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The rich history of the Middle East is well-documented, so there is little that authors need to add by way of discouraging you from visiting there.

The Banana Republic or Ruritania of the Middle East, named for the fictional country that causes so much trouble in The DCU.

There are two or perhaps three overlapping versions: the Arabian Nights version has a gobsmackingly rich Sultan, smoky harem tents full of doe-eyed concubines to be put at the disposal of the Honoured Effendi, a Grand Vizier behind his back, and of course, oil. The genies and flying carpets are optional.

The other version has a Tin-pot Dictator whose pretentious title is usually inversely proportional to the size of his domain. His army and air force will probably be equipped with rusting Soviet surplus and either aided or opposed by a lot of big-bearded nutters wielding AK47s, shouting "Jihad!" and are very likely to blow themselves up for 72 virgins. Oil is optional, America-hating terrorists are a must (bonus points if the America-hating comes from them coming in to take the oil).

The third version is a Jihadistan ruled by a junta of religious fanatics, imams, ayatollahs and mullahs. You are likely to see only men in the streets, with women either being locked in the homes or wearing a black burqha and escorted by men. An overall squalor and apathy prevails, interrupted by occasional flag burnings, beheadings and stonings.

Whichever version you're in, expect Mosques, veils, scampering children demanding baksheesh, heat, sand, and camels. If you don't like Hummus, you'd better bring your own food.

Note that such a country is only Qurac if it's on Earth. Middle Eastern countries on other worlds are Fantasy Counterpart Cultures.

On a side note, Qatar is the only (real) country in the world that has a name starting with "Q". Qurac is likely to as well, including the Trope Namer. Many fictional Middle Eastern countries are given names ending in "istan" even though all of the real countries such names are in Central and South Asia. It may be mentioned that this Qurac's place is "between Persia and Iran"[1].

On another note, the phonetic sounding of "Qurac" is identical to the word for "Dry" or "Arid" in Turkish (and possibly other regional languages).

See also Bulungi.

Examples of Qurac include:


Anime & Manga

  • Area 88 is set in the fictional Middle-Eastern nation of Asran (also spelled Aslan), following the exploits of a foreign legion of mercenary fighter pilots during a civil war.
  • Mireille and Kirika of Noir have at least one mission in an unnamed Mideastern nation.
  • Belgistan in Gasaraki.
  • Borderline: Full Metal Panic!'s anime features the fictional country of Helmajistan, which was a Bowdlerization -- the novels use Afghanistan instead.
    • It should be noted that the reasoning for this was because the original books were written before 9/11 and the War On Terror began. When the anime went into production, it was considered Too Soon to use Afghanistan, so a fictional substitute was used instead.
  • Also an anime example: Azadistan in Mobile Suit Gundam 00.
    • Azadistan is quite obviously Iran/Persia, from its location to its name (آزادستان, Persian for "land of freedom"). Mobile Suit Gundam 00 also features a short-lived, war-torn Kurdish Republic on Azadistan's border.
      • Which is based on Kurdistan, which is a region with with prominent majority Kurdish population, not a country. It is now divided between Turkey and Iraq, and its contentious and warlike population gives a lot of grief to the both governments, though for now Iraq, at least, has dealt with the Kurds by giving them a great autonomy and a good chunk of the oil revenue. A small corner of Kurdistan belonging to Iran, however, enjoys much better relation with the central government, unlike the series.
    • The L4 Colonies (Home of Quatre and the Maganacs) from Gundam Wing
  • Area 18, the unspecified Middle Eastern territory from Code Geass, could qualify. It was on screen for such little time, though, that not much was shown aside from its desert location and stereotypically-dressed natives.
    • It was named "The Middle-Eastern Federation" (and the characters actually call it this, at least in the subbed version) prior to its conquest by The Holy Empire of Britiannia. Presumably it was a composite of many otherwise real modern nations of the region.
      • Also, it apparently had ideals involving equality and democracy, or at least the Emperor berated them and the EU in the same sentence for trying to pretend that all men are created equal, when class-system is clearly the right way to go.
  • Planetes has Mananga, an oil-producing desert country torn by civil war. Hmmm.
  • The second Lupin III series has an episode take place in Cocodad, an impoverished desert nation of only three thousand people.


Comicbooks

  • Qurac, which ironically hasn't existed in AGES, having been wiped off the face of Earth by the assassin Cheshire, using nukes she stole and ultimately detonated for the evilulz.
    • There is also Bialya (also wiped off the face of the Earth, during "52"), which was a stand-in for Syria and was heavily featured when JLA was JLI. And there's Umar (a thinly-veiled Iraq, complete with America-instigated war during the Joe Kelly JLA run). Not to mention Kahndaq (a more liberalized Egypt, ruled by Pharaonic Anti-Hero Black Adam).
    • There's also Umec (acronym for "unamed Middle-Eastern country").
    • One of the earliest DC examples is Syraq, dating back to 1988's Detective Comics #590. Twenty years before Frank Miller announced his "Batman fights Middle Eastern Terrorists" project.
  • Meanwhile, the Marvel Universe has a Qurac in the form of Aqiria, the original home of the supervillain Fasaud (a Fantastic Four villain from the late 80's - not one of Steve Englehart's prouder moments). It receives much less page-time than European Latveria or African Wakanda.
  • Khemed in The Adventures of Tintin is a Qurac invented to re-set scenes in Palestine once these scenes were no longer topical.
  • Afbagistan is the fictional setting of Rick Veitch's scabrous War On Terror satire Army@Love
  • Trucial Abysmia appeared in several issues of Marvel's G.I. Joe comics. As indicated in G.I.Joe Special Missions #18, it is located on the eastern coast of North Africa. It represents Middle-Eastern dictator-ruled countries in the region.
  • Steelgrip Starkey And The All-Purpose Power Tool has a passing mention of Kuhlavi, ruled by the "desert lord" Haroun Zamahdi.


