Middle East Day

Welcome to Middle East Day!


  • To extend your locational knowledge and deepen your spatial awareness of the Middle East using maps.
  • To focus on your environmental regions, including hot deserts.
  • To focus on key physical and human characteristics, countries and major cities.


Where is the Middle East?

The term ‘Middle East’ is believed to have originated in the 1850s.

It became widely known when American naval strategist Alfred Taher used the term in 1902 to describe the area between Arabia and India.

  • It is made up of 18 countries (some say 17).
  • It is surrounded by several seas including the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea
  • It a transcontinental region (Western Asia, all of Egypt (mostly in North Africa), and Turkey (partly in Southeast Europe).
  • Most Middle Eastern countries are part of the Arab world.
  • The most populous countries in the region are Egypt, Iran, and Turkey.
  • Saudi Arabia is the largest Middle Eastern country by area.
  • The history of the Middle East dates back to ancient times.

Session One


The region known as the Middle East has countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is not a continent but a geographical region.

Most Middle Eastern countries are part of the Arab world – these are 22 Arab states around the world. Not all Arab states are in the Middle East.

The Middle East is one of the oldest regions of civilisations in the world and it has gone by various names and had many rulers. It has been invaded and settled numerous times over thousands of years.

A brief Timeline:

  • The Middle East is widely and most famously known as the Cradle of civilization.
  • Its history started from the earliest human settlements, continuing through several major pre- and post-Islamic Empires through to the nation-states of the Middle East today.
  • Sumerians were the first people to develop complex systems as to be called “Civilization”, starting as far back as the 5th millennium BC.
  • Egyptian civilizations unified under the first pharoah around 3150 BC.
  • Mesopotamia was home to several powerful empires that came to rule almost the entire Middle East
  • In the 1st century BC, the expanding Roman Republic absorbed the whole Eastern Mediterranean, which included much of the Middle East.
  • From the 3rd century up to the course of the 7th century AD, the entire Middle East was dominated by the Byzantines.
  • From the 7th century, a new power was rising in the Middle East, that of Islam. The dominance of the Arabs came to a sudden end in the mid-11th century with the arrival of a new dynasty.
  • In the early 13th century, a new wave of invaders, the armies of the Mongol Empire, mainly Turkic, swept through the region.
  • By the early 15th century, a new power had arisen in western Anatolia, the Ottoman emirs.

More info can be found here and here and here.


Mesopotamia is the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (now Iraq, north-east Syria and part of south-east Turkey). As it was located between the two rivers, its small agricultural settlements became large cities.

The word ‘mesopotamia’ comes from the ancient words ‘meso’, which means ‘middle’, and ‘potamos’, which means ‘river or stream’.

Mesopotamia was an important part of the development of human civilisation between 6000–1550 BC. It had great economic success based on agriculture, the invention of writing, developments in technology and artistry, as well as other achievements.

The Sumerians, Akkadians and Babylonians lived in Mesopotamia at this time.

Objects found at the Royal Cemetery at Ur in southern Iraq are of particular importance, including tombs, skeletons, jewelry, pottery and musical instruments that were excavated.

Activity One

Explore the British Museum Mesopotamia gallery here and see if you can find the Royal Cemetery of Ur.

Use these images to help you to draw a picture of a part of the famous Standard of Ur.

Download (PDF, 41KB)

Session Two

Countries & Maps

The definition of the Middle East is somewhat fluid because it is a geographical region.

  • Middle East  is generally said to include 18 countries. These are:
    • Bahrain
    • Cyprus
    • Egypt
    • Iran
    • Iraq
    • Israel
    • Jordan
    • Kuwait
    • Lebanon
    • Oman
    • Palestine
    • Qatar
    • Saudi Arabia
    • Syria (the Syrian Arab Republic)
    • Turkey
    • UAE (the United Arab Emirates)
    • Yemen.
  • Sometimes, the definition of Middle East is extended to include the concept of the “Greater Middle East” that includes:
    • Afghanistan
    • the Comoros
    • Djibouti
    • Maghreb
    • Pakistan
    • Sudan
    • Somalia.
  • Middle East includes countries that share common factors like ethnic groups, geographic features, religious beliefs, and political history.

Activity Two

Explore the countries in the Middle East on Google Earth here.

