West Asia refers to the region in the westernmost part of Asia. West Asia is located south of Eastern Europe and north of Africa. It is surrounded by seven different seas which include the Aegean Sea, Caspian Sea, Black Sea, Arabian Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea. West Asia includes 18 recognized sovereign states and the State of Palestine. As of 2015, the population of West Asia was approximately 300 million people and covers an area of 2,415,131 square miles.
Difference Between Western Asia and the Middle East
West Asia occasionally overlaps with the geographical area of the Middle East. The significant difference is the exclusion of most of Egypt, which is often categorized as part of Africa, and the inclusion of the Caucasus region. The name West Asia or Western Asia is occasionally used only for grouping countries for statistical purposes and sometimes used in place of the political name of the Middle East.
Regions of West Asia
The name West Asia could refer to different places depending on the context. For instance in archaeology and ancient history, and it is used to differentiate the fertile crescent in Asia or Western Asia cultures as opposed to ancient Egypt. However, in geography, West Asia refers to the regions of Mesopotamia, Levant, Anatolia, the Armenian Highlands, Iran, Arabian Peninsula, South Caucasus, and the Sinai Peninsula.
The Levant is a name used to refer to a region in the Eastern Mediterranean in West Asia, which corresponds to the historical area of Syria; however, in its broadest sense, the region includes all the islands in the eastern part of the Mediterranean which extend from Cyrenaica to Greece. The name is derived from the Italian word Levante which means rising, and the name literally means rising of the sun in the east. In the 1580s, England established the Levant Company to carry out commerce particularly in the Ottoman Empire region and the name at the time was used to refer to Syria and Lebanon which were the French mandate. Currently, Levant is also used sometimes for prehistoric or ancient references; however, it is often used to refer to the region that lies between the Mediterranean Sea in the west, the Taurus mountains in Turkey to the north, and the Mesopotamia and the Arabian Desert to the east. The region does not include Anatolia which is also known as Asia Minor and does not also include the Arabian Peninsula or the Caucasus mountains. However, the Sinai Peninsula, which is also known as Asian Egypt, are sometimes included in the Levant region.
Mesopotamia refers to the historical region located in West Asia which was bounded by the Euphrates and Tigris river systems. In the modern times, Mesopotamia corresponds to most parts of Kuwait, Iraq, northern parts of Saudi Arabia, the eastern region of Syria, southeast parts of Turkey, the Syrian-Turkish border, and the Iraq-Iran borders. Between 3100 BCE and 539 BCE, Mesopotamia was occupied by the Akkadians, Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians. Mesopotamia is the region where the earliest development of the Neolithic Revolution took place in about 10000 BCE. The region has been identified to have inspired some of the most critical development of human history which includes the planting of the first cereal crops, the invention of the wheel, development of the cursive script, agriculture, astronomy, and mathematics.
Anatolia is a Turkish name which translates to "East", and the region is also known as Asia Minor while in modern and Medieval Greek it was known as small Asia. Other names used in place of Anatolia include Anatolian Peninsula, Asian Turkey, or Anatolian plateau. The region refers to the west most of Asia which are made up of the most of modern-day Turkey. The Anatolia is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea, the Armenian highlands, the Black Sea, and the Aegean Sea. The eastern boundary is believed to be a line between the Black Sea and the Gulf of Alexandretta. According to other definitions, the Anatolian plateau is the region also known as the Armenian highlands. Ancient people who lived in Anatolia spoke the Anatolian languages which are now extinct and starting from the classical antiquity and it was replaced by the Greek language. The main Anatolian languages which are now extinct include Luwian, Hittite, and Lydian. Starting from the late 11th century, the Anatolia region underwent through Turkification and continued throughout the Ottoman Empire between the 13th century and early 20th century. Today, there are few non-Turkish languages spoken by minority groups in the Anatolia region which include Georgian, Laz, Arabic, Armenian, Neo-Aramaic, and Kurdish.
The Arabian Peninsula is another region in West Asia and geographically it is considered as a subcontinent of Asia. It is by far the world’s largest peninsula spanning an area of 1.25 million square miles. The region has played an important role because it has enormous reserves of natural gas and oil. It is believed that the Peninsula was formed when the Red Sea rifted in about 56 and 33 million years ago. The Arabian Peninsula is bordered by the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Levant, and the Indian Ocean. In 2014, the Arabian Peninsula was estimated to have a population of 77.983 million people including expatriates working in the region.
Climate in West Asia
West Asia is generally arid and semi-arid and droughts are widespread, but there are areas where it contains forests and fertile valleys. The region is characterized by grasslands, deserts, rangelands, and mountainous terrain. Shortage of water is the main problem in parts of Western Asia, especially with the increasing population. Similarly, it has a problem with pollution and salinization which threatens the minimal sources of water. Some of the main rivers in the region include Euphrates and Tigris which are utilized for domestic, commercial, and irrigation purposes which support agriculture in the region.