Largest Cities in the Middle East

Cairo, Egypt, is widely considered to be the most populated city in the Middle East. Editorial credit: Direction Studio /

The Middle East consists of countries in West Asia and extends to include Egypt in North Africa. It is made up of 16 countries including Palestine and Israel. The population of the Middle East is estimated at 410 million including 13 million immigrants. Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish, Persian, and Berber are the most spoken languages while Islam is the dominant religion. Iran is the most populated state with slightly less than 82 million people followed closely by Turkey with 79.5 million. The least populated countries are Bahrain with 1.35 million, Qatar (2.2 million), and Kuwait (2.8 million).

Largest Cities in the Middle East


Cairo is the largest city in the Middle East by population. It is the 15th largest metropolitan in the world with a population of about 20.4 million. The city's large population is attributed to its geographical position along the River Nile, which is the primary source of water in the desert state.


The Iranian capital of Tehran ranks second with a city population of 8.8 million and a metropolitan population of 15.2 million. It is the most populated city in Western Asia and the 24th in the world. About 99 percent of the population speaks or understands the Persian language. There have been proposals to relocate the city due to exposure to earthquakes and air pollution. 


Istanbul is the third largest city in the Middle East with a city population of 14.1 million and a metropolitan population of 14.6 million. Istanbul serves as a transitional city between Europe and Asia with a third of the population in Europe while two-thirds is in Asia. Istanbul is considered the largest European City when the country is classified as European. It was named the European Capital of Culture in 2010 because of the many historical centers and UNESCO World Heritage sites.


Baghdad is the fourth largest city in the Middle East are the second largest in Western Asia after Tehran with a population of 8.7 million. The city was nearly deserted during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the Iraqi war of 2011. Recurrent insurgency attacks and severe damage to infrastructure has limited growth and expansion of the city.

Population Growth in the Middle East

The population trend of the Middle East does not create a clear pattern. The introduction of better sanitation measures and modern medicine compounded with improving mortality rates have led to a decline in death while declining fertility rates and constant violence are a hindrance to population increase. The poverty rate is still as high as the country's struggle to create job opportunities for the young generation.

Largest Cities in the Middle East

1Cairo Egypt20,439,541
2Tehran Iran15,232,564
3Istanbul Turkey14,657,434
4Baghdad Iraq8,768,000
5Riyadh Saudi Arabia6,506,700
6Ankara Turkey5,270,575
7Alexandria Egypt4,984,387
8Jeddah Saudi Arabia4,276,000
9Izmir Turkey4,113,072
10Amman Jordan4,007,526

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