The Middle East is a region that gets a lot of international attention. Made up of 18 countries, the Middle East is defined as the region spanning the Levant, Arabian peninsula, Egypt, Iran and Iraq. Most people know the Middle East because of its role in world affairs over the last two decades. But why does the Middle East get so much attention? And what makes the Middle East so important?
The answer to this question is complex. However, we’ve done our best to breakdown the main reasons why the Middle East is one of the most important parts of the world…
1. The Middle East Is Rich In Natural Resources
Let’s start with perhaps the best-known reason for why the Middle East is important… it’s natural resources.
The Middle East has huge quantities of oil and natural gas. It has five of the ten highest oil producing countries in the world. These types of natural resources are the foundation to the modern global economy. The Middle East is important because they are found in the region in such huge quantities.
Natural resources have made many countries in the Middle East extremely rich. It has also meant the region has been fought over for the last century as global powers try and control the regions resources and ensure a continued supply to their economies. The Middle East is a vital region because so many countries depend on the natural resources it produces.
Although there are many reasons why the Middle East is a crucial region globally, many people would, correctly, cite its abundance of natural resources as being the primary reason.
2. Its Strategically Important Location
A second reason why the Middle East is important is its geographical location.
The Middle East sits as the cross-roads of Europe, Asia and Africa. For centuries it has been vital to trade roots and transport. Today, the Middle East sits at the heart of the global economy – its location means millions of people and billions of tons of freight that are vital to the modern connected world move through the Middle East.
The Middle East has the largest airport in the world – King Fahd International Airport, in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh are all also key transport hubs for passengers and cargo. The Suez Canal is the perhaps the most vital waterway in the world allowing cargo ships to connect Europe and Asia. The regions’ location has meant it has become a hub for global businesses that want easy access to Europe, as well as emerging markets in Asia and Africa.
As a region, the Middle East is strategically hugely important. This is another reason why for over a century great global powers have fought to control it.
3. The Regions Role In History
A third reason why the Middle East is important globally is because of the role it has played in history.
The Middle East was the location of many historically important ancient civilizations. The Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, and Phoenicians all had empires in what is today the Middle East. These civilizations were crucial to the formation of modern human society. Inventions such as algebra, coffee, toothbrushes and pens all came from Middle Eastern societies and played a vital role in creating the world we know today.
In both World Wars the Middle East played a critical role in the allied victories. The Arab revolt and the war against the Ottoman Empire in what is today Jordan was key to knocking the great power out of the World War One. Battles in El Alamein and Tobruk in World War Two were critical to the victory over Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
Historically, the Middle East has been one of the most important regions of the world. The events that have taken place there have shaped the course of history and had a direct impact on the modern world. This is a major reason why the region is considered so important.
4. Its Religious Importance
Another reason why the Middle East is important is because of the region’s religious significance.
Three of the world’s largest religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have the roots in the Middle East. Jerusalem, in Israel/Palestine, contains the holiest sites for both Jewish people and Christians, as well as the third holiest site for Muslims. Mecca and Medina, both in Saudi Arabia, are the locations of the first and second holiest places in Islam.
All three major world religions were founded in the Middle East and this makes the region hugely important to billions of people around the world.
As well as the major centres of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the Middle East has many other sites of religions importance. The region has thousands of years of religious history and this means almost every country has sites that are of great religious significance. The role the Middle East has played in forming people’s religious beliefs is a big reason why the region is seen as so vital.
5. The Middle East Has Incredible Culture
The culture of the Middle is incredibly rich. This is a further reason why the region is important.
Across the Middle East there is a history or art, music, architecture and writing that dates back thousands of years. The culture of the region is hugely famous, attracting tourists from around the world. The Middle East has an incredibly unique culture – formed partly through traditional Arabic and Muslim roots, as well as influences from Europe, Asia and Africa.
The Middle East’s culture fuses tradition with modernity. Ancient cities such as Cairo, Damascus and Jerusalem are amazing places to see the remnants of past civilizations and experience traditional Middle Eastern culture. In contrast, modern cities such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha are at the cutting edge of modern technology and the forefront of modern tourism.
6. It Has A Huge Population
The Middle East has a large population and this is another reason why it is important to the world.
411 million people live across the Middle East. The size of the region’s population means it cannot be ignored in global affairs. The region contains major population centers, including Egypt – the 14th most populous country in the world. Iran and Turkey are both among the most populated countries, giving the region a number of key global population centers.
As well as having a large population, the demographics of the Middle East make it a significant region. The Middle East has an incredibly young population. The average age across the region is just 22 years old. Compare this to the United States where the average age is 38 years old. Young populations make for dynamic economies but can also lead to tensions and instability if opportunities are not available.
The young age of the population is just one way that the Middle East’s demographic makes it important to the rest of the world.
7. Many Countries Have Important Allies In The Region
Another reason why the Middle East is important is because many countries have key alliances in the region.
Building relationships with Middle Eastern countries has been a priority for great powers for over a century. The region is so important to the world that many countries try and build alliances with countries in the region.
During the Cold War, America and the Soviet Union competed to pull countries in the Middle East into their spheres of influence. Today, America has key alliances with many regional powers, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Russia is a strong ally to the regime of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, fighting in the countries civil war to prop-up his regime. The Middle East is so important that the struggles between great powers for influence in the regions still continues…
The fact that many countries have allies in the Middle East that they support and protect makes the region vital to a lot of countries around the world.
8. There Is Massive Potential For Conflict
When many people think of the Middle East they think of conflicts. The legacy of conflict in the region, and the potential for further fighting, is another reason why the region is important.
Since the year 1960, the Middle East has seen 64 wars. In recent decades, wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya have all drawn the worlds attention. The decades long conflict between the Israeli and Palestinians also often returns to international attention and attempts to resolve the conflict remain elusive.
Wars in the Middle East are important globally for several reasons. First, they have the potential to pull in major world powers, such as Russia in Syria, America in Iraq or the UK and France in Libya. Second, they the potential to destabilise other regions of the world – for example by causing millions of refugees to flee the region. Thirdly, Middle Eastern wars have the potential to cause enormous human suffering – something that the world must work to alleviate.
Sadly, the underlying causes of many wars in the Middle East remain unresolved. This means the region is likely to see more conflict in the future. This is a key reason why the Middle East is so important.
9. The Region Is Incredibly Diverse
A final reason why the Middle East is important is its incredible diversity.
The Middle East is one of the most diverse regions in the world. It has a huge mix of ethnicities, religions, cultures and traditions. There are more than 60 languages spoken across the region. As well as dominant communities such as Arab Christian and Muslims, there are a large number of ethnic and religious groups across the region. These include the Druze, Yazidi and the Kurdish. Many of these minorities have retained their cultures for hundreds of years and add to the complex diversity of the Middle East.
As well as the diversity in peoples, the Middle East is highly diverse geographically. Although many consider the region to be mostly desert, in fact there is extensive grasslands, mountains, lakes and rivers across the Middle East. At 2.7 million square miles, the Middle East is enormous and its size allows for incredible diversity in its nature.
The Middle East is a place of contrasts – from nomadic and traditional tribes to modern skyscrapers. From highly conservative societies and devote religiosity to liberal pockets and happening night-life spots. The region is one of the most varied on earth, and this is why it’s so important.