Chapter 7 notes notes on chapter 7, middle east/north africa
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Chapter 7 – Middle East/ North Africa
- We define it as North Africa/Southwest Asia(NASWA)
- Lies at the heart of the inhabited world, contains the geographic center of the Land Hemisphere.
- Realm is sometimes characterized in a few rods that purport to summarize one or more of its
dominant features. None of these is satisfactory but all hold a kernel of the truth. Four of them
1) A “Dry World” – Most of the realm’s nearly 600 million people live where there is surface
water-in the Nile Valley and Delta along northwestern Africa’s hilly Mediterranean coast,
along the eastern and northeastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, in the basin of the
Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in the uplands of western Iran and eastern Turkestan and in the
far flung oases throughout the realm. In this realm water is almost at a premium and
millions of peasants struggle to make soil and moisture yield a small harvest.
2) The “Middle East”? – The name reflects the biases of its source: “Near” East in Turkey, a
“Middle” East in Egypt, Arabia, Iraq and a Far East in China and Japan. “Middle East region
lies at the core of NASWA.
3) An “Arab World?” – this term implies a uniformity that does not actually exist. The name
Arab is applied loosely to the peoples of this area who speak Arabic and related languages,
but ethnologists normally restrict it to certain occupants of the Arabian Peninsula - the Arab
4) An “Islamic World?” – World’s largest Muslim state is Indonesia. Misleading as it also
suggests that there is no Islam beyond NASWA’s borders. This world of Islam is not entirely
Muslim either. Christian minorities continue to survive in all three regions and many of the
countries of NASWA realm. Judaism has its base in the Middle East region, and smaller
religious communities such as Lebanon’s Druze and Iran’s Bahais diversify religious mosaic.
Islam’s impact on realm’s culture is dominant in countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and
Sudan and laminate to several of the countries in Turkestan.
- Of its nearly 30 states and territories, the 3 largest and in many ways most important are Egypt
in North Africa, Turkey on the threshold of Europe and Iran at the margins of Turkestan. All 3
have populations between 70 and 80 million.
- In North Africa almost everyone seems to live along or near the Mediterranean coast.
Hearths of Culture
This geographic realm occupies a pivotal part of the world: here Eurasia meets Africa.
- Cultural Geo – a wide ranging and comprehensive field that studies spatial aspects of human
cultures, focusing not only on cultural landscapes but also on culture hearths
Rivers and Communities
- In the basins of the major rivers of this realm lay two of the world’s earliest culture hearths.
(Tigris and Euphrates of modern day Turkey, Syria, and Iraq; and the Nile of Egypt
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- Mesopotamia, “land amidst the rivers, had fertile alluvial soils, abundant sunshine, ample water,
and animal and plants that could be domesticated.
- Mesopotamia – irrigation was the key to prosperity and power, urbanization was its reward.
- Hydraulic civilization Theory – cities that could control irrigated farming over large hinterlands
held power over others, used food as a weapon, and thrived. Babylon endured for nearly
4000yrs and for a time was world’s largest city.
- Egypt and the Nile – Egypt’s cultural evolution may have started even earlier than
Mesopotamia’s and its focus lay upstream from the Nile and downstream from the first of the
Nile’s series of rapids. The Nile provided a natural fortress here. The ancient Egyptians
converted their security into progress. The Nile was their highway of trade and interaction; it
also supported agriculture through irrigation.
- The Indus Valley – Mesopotamian innovations reached the Indus region early and eventually
the cities of the Indus became power centers of a civilization that extended far into present-day
India. Today the world continues to benefit from the accomplishments of the ancient
Mesopotamians and Egyptians. They domesticated cereals, vegetables, fruits and many animals.
Also advanced study of the calendar, mathematics, astronomy, government, engineering,
metallurgy etc. Europe was greatest beneficiary of these legacies.
- Decline and Decay – many of the early cities of this culture realm lay in what is today desert
territory so it is reasonable to hypothesize that climate change took over many of these ancient
cities. Climate change altered the map and made the “Fertile Crescent”(evolved extending from
Mesopotamia across southern Turkey into Syria and the Mediterranean coast beyond) history.
Overpopulation became a problem as the drying land could support ever fewer people
moreover destruction of natural vegetation reduced its carrying capacity for livestock. As old
societies disintegrated power emerged elsewhere. First the Persians, then the Greeks, and later
the land and disconnected peoples of North Africa/ South west Asia. Roman technicians
converted North Africa’s farmlands into irrigated plantations whose products went by the
boatload to Roman Mediterranean shores. Egypt and Middle East quickly colonized. Arabian
Peninsula lay distant and remote.
- Stage for Islam - In a town called Mecca about 45 miles from Red Sea a man named Muhammad
in the year 613 AD began to receive revelations from Allah (God). Islam acknowledges that
Moses and Jesus were important prophets, but considers Muhammad to be the final and
- Islam dictated the observance of the Five Pillars: 1) Repeated expressions of the basic creed, 2)
The daily prayer, 3) A month each year of daytime fasting (Ramadan), 4) the giving of the alms
(charity), and 5) at least one pilgramage in each Muslim’s lifetime to Mecca.
- Routes of Diffusion – The spread of Islam provides a good illustration of a series of processes
called Spatial Diffusion focusing on the way ideas, inventions, and cultural practices propagate
through a population in space and time. Expansion diffusion – when propagation waves
originate in a strong and durable source area and spread outward. Relocation Diffusion – an
innovation is carried by migrants from the source to distant locations and diffuses form there.
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