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The Middle East

The Middle East
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The Middle East.The so-called modern version of the Middle East sits where Africa, Asia and Europe meet.

The so-called modern version of the Middle East sits where Africa, Asia and Europe meet. Of note, Armenia and Azerbaijan have long established ties to Asia and the Middle East, but in recent years, they are beginning to align more with Europe based on their modern economic, political and socio trends. That's very much like Georgia, the former Russian republic, now a part of Europe.

Over 350 million people live in the Middle East. The Middle East includes the states of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. It is important to note that at this time there is no state of Palestine--only territories (the Gaza Strip and portions of the West Bank) within the Middle East that are controlled by the Palestinian National Authority.

Presently, about 60% of the total population in the Middle East speak Arabic and consider themselves to be an Arab. Most people in the Middle East belong to the Sunni sect of Islam. Another sect, Shiite or Shia Islam, is the majority religion in Iran, Lebanon, Iraq and Bahrain. There are also Shiite minorities in Lebanon, Kuwait, and Yemen. Shias hold on to the view that Prophet Mohammed’s son-in-law Ali – who lost in civil war following ascension to the throne – was rightful heir to the caliphate. They grew into an entirely separate branch of Islam.

In addition to Arabs, there are a number of other ethnic groups in the Middle East like Persians, Turkik, Jewish and Kurds. Other smaller sects also exist within Islam. These sects include, among others, the Alawites, the Druze, the Ibadis, the Ismailis, the Shafis, and various Sufi orders. Israel the only state in the Middle East where Islam is not the majority faith. Christianity is also practiced in the region, especially in such states as Lebanon, Egypt, and Israel.

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