What Is the Middle East?
The Middle East is a geographical region that encompasses parts of multiple continents, namely where Western Asia, Southeast Europe (Turkey), Northern Africa (Egypt), the Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian Ocean converge. Historically, the region was commonly referred to as the Near East, particularly by Western historians and geographers to describe the part that was closest to Europe, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf, but was largely replaced by the term Middle East during the twentieth century. Israel can be considered as part of the Middle East.
Countries In The Middle East
Since the Middle East is a transcontinental region, it includes countries from three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe. The Middle East contains a total of 17 sovereign countries, plus the partially recognized state of Palestine. Egypt is the only African country that is classified as part of the Middle East, while Cyprus and Turkey are the only Europeans countries. The remaining countries are all located in Asia, including Israel.
Israel is a country in Western Asia that is also part of the Middle East region. The country is relatively small, with a total area of 20,770 km2and an estimated population of 9,111,300. Despite its small size, Israel is geographically diverse and is one of the most developed countries in the Middle East. Israel shares borders with Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and the Gaza Strip. Jerusalem is the capital and largest city in Israel, as well as one of the oldest cities in the world.
Brief History Of The Middle East
While the history of the region goes back many millennia, the term "Middle East" can be traced to the 1850s. It is believed that the name likely originated from the British India Office, but only gained popularity after American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan used the term "Middle East" in 1902 to refer to the area between India and Arabia when the British and Russian Empires were competing for control of Central Asia. Mahan recognized the strategic significance of the region, and particularly the Persian Gulf, which was its center. He also emphasized the importance of the Suez Canal in Egypt, arguing that control of the canal would be critical in protecting British India from the Russian Empire.
The Near East was commonly used to refer to the region that centered on the Mediterranean and Turkey, while the Far East included parts of East Asia (especially China), Northeast Asia, and Southeast Asia. Before the start of WWI, the Middle East referred to the area that encompassed Afghanistan, Turkestan, Central Asia, Iran, and the Caucasus. These terms proved confusing for many years, and it was unclear exactly which countries were part of the Middle East, Near East, and the Far East. However, in 1958 the United States Department of State (DOS) suggested that Near East and the Middle East could be used interchangeably, and listed a specific set of countries that the region included.