

Baalbek (2900-2300 BC): Famous for its Roman ruins, which include the Temples of Bacchus and Jupiter – Later called Heliopolis with Alexander the Great (334 BC)


Statue of Saladin: Saladin (1174-1193) was a Kurdish Muslim who became the Sultan of Syria and Egypt and who led the Muslim opposition to the European crusaders; recaptured Palestine

Sayyida Zaynab Mosque: Shrine containing the grave of the granddaughter of Muhammad.

Bosra: Fist Nabatean city in the 2nd century BC Ruins from Roman, Byzantine and Muslim times.

Ummayad Mosque:
Holds shrine which is said to contain the head of John the Baptist – a prophet to both Muslims and Christians alike. Pope John Paul II visited the Mosque in 2001.


Petra (cleft in the rock): Capital city of the Nabateans (100 BC); rose-red city half as old as time New World Wonder

Dead Sea (ÇáÈóÍúÑ ÇáãóíøÊ ): 1,385 ft below seal level and contains rich salts and minerals.

Aqaba: Diving and beach resort; Coastal town in far south of Jordan

Saudi Arabia

- Place of birth of prophet Muhammad (570)
– Battle of Badr: Quraysh tribe vs. Muslims
- Millions of Muslim pilgrims from all over the world in their way to Hajj

United Arab Emirates

Burj Dubai:
Tallest man-made structure ever built -  2,684 ft. Expected to be completed by September 2009.

Palm Jumeirah:
One of multiple palm-shaped artificial islands with major commercial and residential infrastructure.

Ski Dubai:
22,500-square metres of indoor ski area; part of Mall of the Emirates.

People Population
There are a large number of countries in the Middle East. The region is estimated to have around 800 million people. Some of the countries commonly associated with the Middle East are: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, and Yemen.


The Middle East is diverse with a multiplicity of religions, most of which originated there. Islam in its many forms has by far the most adherents in the Middle East. Other faiths, such as Judaism and Christianity, are also important, not only for people of that faith in the area, but because the faiths were carried widely through the centuries to people in other nations, who believe they have a stake in the historic territory of the faiths. There are also important minority religions, such as Bahá'í, Yazdanism, Zoroastrianism.


Languages of the Middle East span many different families, including Indo-European, Afro-Asiatic, and Altaic.

Arabic in its numerous varieties and Persian are most widely spoken in the region, with Arabic being the most widely spoken language in the Arab countries. Other native languages spoken in the region include Syriac (a form of Aramaic); Azeri, Berber languages, Circassian, Persian, Gilaki language and Mazandarani languages, Hebrew in its numerous varieties, Kurdish, Luri, Turkish and other Turkic languages, Somali and Greek. In Turkey, Kurdish, Syriac, Dimli (or Zaza), Azeri, Kabardian, and Gagauz languages are spoken, in addition to the Turkish language. Several modern South Arabian languages are also spoken.

English is also spoken, especially among the middle and upper class, in countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Iraq, and Kuwait. French is spoken in Algeria, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, and Egypt. Urdu is spoken in many Middle Eastern countries, such as Arab states the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and Qatar, which have large numbers of Pakistani immigrants.
Customs, Traditions & Celebrations The cultures, histories and traditions separating or defining the lives of the people of the Middle East can be mind-boggling. The Middle East is a continent of cultures, a world of histories, a whirlwind of customs and traditions that are very diverse.
Lifestyle The Role of the Family
An Arab’s family is built around an extended family system. The members usually live close to one another, meet frequently, celebrate occasions together and coordinate their
business and political activities. The father traditionally acts as the disciplinarian and
authoritative figure, children are not encouraged to seek individuality or dependency.

Couples do not enter marriage with idealistic or western romantic expectations which could be the reason behind the low divorce rate in the region. Inherited status normally outweighs personal achievements in determining one’s place in society.

Meals and Socialization
There is a great deal of socializing during meals. Expect to take second helpings.
Meals are generally served family-style with the serving plates in the middle of the table. Special occasions are often celebrated by eating a lamb served over rice. Spices like allspice, cumin and cardamom are commonly used.
  Middle Eastern Cuisine

Falafel (ÝáÇÝá):
Fried ball or patty made from spiced chickpeas and/or fava beansý. Originated in Egypt; later adopted by early Jewish immigrants to Palestine.

Shish Taouk:

Traditional Turkish shish kebab common in Lebanese and Syrian cuisines; typically eaten with garlic paste sauce.

Shawarma (ÔÇæÑãÇ):

Middle Eastern style sandwich-like wrap usuallycomposed of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey or beef; popular dish and
fast-food staple across the Middle East and North Africa, has also become popular worldwide. Made by placing strips of meat or marinated chicken on a stick; an onion or tomato is placed at the top of the stack to provide flavouring. Common dressing would be tahineh or hummus.

Kibbeh (ßÈÉ):

Dish made of burghul (different wheat species) and chopped meat. Best-known variety is a torpedo-shaped fried croquette stuffed with minced beef or lamb. Now common in Dominican Republic (DR).

Kofta (˜æÝÊå):

Meat often mixed with other ingredients such as rice, burghul, vegetables, or eggs to form a smooth paste.

Musakhan (ãÓÎøä):

Palestinian national dish; spicy bread-based made of whole chickens, cinnamon, nutmeg, olive oil, pine nuts and finely sliced onions.

Mansaf (ãäÓÝ):

Jordanian national dish made of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt and served with rice.

Mahshi or Dolma (ãÍÔí, ÏæáãÉ ):

Grape-leaved family of stuffed vegetable dishes. Stuffing may or may not include meat (meat dolma generally served warm, and meatless cold).

Humus (ÍãøÕ):

Levantine Arab dip made from cooked mashed chickpeas, blended
with tahini (sesame paste), olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic.

Tabbouleh (ÊÈæáÉ):

Levantine Arab salad made of finely chopped parsley, bulgur, mint, tomato, scallion, and other herbs with lemon juice and olive oil.

Fattoush (ÝÊæÔ):

Levantine Arab salad made from several garden vegetables and toasted or fried pieces of pita bread.

Kanafeh (ßäÇÝÉ):

Very fine vermicelli-like pastry used to make sweet pastries and desserts. Palestinian Nablus kanafeh most well-renowned in the Arab world.


Rich, sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo dough filled with chopped nuts and sweetened syrup or honey. Claimed by many Mediterranean ethnic groups.

Additional information regarding the Middle East may be found at: