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Western Asia, West Asia, Southwest Asia or Southwestern Asia are terms that describe the westernmost portion of Asia. The terms are partly coterminous with the Middle East - which describes geographical position in relation to Western Europe rather than location within Asia. Due to this perceived Eurocentrism, international organizations such as the United Nations, have replaced Middle East and Near East with Western Asia.


Western Asia is located directly south of Eastern Europe.


Western Asia is primarily arid and semi-arid, and can be subject to drought; nonetheless, there exists vast expanses of forests and fertile valleys. The region consists of grasslands, rangelands, deserts, and mountains. Water shortages are a problem in many parts of West Asia, with rapidly growing populations increasing demands for water, while salinization and pollution threaten water supplies. Major rivers, including the Tigrismarker and Euphrates, provide sources for irrigation water to support agriculture.

There are two wind phenomena in Western Asia: the sharqi and the shamal. The sharqi (or sharki) is a wind that comes from the south and southeast. It is seasonal, lasting from April to early June, and comes again between late September and November. The winds are dry and dusty, with occasional gusts up to 80 kilometers per hour (50 miles per hour) and often kick up violent sand and dust storms that can carry sand a few thousand meters high, and can close down airports for short periods of time. These winds can last for a full day at the beginning and end of the season, and for several days during the middle of the season. The shamal is a summer northwesterly wind blowing over Iraq and the Persian Gulf states (including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait), often strong during the day, but decreasing at night. This weather effect occurs anywhere from once to several times a year.


While Western Asia mainly contains areas with low relief, Turkeymarker, Iranmarker, and Yemenmarker include mountainous terrain. The Anatolian Plateau is sandwiched between the Pontus Mountainsmarker and Taurus Mountainsmarker in Turkey. Mount Araratmarker in Turkey rises to 5,165 meters. The Zagros Mountainsmarker are located in Iran, in areas along its border with Iraq. The Central Plateau of Iran is divided into two drainage basins. The northern basin is Dasht-e Kavirmarker (Great Salt Desert), and Dasht-e-Lutmarker is the southern basin.

In Yemenmarker, elevations exceed 3,700 meters in many areas, and highland areas extend north along the Red Seamarker coast and north into Lebanonmarker. A fault-zone also exists along the Red Sea, with continental rifting creating trough-like topography with areas located well-below sea level. The Dead Seamarker, located on the border between the West Bankmarker, Israelmarker, and Jordanmarker, is situated at 418 m (1371 ft) below sea level, making it the lowest point on the surface of the Earth.

A large lowland belt is located on the Arabian Peninsula, from central Iraqmarker, through Saudi Arabiamarker, and to Omanmarker and the Arabian Seamarker. The Euphrates and Tigrismarker rivers cut through the lowland belt in Iraq and flow into the Persian Gulfmarker. Rub'al KhāLīmarker, one of the world's largest sand deserts, spans the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula in Saudi Arabia, parts of Oman, the United Arab Emiratesmarker and Yemen. Jebel al Akhdarmarker is a small range of mountains located in northeastern Oman, bordering the Gulf of Omanmarker.


Three major tectonic plates converge on Western Asia, including the African, Eurasian, and Arabian plates. The boundaries between the tectonic plates make up the Azores-Gibraltar Ridge, extending across North Africa, the Red Seamarker, and into Iran. The Arabian Plate is moving northward into the Anatolian plate (Turkey) at the East Anatolian Fault, and the boundary between the Aegean and Anatolian plate in eastern Turkey is also seismically active.

Water resources

Several major aquifers provide water to large portions of Western Asia. In Saudi Arabia, two large aquifers of Palaeozoic and Triassic origins are located beneath the Jabal Tuwayq mountains and areas west to the Red Sea. Cretaceous and Eocene-origin aquifers are located beneath large portions of central and eastern Saudi Arabia, including Wasia and Biyadh which contain amounts of both fresh water and saline water. The Nubian aquifer system underlies large areas of North Africa. The Great Manmade Rivermarker project in Libyamarker utilizes an extensive network of pipelines to transport water from the Nubian aquifer to its population centers. Groundwater recharge for these deep rock aquifers is on the order of thousands of years, thus the aquifers are essentially non-renewable resources. Flood or furrow irrigation, as well as sprinkler methods, are extensively used for irrigation, covering nearly 90,000 km² across Western Asia for agriculture.

