Arab World ( , al-ʻālam al-ʻarabi) refers
to Arabic-speaking countries
stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the east, and from the Mediterranean
Sea in the north to the Horn
of Africa and the Indian Ocean in the southeast.
Distribution of Arabic as sole
official language (green) and one of several official or national
It consists of 25
countries and territories with a combined population of 358 million
people straddling North Africa
Language, politics, religion and people
The Arabic language
forms a unifying
feature of the Arab World. Though different areas use local dialects of Arabic
, all share in
the use of the standard classical language (see diglossia
). This contrasts with the situation in
the wider Islamic World
, where in
contiguous and non-Arab Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Arabic
maintains its use in a similar alphabet and retains its cultural prestige
primarily as the
language of religion and theological scholarship, but where the
populace generally does not speak Arabic in secular usage.
The linguistic and political denotation inherent in the term
" is generally dominant over genealogical
considerations. Thus, individuals
with little or no direct ancestry from the Arabian Peninsula
could identify as, or be
considered to be, Arabs
partially by virtue of
their mother tongue
). However, this definition is
disputed by many peoples of non-Arab origins; thus Egyptians
for example may or may not identify as
Arabs (see Egypt#Identity
Egyptians enriched the Arabic
The Arab League
, a political
organization intended to encompass the Arab World, defines as
The Arab League's main goal is to unify politically the Arab
populations so defined. Its permanent headquarters are located in
Cairo. However, it was moved temporarily to Tunis during the
1980s, after Egypt was expelled due to the Camp David Accords .
The majority of people in the Arab World adhere to Islam
and the religion has official status in most
law exists partially in
the legal system in some countries, especially in the Arabian peninsula
, while others are
. The majority of the Arab
countries adhere to Sunni Islam. Iraq, however, is
a Shia majority country (65%), while Lebanon, Yemen, Kuwait, and
Bahrain have large
Shia minorities. In Saudi Arabia, the eastern province Al-Hasa region has Shia
minority and the southern province city Najran has Ismalia Shiite
minority too. Ibadi Islam is practised
in Oman and Ibadis
make up 75% population of the country.
sizeable numbers of Christians, living
primarily in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine and Sudan.
Formerly, there were significant minorities of Arab Jews
throughout the Arab World. However, as
Declaration of 1917, in addition to favoring and endeavoring to
facilitate the achievement in Palestine of a national home for the
Jewish people, it includes
...it being clearly understood that
nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious
rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the
rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other
Balfour Declaration, the
Zionist establishment of Israel prompted
their subsequent mass emigration and expulsion within a few
decades. Today small Jewish communities remain,
ranging anywhere from ten in Bahrain to 7,000 in Morocco and more
than 1,000 in Tunisia.
make up less than one quarter of
the world's 1.4 billion Muslims
, a group
sometimes referred to as the Islamic
Some Arab countries have substantial reserves of petroleum. The
Persian Gulf is particularly well-endowed with this strategic
: four Persian Gulf states,
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, and Qatar, are among the top ten oil
or gas exporters worldwide. In addition, Algeria, Libya, Iraq,
Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, and Sudan all have smaller but significant
reserves. Where present, these have had significant effects on
regional politics, often enabling rentier
, leading to economic disparities between oil-rich and
oil-poor countries, and, particularly in the more sparsely
populated states of the Persian Gulf and Libya, triggering
extensive labor immigration.
to UNESCO, the average
rate of adult literacy (ages 15 and
older) in this region is 66%, and this is one of the lowest rates
in the world.
In Mauritania, and Yemen, the rate is lower
than the average, at barely over 50 %. On the other hand,
Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan record a
high adult literacy rate of over 90%.
The average rate of
adult literacy shows steady improvement, and the absolute number of
adult illiterates fell from 64 million to around 58 million between
1990 and 2000-2004. Overall, the gender disparity in adult literacy
is high in this region, and of the illiteracy rate, women account
for two-thirds, with only 69 literate women for every 100 literate
men. The average GPI (Gender Parity Index) for adult literacy is
0.72, and gender disparity can be observed in Egypt, Morocco, and
Yemen. Above all, the GPI of Yemen is only 0.46 in a 53% adult
literacy rate .
