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M&R Geography-Geology
North Africa & Southwest Asia

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Jerash Ruins in Jordan -- Galen Frysinger Photo

Land of Contrasts
This region is  a land of contrasts -- in colors from the brown of the desert to the green of the oases -- a land of rich and poor -- jet aircraft and camels -- dry lands and floods, Jews and Muslims, high populations and low.
The region spans the distance from Morocco to Afghanistan.  A great unifying factor thoughout the region is the need for water.  Civilzations grew and perished according to the availability of water.  Water is a critical issue here to the present day.  The uneven distribution of water has an immense effect upon the way of life here.
Petroleum is the major resource for several of the countries -- a resource that was known in Biblical times but had to await the invention of the internal combustion engine to assume a prominent position on the world economic stage.
All through history people have crossed this region along trade routes between Europe and Asia.  The exchange of ideas and knowledge at trade centers is of great significance.
Throughout history parts of this region have been regarded as a prize to won and coveted -- the struggle for control continues today.
This region occupies the largest dry area on earth.  It is also among the hottest parts of the earth.  Most of the surface is bare -- exposed rock and gravel, seldom the seas of sand seen in movies.  Though, the world's largest sand sea is here in the southern part of Arabia.
Subtropical high pressure spreads its influence eastward across northern Africa into Southwest Asia.  Winds from the Sahara continue eastward bringing dry condtions.
Small scattered oases support agriculture, but more important are the rivers that flow across the deserts from the mountains.  Here, civilzations grew, and populations are dense today. 
Another unifying factor for the region is the Islamic Religion.  In order to read the Holy Book, the Koran, it was necessary to learn arabic -- the arabic language and Islamic religion unite the region from east to west and north to south.
Part of the region has been called 'The Birthplace of Religions'.  3 of the world's great religions began here -- Judaism, Chistianity, and Islam -- though at very different times.
Lands near the Mediterranean Sea have the typical hot dry summer, and mild winters with rain.  Agriculture is often adjusted to conform to the pattern of rainfall -- crops planted in the fall to take advantage of winter rains.  In other areas of steppe and desert, the herding of livestock is the main activity.  Typical Mediterranean agriculture grows wheat, fruits and nuts, and in certain areas grapes and olives are produced.
The steppe and desert lands of Southwest Asia are used for grazing livestock -- agriculture is only possible where there are supplies of water.
The region contains some 60% of the world's oil reserves -- not all countries enjoy that resource -- there is great variation in wealth among the countries.  Oil is transported both by ship and by pipeline -- some pipelines lead to the Mediterranean shore for pick up by tankers from Europe.  Other tankers form a modern caravan hauling oil to the United States and Japan.
The region is also the location of 6 ancient Culture Hearths (centers from which knowledge and ideas spread).  Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia, Phoenicia, Palestine, and Arabia.

Map and Discussion -- SW Asia

Map and Discussion -- North Africa

CIA World Factbook

Animated Climate Map

Geography 101 -- North Africa and Southwest Asia

Galen Frysinger Photos

The Otto Engine & the Modern World

Sumerian Civilization

Ancient Egypt




Information -- World Religions

Africa South of the Sahara