Label the countries of the Middle East of this outline map, adding capital cities where you find them.

Download (PDF, 128KB)

Session Three



Several major religions have their origins in the Middle East, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Ethnic Groups

An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identify with each other through ancestry, language, history, society, culture, nation, and religion. An ethnic group can be spread out; they do not necessarily live in the same region or State.

Arabs constitute the majority ethnic group in the region, followed by Turks, Persians, Kurds, Azeris, Copts, Jews, Assyrians, Iraqi Turkmen, and Greek Cypriots.

A wide range of ethnic groups have converged together in the Middle East making a rich tapestry of culture.


The five top languages, in terms of numbers of speakers, are Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Kurdish, and Hebrew.

Activity Three

Sign into DuoLingo or Transparent Language (Ramsey) and try out a lesson in one of the main languages of the Middle East (Arabic is the main one).

Make a small introductory guide to your chosen language:

Download (PDF, 37KB)

Session Four

Climate & Biome

The Middle East generally has a hot, arid climate.

Why? And how does this affect the natural vegetation?

  • The Tropic of Cancer runs through the Middle East. That’s why the region is hot, plus it’s not far from the equator.
  • It is much cooler in the mountains.

Middle East climates include (greatest area to least):

  • Desert
  • Semi-arid / steppe
  • Mediterranean
  • Humid sub-tropical

Middle East biomes include (greatest area to least):

  • Desert and desert scrub
    • Vegetation is sparse. Some areas have almost none.

    • Plants that do grow have tough spiky leaves to conserve moisture.

    • You might see Arabian Oryx, sand cats, snakes, scorpions, and eagles.

  • Grassland
    • These areas have grass, and some low bushes, but few trees. (They are sometimes called steppe).

    • People herd sheep and goats.

    • Wild animals include wolves, sand foxes, wild cats, gazelles, and wild boar.

  • Forest / Mediterranean
    • Forests of evergreen cypresses in Turkey, beside the Mediterranean.

    • Deciduous and mixed forests, and other areas thickly covered in shrubs.

    • You might spot bears, hyena, deer, squirrels, and hamsters.

  • Alpine / Mountain
    • As you go up the mountains it gets cooler.
    • You even find glaciers in the mountains of Iran and Turkey.

The Middle East desert

This is one of the biggest biomes in the world. It covers most of North Africa and Middle East.Algeria, Bahrain, the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen are all counties that host this biome. The Middle East Desert is home to many exotic animals found in few other biomes. These include camels, scorpions, gazelles, lizards, goats and sand cats. The Middle East desert is one unique biome!

Today’s weather report here.

Activity Four

Identify three animals (or other wildlife) that inhabit the Middle Eastern biomes. Use these frames to describe them or feel free to do it in your own way. You must include:

  • a name
  • an image
  • a description
  • food
  • information about the biome

You can use this for information.

Download (PDF, 34KB)

Session Five


Several major rivers provide irrigation to support agriculture in limited areas such as the Nile Delta in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates watersheds of Mesopotamia (Iraq, Kuwait, and eastern Syria), and most of what is known as the Fertile Crescent.

Activity Five

Add biomes such as desert areas and major rivers to your outline map. Make sure you use a key.

Session Six


Most of the countries that border the Persian Gulf have vast reserves of crude oil, with monarchs of the Arabian Peninsula in particular benefiting economically from petroleum exports.

Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, the total Gross Domestic Product for Middle Eastern countries amounted to an estimated $9.118 trillion in 2016, with exports accounting for roughly 8.9 percent of the region’s total economic output. But what are the major exports coming out of the region?

Activity Six

Take an educated guess at matching up the top 10 (9) exports out of the Middle East with their annual worth.

Download (PDF, 85KB)

Session Seven

Physical and Human Characteristics

Use Google Earth and Dubai360 to locate the following human and physical characteristics.

  • Burj Khalifa
  • Petra
  • Aswan High Dam
  • River Tigris
  • Mount Damavand

Activity Seven

Add some important landmarks to your outline map. Make sure you use a key.

Session Eight

Wrap Up!

Test your knowledge of Middle Eastern map knowledge here.

Make a Middle Eastern themed cover page for your theme day work.

Complete this and add it.

Download (PDF, 34KB)

Middle East Quiz

What do you know about the region called the Middle East?