Literacy rate is higher among the youth than adults. Youth literacy
rate (ages 15–24) in the Arab region increased from 63.9 to 76.3 %
from 1990 to 2002. The average rate of GCC States 
was 94 %, followed by the Maghreb
at 83.2% and the Mashriq
at 73.6 %. However, more than one third of
youth remain illiterate in the Arab LDCs (Comoros, Djibouti,
Mauritania, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) .In 2004, the regional
average of youth literacy is 89.9% for male and 80.1 % for female
The average population growth rate in Arab countries is 2.3%.
The United Nations
Arab human development
in 2002, 2003 and 2004. These reports, written by
researchers from the Arab world, address some sensitive issues in
the development of Arab countries: women empowerment, availability
of education and information among others.
in the Arab world are still denied
equality of opportunity
their disempowerment is a critical factor crippling the Arab
nations' quest to return to the first rank of global leaders in
commerce, learning and culture, according to a new United Nations
-sponsored report in
2008, the US-based
organization Freedom House rates only
Comoros and Mauritania as Arab “electoral
Non-Arab people in the Arab World
Within the most common definition of the Arab World, there are
substantial populations who are not Arab either by ethnic or
linguistic affiliation, and who often or generally do not consider
themselves Arab as such. Nevertheless, most are as indigenous to
their areas and many, if not most, actually resided in the area
before the arrival of true Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula during
which the spread of Islam
took place. Certain
populations have expressed resentment towards the term "Arab
World," and believe that their national and political rights have
been unjustly brushed aside by modern governments' focus on
and promoting an Arab
identity. In some cases this has led to severe conflicts between
the ethnic nationalism
groups and the Arab nationalism
promoted by governments lead by Arab leaders, which sometimes
amounted to denying the existence of or forcibly suppressing
non-Arab minorities within their borders.
Maghreb and North Africa
In the Maghreb
(North Africa) most of the
population speaks Arabic although there is a significant Berber
minority. Arab and Berber identity in
these countries is generally defined situationally by both language
and ancestry. In Morocco, Berber speakers
form about 70% of the total population; in Algeria, they represent
about 55% of the population.
In Libya, they form about 20%
of the population .
much smaller isolated Berber communities in Mauritania and one oasis in Egypt's Western Desert.
The nomadic Tuareg
people whose traditional areas straddle the
borders of several countries in the Sahara
, are Berber. Government worries about ethnic separatism,
and condescending attitudes towards the mainly rural
Berber-speaking areas, led to the Berber communities being denied
full linguistic and cultural rights; in Algeria, for example,
Berber chairs at universities were closed, and Berber singers were
occasionally banned from singing in their own language, although an
official Berber radio station continued to operate throughout.
These problems have to some extent been redressed in later years in
Morocco and Algeria; both have started teaching Berber languages in
schools and universities, and Algeria has amended its constitution
to declare Berber a fundamental aspect of Algerian identity (along
with Islam and Arabness.) In Libya, however, any suggestion that
Berbers might be non-Arab remains taboo .
northern regions of Iraq (15-20%) and
Syria (5-8%) live the Kurds, an
ethnic group who speak Kurdish, a
language closely related to Persian, not Arabic, except insofar as like Persian, it
has absorbed Arabic vocabulary. The nationalist
aspiration for self-rule or for a state of Kurdistan has created conflict between Kurdish minorities and
their governments in Iran (20-28%) and Turkey (25-30%) (99% of
Kurds are Muslim).
ethnic group are Egyptians who constitute
over 98% of the population.
The majority of Egyptians do not
consider themselves Arabs (see Egyptian Identity
nationalism's and anti-Arabism most notable advocate was Taha Hussein
.It became the dominant mode of
expression of Egyptian anti-colonial activists of the pre- and
In 1931, following a visit to Egypt, Syrian Arab nationalist
"[Egyptians] did not possess an Arab nationalist sentiment; did not
accept that Egypt was a part of the Arab lands, and would not
acknowledge that the Egyptian people were part of the Arab nation."