Countries in Western Asia

The countries of Western Asia according to the UN Subregion, listed below:

Though not included in the UN subregion of Western Asia, Iranmarker and sometimes Afghanistanmarker and Egyptmarker (which is only partially in Asia) are sometimes included in a broader definition of "Western Asia". It should also be noted that Afghanistanmarker can be considered Central Asian, South Asian, or West Asian.

Territory and region data

Country, with flag Area

Population Density

(per km²)
Capital GDP (Total) Per capita Currency Government Official languages
Turkeymarker1 783,562 72,334,256 91 Ankaramarker $1.028 trillion (2008) $13,920 (2008) Turkish lira Parliamentary Democracy Turkish
Arabian Peninsula:
665 656,397 987 Manamamarker $24.5 billion (2007) $32,100 (2007) Bahraini Dinar Constitutional monarchy Arabic
17,820 3,100,000 119 Kuwait Citymarker $130.1 billion (2007) $39,300 (2007) Kuwaiti dinar Constitutional Hereditary Arabic
212,460 3,200,000 13 Muscatmarker $61.6 billion (2007) $24,000 (2007) Omani Rial Absolute monarchy Arabic
11,437 793,341 69 Dohamarker $57.7 billion (2007) $80,900 (2007) Qatari Riyal Monarchy Arabic
1,960,582 23,513,330 12 Riyadhmarker $564.6 billion (2007) $23,200 (2007) Riyal Absolute monarchy Arabic
82,880 5,432,746 30 Abu Dhabimarker $167.3 billion (2007) $37,300 (2007) UAE dirham Federal Constitutional Monarchy Arabic
527,970 18,701,257 35 Sanaámarker $55.4 billion (2008) $2,410 (2008) Yemeni rial Republic Arabic
Armeniamarker 29,800 3,245,900 111.7 Yerevanmarker $18.7 billion (2009) $5,792 (2009) Armenian dram Presidential republic Armenian
Azerbaijanmarker 86,600 8,621,000 97 Bakumarker $65.523 billion (2007) $7,618 (2007) Azerbaijani manat Presidential republic Azerbaijani
Georgiamarker 69,700 4,630,841 99.3 Tbilisimarker $20.516 billion (2007) $4,694 (2007) Georgian lari Presidential democratic republic Georgian
9,250 801,622 90 Nicosiamarker $22.703 billion (2008) $29,853 (2009) Euro Republic Greek, Turkish
437,072 31,234,000 55 Baghdadmarker $114.151 billion (2009) $3,655 (2009) Iraqi dinar Parliamentary Democracy (Developing) Arabic, Kurdish
20,770 7,029,529 290 Jerusalemmarker $185.9 billion (2007) $25,800 (2007) Israeli new sheqel Parliamentary democracy Hebrew, Arabic
92,300 6,198,677 58 Ammanmarker $31.1 billion (2008) $5,314 (2008) Jordanian dinar Constitutional monarchy Arabic
10,452 4,224,000 354 Beirutmarker $53.8 billion (2009) $13,952 (2009) Lebanese pound Parliamentary democracy Arabic
Palestine sovereignty disputed 6,220 4,148,000 645 Jerusalemmarker $11.95 billion (2008) $2,900 (2008) Dinar, pound
Presidential republic Arabic
185,180 21,906,00 93 Damascusmarker $94.4 billion (2008) $4,749 (2008) Syrian pound Presidential republic Arabic

Territories sometimes included

Country, with flag Area

Population Density

(per km²)
Capital GDP (Total) Per capita Currency Government Official languages
UN Subregion of Southern Asia:
1,648,195 74,196,000 42 Tehranmarker $830 billion (2008) $11,202 (2008) Iranian rial Islamic Republic (a Theocratic Republic) Persian
647,500 31,889,923 46 Kabulmarker $21.4 billion (2008) $760 (2008) Afghani Islamic Republic Dari, Pashto
UN Subregion of Northern Africa:
1,001,449 77,498,000 74 Cairomarker $404 billion (2007) $5,500 (2007) Egyptian pound Semi-presidential republic (democracy) Arabic
Sources: Notes:

1 The figures for Turkey includes Eastern Thrace, which is not a part of Anatolia.

Use in ethnicity statistics

The Canadian government uses "West Asian" in its statistics.

See also

Other subregions of Asia




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