Middle East Geography
The total population of the countries of the Middle East was estimated in 2008 at 411 million residents, resulting in a population density of 31 residents per square kilometer. The projection of the population for 2050 is estimated at about 688.8 million residents, so this is considered a region that will maintain high growth.
The average population growth rate in the period 2005 – 2010 is calculated at 2.2%. Being the country with the lowest growth Iran with 1.4 and one of the highest Jordan with 3.0%. The birth rate shows a slightly high behavior, which conditions – together with the presence of several oil-producing countries with a strong attraction of immigrants-, an average demographic growth rate of 2.2%, much higher than the world average (which in the 2005 stage at the 2010 was 1.2%).
From the point of view of ethnic composition, the Middle Eastern population is characterized by its relative homogeneity, predominantly Arabs. In some countries such as Kuwait, Bahrain or Qatar there are large contingents of foreign immigrants attracted by the oil industry. The most densely populated regions are those located in the so-called Levant, that is, in the coastal areas of the Mediterranean Sea belonging to Syria, Lebanon and Israel.
Towards the interior of the deserts of the Arabian peninsula, the settlement is reduced due to the hostile conditions imposed by the environment (Saudi Arabia, for example, has an average density of just 9 residents per km the population in most of Middle Eastern countries. The East is concentrated in cities, so that the percentage of urban population is 78%. The countries with the highest urban population are Kuwait 98% and Qatar with 96% and the lowest Yemen with 31%. An essential characteristic identifies the region as a whole: aridity The predominant landscapes throughout are tropical desert and semi-desert, surrounded by seas that present the warmest and saltiest waters of the world ocean.
The Arabian Peninsula constitutes a great ancient block that was separated from the African continent by the fractures that in recent geological times gave rise to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. That is why Arabia is more like Africa than Asia. Instead, to the east, the Iranian Plateau is much younger, with rocks that formed in the Cenozoic Era.
Between both structures, appears the alluvial plain of Mesopotamia crossed by two great rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates. Most of the Arabian surface is occupied by sandy deserts crossed by dry riverbeds, among which the Nefud to the north and the Rub al-Jali to the south stand out (the latter is one of the largest in the world). The deserts of Arabia are a continuation to the east of the Sahara.
The Arabian subsoil is very rich in oil, an important energy mineral that lies in rock deposits from the Mesozoic era. On the other hand, in the Iranian territory the relief of plateaus predominates, where mountain ranges and depressions alternate. It is a very fragmented relief and much younger than the previous one, in which the mountains reach altitudes of around 5000 meters, as occurs in the Elburz system.
Its subsoil is rich in various minerals, although most of them have been little studied and hardly exploited, with the exception of oil, of which Iran is one of the main producing countries worldwide. Between both geographical areas is located the Mesopotamian plain (this word means “between rivers”), which occupies most of the middle and lower reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the territory of Iraq.
Its relief is flat and the subsoil has enormous oil reserves that lie in the layers of marine sediments of the Mesozoic and Paleogene, which cover the basement of crystalline rocks. The region as a whole has more than 60% of the world’s proven hydrocarbon reserves, and several of its countries appear among the largest producers. To analyze the climatic characteristics of the region it is necessary to know its latitudinal situation.
From south to north, its extreme points are located approximately between 13 ° and 34 ° north latitude, so the territory extends through the tropical and subtropical climatic bands. In the Arabian peninsula, a territory that receives the highest solar radiation on Earth, continental tropical air predominates throughout the year, which conditions the almost absence of rainfall, with very high average temperature records. These conditions, as you will suppose, are unfavorable for the development of the river network, so there are practically no permanent rivers.
The main source of water supply is underground. The Plateau of Iran, for its part, is located in the subtropical climatic belt and in it low temperatures are registered during the winter caused by the irruption of cold air masses from the north. Summers are hot and rainfall is insufficient throughout the year, so surface waters are not abundant (almost the entire region is poor in water and the most important rivers are located towards the mountainous areas of the north, ending in the Sea Caspian).
In the vast majority of cases the rivers are not navigable, although they are widely used for irrigation. However, the Mesopotamian plain is crossed by two important rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates, which join and form a single stream known as the Shat el Arab (“river of the Arabs”) before flowing into the Persian Gulf. How is it possible then that the scarce rainfall allows the existence of them? The answer lies in the fact that they are born on the Armenian Plateau and feed on the waters coming from the melting of the snows.
In the Arabian peninsula the predominant vegetation is desert, although on the slopes of the mountainous massifs, more humid, there are wooded formations and the prevailing conditions allow the practice of agriculture. In the peripheral oases, the date palm is cultivated, which produces a vegetable oil that appears as an important local economic component. As for the fauna, there are animals such as the gazelle, the antelope, the camel and the onagers.
In the Plateau of Iran the vegetation is varied, given the irregularities of the relief and the differences in altitude. The rivers are used to guarantee irrigation and with it the crops of cereals and other agricultural products. In the Mesopotamian plain the soils and vegetation are desert and semi-desert. The trees only appear in the river valleys and cereal agriculture is possible thanks to irrigation. Nomadic livestock is practiced in the driest areas.
It is important to refer to a small portion of the Middle East known as the Levant and made up of Israel, Lebanon and part of the territories of Jordan and Syria, which is located in the western portion parallel to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a narrow strip of Mediterranean landscapes among deserts with a high population density.
The Levant is characterized by its dry summers and relatively mild and humid winters, with low-flow rivers that are not suitable for navigation or to guarantee hydrogen, among which the Jordan stands out, which empties into the Dead Sea (maximum continental depression at 391 meters). below sea level). In this area, agriculture is practiced in irrigated and non-irrigated areas and citrus fruits stand out among the main crops. As for the economy of the Middle East, surely you already assume that its main exponent is represented by oil production.
This resource is notably abundant in the subsoil of the region and, as a rule, it is easy to extract. It is also oil of recognized quality -medium and light-, which are sold at high prices on the international market. The main oil zone in the Middle East is the Persian Gulf, on the margins of which there are hundreds of extraction towers and facilities for the refining of crude.
Several ports have been properly equipped for the shipment of the vital energy resource, some of them capable of receiving gigantic super-tankers. Featured here are facilities in Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
There are extraction centers in the interior of the Arabian peninsula, in Syria, in northern Iraq and elsewhere. Middle-eastern agriculture is very limited given the prevailing physical-geographical conditions. In most cases, these are productions that barely manage to satisfy a part of the demand of their peoples.
Livestock farming is more likely to develop, especially on the mountainous slopes where the humidity allows the existence of pastures and in places such as the Mesopotamian plain, where animals graze on private irrigated lands.
In general, the nations of the Middle East have economies based especially on mining (oil and gas extraction), which condemns their commercial relations to the mono-export of a non-renewable resource that one day will cease to exist. In all cases, these are countries of the so-called Third World.