University historian H.
S. Deighton was still
It was not until the Nasser
more than a decade later that Arab nationalism, and by extension
, became a state policy
and a means with which to define Egypt's position in the Middle
East and the world. Before Nasser, Egypt, which had been ruled by
Britain since 1882, was more in favor of territorial, Egyptian
nationalism and distant from the pan-Arab ideology. Egyptians
generally did not identify themselves as Arabs, and it is revealing
that when the Egyptian nationalist leader [Saad Zaghlul] met the
Arab delegates at Versailles in 1918, he insisted that their
struggles for statehood were not connected, claiming that the
problem of Egypt was an Egyptian problem and not an Arab one. The
Egyptians' attachment to Arabism, however, was particularly
questioned after the 1967 Six-Day War
Thousands of Egyptians had lost their lives and the country became
disillusioned with Arab politics. Nasser's successor Sadat, both through public policy and his
peace initiative with Israel, revived an
uncontested Egyptian orientation, unequivocally asserting that only
Egypt and Egyptians were his responsibility.
"Arab", "Arabism" and "Arab unity", save for the new official name,
became conspicuously absent.
Today, many Egyptian intellectuals continue to believe that Egypt
and Egyptians are simply not Arab, emphasizing indigenous Egyptian
heritage, culture and independent polity; pointing to the failures
of Arab and pan-Arab nationalist policies; and publicly voicing
objection to the present official name of the country. Examples of
contemporary prominent Egyptians who oppose Arab nationalism or the
idea that Egyptians are Arabs include Secretary General of the
Supreme Council of
Antiquities Zahi Hawass
writer Osama Anwar Okasha
Egyptian-born Harvard University Professor Leila Ahmed
, Member of Parliament Suzie Greiss,
Egyptian intellectual Sayed el Qemni, in addition to different
local groups and intellectuals. This understanding is also
expressed in other contexts, such as Neil DeRosa's novel
in his depiction of an Egyptian character
"who declares that Egyptians are not Arabs and never will
Egyptian critics of Arab nationalism contend that it has worked to
erode and/or relegate native Egyptian identity by superimposing
only one aspect of Egypt's culture. These views and sources for
collective identification in the Egyptian state are captured in the
words of a linguistic anthropologist who conducted fieldwork in
Somalia and Djibouti
Somalia is a Muslim country, but many Somalis just recognize themselves as Somali
instead of Arab despite centuries-old ties to Arabia. Although Somalia joined the Arab League
in 1974, accords Arabic official language status, and Arabic is
spoken by Somalis in commerce, religion and education, the
country's primary language is Somali.
The population also
predominantly consists of ethnic
with small communities of Indian
Djibouti, whose demographics are approximately 60% Somali and 35% Afar, is in a similar position.
one of the official languages, 94% of the nation's population is
Muslim, and its location on the Red Sea places it in close proximity to the Arabian Peninsula.
The Arab world is also home to significant populations of Turkmen
, and Armenians
, a high percentage of whom do not
identify as Arab.
Jews in Israel have roots
in Arab countries, from where most were expelled in the first decades
following the creation of Israel and the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
Since most modern borders of the Arab world are products of Western
imperial powers, they often ignore distinct ethnic and geographic
boundaries. Thus, in addition to regions with large Arab
populations being located in non-Arab countries (such as the
Turkish province of Hatay, populated mainly by
indigenous Iskanderun Syrians, and the Iranian province of Khuzestan, which has a minority of Iranian Arabs), many peripheral states of the
Arab world have border-straddling minorities of non-Arab peoples,
as is the case with the non-Arab Black
Africans of southern Sudan and southern
Many Arab countries in the Persian Gulf have sizable (10–30%)
non-Arab populations, usually of a temporary nature, at least in
theory. Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman
has a sizeable Persian
minority. The same countries also have Hindi-Urdu speakers and
Filipinos as sizable minority. Balochi speakers are a good size
minority in Oman. Countries like Bahrain, UAE, Oman and Kuwait have
significant non-Muslim / non-Arab minorities (10–20%) like Hindus
and Christians from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and the
non-Arab countries bordering the core Arab world states have large
Arab populations, as is the case in Chad, Israel, Turkey, Mali, Niger, and
States and territories
- Algeria (al-Jazā'ir الجزائر)
- Bahrain (al-Baḥrayn البحرين)
(Tshād تشاد) Arabic is one of the official
languages, the other being French. Often not
considered an Arab state.
- Comoros (Juzur al-Qamar جزر القمر)
(Comorian and French are the other two official
- Djibouti (Jībūtī جيبوتي) (French is the other official
- Eritrea (Iritriya إرتريا) Arabic is one of
the official languages, the other being Tigrinya. Has a
large number of Arabic speakers. Often not
considered an Arab state.
(al-`Irāq العراق) (Kurdish is the other official language
- Mauritania (Mūrītāniyā موريتانيا)
- Morocco (Al-Maġrib المغرب)
- Palestinian Authority
(Al-Sulta Al-Filasṭīniyya السلطة الفلسطينية) (Full
member of Arab League and recognized by the majority of the World's
nation states, but not recognized by the U.N., Israel, or most
- Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (al-mamllakah al-`Arabiyya as-Sa`ūdiyya
المملكة العربية السعودية)
- Somalia (aṣ-Ṣūmāl الصومال) (Somali is the other official
(As-Sūdān السودان) (English is the other official language
- Tunisia (Tūnis تونس)
- United Arab Emirates (al-Imārāt al-`Arabiyyah al-Muttaḥidah
الإمارات العربيّة المتّحدة)
- Western Sahara (as-Ṣaḥrā' al-Ġarbīyyah الصحراء الغربية)
(Status contested between the POLISARIO Front and the
Government of Morocco, which has administered most of Western
Sahara since 1975)
territory of Western
Sahara is disputed between Morocco and the Polisario
Front, which declared independence and a government-in-exile,
the Sahrawi Arab
Democratic Republic (SADR), following the withdrawal of Spanish
SADR, although having won support from many
sub-Saharan African countries and full membership in the African Union
, is not recognized by the
. Generally, there has not
been international support or recognition for the Moroccan
annexation, nor for the establishment of an independent state. The
Western powers and the UN
support a negotiated
settlement between the parties, and many if not most countries
maintain a careful diplomatic ambiguity with respect to each
parties' claims, pending a final settlement.
Comoros is a member state of the Arab League and accords
Arabic status as an official language, Comorian and French enjoy greater usage.
predominate language in Somalia and Djibouti is Somali
, which is a part of the larger
languages that also includes Arabic and Hebrew
. Similarly, while the Maltese language is closely related to
Tunisian Arabic, the people of
Malta do not use standard Arabic nor do they consider
Chad, Eritrea, and Israel all
recognize standard Arabic as an official language, but none of them are
members of the Arab League, though Chad and Eritrea have observer status. Mali and Senegal, West African countries which are neither a part of
the Arab League nor the Arab world, recognize Hassaniya (the Arabic dialect of their Berber
minorities) as a national
Different forms of
are represented in the Arab World: Some of the
countries are monarchies
: Bahrain, Jordan,
Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab
Emirates. The other Arab countries are all republics
. With the exception of Lebanon, and
recently Mauritania, democratic elections throughout the Arab World
are generally viewed as compromised, due to outright vote rigging,
intimidation of opposition parties, and severe restraints on civil
liberties and political dissent.
After World War II
sought to unite all Arabic-speaking
countries into one political entity. Only Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and
Yemen considered the short-lived unification of the
United Arab Republic.
Historical divisions, competing local nationalisms, and
geographical sprawl were major reasons for the failure of
Pan-Arabism. Arab Nationalism
another strong force in the region which peaked during the mid
twentieth century and was professed by many leaders in Egypt,
Algeria, Libya, Syria, and Iraq. Arab Nationalist leaders of this
period included Gamal Abdel
of Egypt, Ahmed Ben Bella
of Algeria, Michel Aflaq
, Salah al-Din al-Bitar
, Zaki al-Arsuzi
, Constantin Zureiq
and Shukri al-Kuwatli
of Syria, Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr
of Iraq, Habib Bourguiba
of Tunisia, Mehdi Ben Barka
of Morocco, and Shakib Arslan
Later and current Arab Nationalist leaders include Muammar al-Gaddafi
of Libya, Hafez al-Assad
and Bashar al-Assad
of Syria and Saddam Hussein
of Iraq. The diverse Arab
states generally maintained close ties but distinct national
identities developed and strengthened with the social, historical
and political realities of the past 60 years. This has made the
idea of a pan-Arab nation-state increasingly less feasible and
likely. Additionally, an upsurge in political Islam has since led
to a greater emphasis on pan-Islamic rather than pan-Arab identity
amongst some Arab Muslims. Arab nationalists who once opposed
Islamic movements as a threat to their power, now deal with them
differently for reasons of political reality.
Many of the modern borders of the Arab World were drawn by European
imperial powers during the 19th and early
20th century. However, some of the larger states (in
particular Egypt and Syria) have
historically maintained geographically definable boundaries, on
which some of the modern states are roughly based.
century Egyptian historian Al-Maqrizi,
for instance, defines Egypt's boundaries as extending from the
Mediterranean in the north to lower Nubia in
the south; and between the Red Sea in the east and the oases of the Western/Libyan desert.
The modern borders of Egypt, therefore, are
not a creation of European powers, and are at least in part based
on historically definable entities which are in turn based on
certain cultural and ethnic identifications.
At other times, kings, "emirs
" or "sheiks
" were placed as semi-autonomous rulers over the
newly created nation states
chosen by the same imperial powers that for some drew the new
borders, for services rendered to European powers like the British Empire
, e.g. Sherif Hussein ibn Ali
. Many African
states did not attain independence until the 1960s from France
after bloody insurgencies for their freedom. These struggles were
settled by the imperial powers approving the form of independence
given, so as a consequence almost all of these borders have
remained. Some of these borders were agreed upon without
consultation of those individuals that had served the colonial
interests of Britain or France. One such agreement solely between
Britain and France (to the exclusion of Sherif Hussein ibn Ali),
signed in total secrecy until Lenin
released the full text, was the Sykes-Picot Agreement
influential document written without the consensus of the local
population was the Balfour
As former director of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad
, Efraim Halevy, now a director at the Hebrew
He went on to give an example,
Jim Crow, of Newcastle
University, has said:
As of 2006, the Arab World accounts for two-fifths of the gross
domestic product and three-fifths of the trade of the wider
The Arab states are mostly, although not exclusively, developing
economies and derive their export revenues from oil and gas, or the
sale of other raw materials. Recent years have seen significant
economic growth in the Arab World, due largely to an increase in
oil and gas prices, which tripled between 2001 and 2006, but also
due to efforts by some states to diversify their economic base.
Industrial production has risen, for example the amount of steel
produced between 2004 and 2005 rose from 8.4 to 19 million tonnes.
Opening speech of Mahmoud Khoudri, Algeria's Industry Minister, at the 37th General Assembly
of the Iron & Steel Arab Union, Algiers, May 2006).
even 19 million tons pa still only represents 1.7% of global steel
production, and remains inferior to the production of countries
The main economic organisations in the Arab World are the Gulf Cooperation Council
comprising the states in the Persian Gulf, and the Union of the
Arab Maghreb (UMA), made up of North African States. The GCC has
achieved some success in financial and monetary terms, including
plans to establish a common currency in the Persian Gulf region.
foundation in 1989, the UMA's most significant accomplishment has
been the establishment of a 7000 km highway crossing North
Africa from Mauritania to Libya's border with Egypt.
central stretch of the highway, expected to be completed in 2010,
will cross Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
In recent years a new term has been coined
to define a greater economic region: the MENA region (standing for
Middle East and North Africa) is becoming increasingly popular,
especially with support from the current US administration.
As of August 2009 it was reported that Saudi Arabia is the
strongest Arab economy according to World Bank .
Saudi Arabia remains the top Arab economy in terms of total
GDP. It is Asia's eleventh largest economy,
followed by Egypt and Algeria, which were also the second and third largest
economies in Africa (after South
Africa), in 2006. In terms of GDP per capita, Qatar is the
richest developing country in the world.
The Arab World stretches across more than 14 million square
kilometers (8.6 million square miles) of North Africa
and the part of North-East Africa
and South-West Asia called the Middle
. The Asian
part of the Arab world is
called the Mashriq
. The North
African part of the Arab World to the west of Egypt and Sudan is
known as the Maghreb
area is the size of the entire Spanish-speaking Western Hemisphere
(14 million km²), larger than Europe (10.4
million km²), Canada (10 million
km²), China (9.6
million km²), the United
States (9.6 million km²), Brazil (8.7
million km²). Only Russia—at 17
million km², the largest country in the world—and Anglophone
North America (eighteen million square
kilometers) are larger geocultural units.
The term "Arab" often connotes the Middle East, but the larger (and
more populous) part of the Arab World is North Africa. Its eight million
square kilometers include the two largest countries of the African
continent, Sudan (2.5 million
km²) in the southeast of the region and Algeria (2.4 million km²) in the center, each about
three-quarters the size of India, or about
one-and-a-half times the size of Alaska, the
largest state in the United States. The largest country
in the Arab Middle East is Saudi Arabia (2 million km²).
other extreme, the smallest autonomous mainland Arab country in
North Africa and the Middle East is Lebanon
(10,452 km²), and the smallest island Arab country is Bahrain (665 km²).
Notably, every Arab country borders a sea or ocean, with the
exception of the Arab region of northern Chad, which is completely
landlocked. Iraq is actually nearly landlocked, as it has only a
very narrow access to the Persian Gulf.
political borders of the Arab World have wandered, leaving Arab
minorities in non-Arab countries of the Sahel
and the Horn of Africa as well as in
the Middle Eastern countries of Cyprus, Turkey and Iran, and also
leaving non-Arab minorities in Arab countries.
basic geography of sea, desert, and mountain provide the enduring
natural boundaries for this region.
The Arab World straddles two continents, Africa
and Asia, and is oriented mainly along an
east-west axis, dividing it into African and Asian areas.
Arab Africa—or more commonly Arab North Africa, though this is
redundant—is roughly a long trapezoid, narrower at the top, that
comprises the entire northern third of the continent. It is
surrounded by water on three sides (west, north, and east) and
desert or desert scrubland on the fourth (south).
west, it is bounded by the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. From northeast to southwest, Morocco, Western
Sahara (annexed and occupied by Morocco), and Mauritania make up the roughly 2,000 kilometers of Arab
Atlantic coastline. The southwestern sweep of the coast is
gentle but substantial, such that Mauritania's capital, Nouakchott (18°N, 16°W), is far enough west to share longitude
with Iceland (13–22°W).
Nouakchott is the westernmost
capital of the Arab World and the third-westernmost in Africa, and
sits on the Atlantic fringe of the southwestern Sahara.
south along the coast from Mauritania is Senegal, whose abrupt border belies the gradient in culture
from Arab to Negroid African that historically characterizes this
part of West Africa.
Africa's boundary to the north is again a continental boundary, the
Sea. This boundary begins in the west with the
narrow Strait of
Gibraltar, the thirteen kilometer wide channel that connects
the Mediterranean with the Atlantic to the west, and separates
Morocco from Spain to the
East along the coast from Morocco are Algeria,
Tunisia, and Libya, followed by Egypt, which forms the region's
(and the continent's) northeastern corner. The coast turns
briefly but sharply south at Tunisia, slopes more gently
southeastward through the Libyan capital of Tripoli, and bumps north through Libya's second city,
Benghazi, before turning straight east again through Egypt's
second city, Alexandria, at the mouth of the Nile. Along with the spine
of Italy to its
north, Tunisia thus marks the junction of western and eastern
Mediterranean, and a cultural transition as well: west of Tunisia
begins the region of the Arab World known as the Maghreb.
Historically the 4,000-kilometer Mediterranean boundary has
fluttered. Population centers north of it in Europe
have invited contact and Arab
exploration—mostly friendly, though sometimes not. Islands and
peninsulas near the Arab coast have changed hands. The islands of
Sicily and Malta lie just a
hundred kilometers east of the Tunisian city of Carthage, which has been a point of contact with Europe
since its founding in the first millennium B.C.E.; both Sicily and
Malta at times have been part of the Arab World.
across the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco, regions of the Iberian
peninsula were part of the Arab World throughout the Middle Ages, extending the northern boundary at
times to the foothills of the Pyrenees and leaving a substantial mark on local and wider
European and Western culture.
northern boundary of the African Arab World has also fluttered
briefly in the other direction, first through the Crusades and later through the imperial involvement
of France, Britain, Spain, and
Italy. Another visitor from northern shores,
the east of the region for centuries, though not as a
colonizer. Spain still maintains two small enclaves,
Ceuta and Melilla (called "Morocco Espanol"), along the otherwise
Overall this wave has ebbed, though like the
Arab expansion north it has left its mark. The proximity of North
Africa to Europe has always encouraged interaction, and this
continues with Arab immigration to Europe and European interest in
the Arab countries today. However, population centers and the
physical fact of the sea keeps this boundary of the Arab World
settled on the Mediterranean coastline.
east, the Red
Sea defines the boundary between Africa and Asia, and thus also
between Arab Africa and the Arab Middle East. This sea is a long
and narrow waterway with a northwest tilt, stretching 2,300
kilometers from Egypt's Sinai
to the Bab-el-Mandeb strait between Djibouti in Africa and Yemen in Arabia
but on average just 150 kilometers wide.
Though the sea is
navigable along its length, historically much contact between Arab
Africa and the Arab Middle East has been either overland across the
Sinai or by sea across the Mediterranean or the narrow Bab al
Mendeb strait. From northwest to southeast, Egypt, Sudan, and
Eritrea form the African coastline, with Djibouti marking
Bab al Mendeb's African shore.
Southeast along the coast from Djibouti is Somalia, but the Somali
coast soon makes a 90-degree turn and heads northeast, mirroring a
bend in the coast of Yemen across the water to the north and
defining the south coast of the Gulf of Aden. The Somali coast then
takes a hairpin turn back southwest to complete the horn of Africa.
months of the year the monsoon winds blow
from up equatorial Somalia, past Arabia and over the small Yemeni
archipelago of Socotra, to rain on India; they then
switch directions and blow back.
Hence the east- and
especially southeast-coast boundary of Arab Africa has historically
been a gateway for maritime trade and cultural exchange with both
and the subcontinent.
winds also help explain the presence of the Comoros islands, an
Arab-African country, off the coast of Mozambique, near Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, the southernmost part of the Arab
The southern boundary of Arab North Africa is the strip of
scrubland known as the Sahel
that crosses the
continent south of the Sahara, dipping further south in Sudan in
Arab Western Asia
Asian Arab region comprises the Arabian Peninsula, Bilad al-Sham or the Levant, and Iraq, more
broadly or narrowly defined. The peninsula is roughly a tilted
rectangle that leans back against the slope of northeast Africa,
the long axis pointing toward Turkey and Europe.
- Hourani, Albert Habib (1991).
A History of the Arab Peoples. Cambridge, Mass.: Warner
Books. ISBN 9780674395657.
- Reader, John (1997). Africa: A Biography of the
Continent. New York: Vintage. ISBN 9780679409793.
- Saint-Prot, Charles (2003).
French Policy toward the Arab World. Abu Dhabi: Emirates
Center for Strategic Studies and Research. ISBN 9789948003366.
- Ayalon, Amy (1987).
Language and change in the Arab Middle East: the evolution of
modern political discourse
Studies in Middle Eastern history]. Oxford University Press US.
ISBN 0195041402, 9780195041408.