Film

  • Ben-Hur had a few scenes of Arabia during Biblical Times / Ancient Rome time. Of particular note was Ilderim, a lusty, swaggering sheik who gleefully raised Arabian horses and cleverly mocked the Roman soldiers. It's his chariot that Heston is driving in the famous Chariot Race scene.
  • Turaqistan, from War, Inc., is a Middle Eastern country occupied by an American private corporation run by a former US Vice-President.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade's Republic of Hatay could have count as an aversion because such a state actually existed in southern Turkey during the late 1930s, but it was nothing like the movie version. The Establishing Shot with the line "Republic of Hatay" clearly shows Stock Footage of the Hagia Sofia church/mosque in Istanbul during dawn and is immediately followed by a meeting between the bad guys and the Sultan of the country. Anybody gets what's wrong with that?
  • Iron Eagle pits a heroic kid pilot against the entire air force of the anonymous Middle Eastern country responsible for shooting down and holding his father for ransom.
    • The sequel, Iron Eagle II, similarly uses a anonymous Middle Eastern nation that's developed covert nuclear weapons as the Big Bad.
  • Jewel of the Nile: The fictional country of Kadir is ruled by your typical tinpot dictator, and the insurgents trying to depose him look just like Mujahideen.
  • Egypt and the (only mentioned) Derka-derkastan in Team America: World Police are depicted that way.
  • Covert Assassin (you can tell a lot about it just from that title) involves a flight to "The Middle East". It never even specifies what country, suggesting the makers of the movie thought of the entire region as this trope.
  • Midnight Express did this to Turkey, creating the whole "Turkish prison" cliché and ironing it on every person's mind.
  • And one of the film adaptations of Murder on the Orient Express included the stoning of a woman in 1934 Istanbul (then at the height of Ataturk's westernization policies, no less) for absolutely no reason. Looks like Turkey can't catch a break.
  • The film Death Before Dishonor featured the nation of Jemal, where anti-American sentiment spills over into terrorist acts. Media studies professor Jack Shaheen wrote in his book, Reel Bad Arabs, that it ranked in the 4 most anti-Arab films of all time.
  • Sacha Baron Cohen's latest movie, The Dictator, is about the dictator of the fictional Republic of Wadiya. The dictator, Admiral General Aladeen, is pretty much a combination of Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein.


Literature

  • H. G. Wells has two short stories taking place in the middle east or Muslim Asia, one being an Arabian Nights-period morality tale with a premise clearly inspired by the story of the Taj Mahal, and the other being a bait-and-switch tale taking place in what at the time of writing was probably the perception of the "contemporary" Muslim world (possibly the Himalayas).
  • Cat Among the Pigeons involves a hunt for royal jewels from the country of Ramat.
  • Orson Scott Card's Empire makes use of one of these. An unnamed Muslim country is where the USA is doing some unauthorized that seems to be the Theme Park version of Afghanistan but is explicitly not Afghanistan.
  • Christopher Buckley's Florence Of Arabia takes place in the fundamentalist Wasabia and the more westernized Matar
  • The downtimer jihadists and their uptime recruiters in Time Scout are presented as Muslim extremists and rabid misogynists, all from an exploded time terminal in an undisclosed location in the middle east.


Live-Action TV

  • A long-running arc on The West Wing involved the fictional country of Qumar, noted for its strategically useful location for US military interests, its cruel treatment of women ("The Women of Qumar"), and the fact that the President ordered the assassination of its secretary of defense ("Posse Comitatus"), which eventually prompted the retaliatory kidnapping of his daughter ("Twenty Five").
    • Qumar's relationship to the US is modeled closely on Saudi Arabia's, as are its human rights issues. Brief glimpses of maps in the situation room show Qumar is a small nation north of the Strait of Hormuz, bordered on all other sides by Iran.
    • At the same time much of the West Wing is modeled on past events in the real world which Sorkin read about and fictionalised. One of the war room subplots, for example, was inspired by Clinton's bombing of a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, though in that case it was identified as being an attack on Syria.
    • The West Wing also had 'Equatorial Kundu' which war undergoing a very African civil war.
      • And ironically, despite having two fictional countries on the books, the series mocks a fictional Republican representative for not knowing that Freedonia (of Marx Brothers fame) is a fictional country.
  • In Yes Minister, Jim Hacker visits Qumran, a fictional Muslim country based on Pakistan -- in fact, the scene where Hacker and his staff secretly consume alcohol was based on a real-life incident that happened on a British diplomatic visit to Pakistan.
    • On another occasion a British nurse was sentenced to several lashes for possessing a bottle of whiskey, which provokes a miniature crisis as the government does not want to push too hard as the Qumrani's are described as great friends of Britain, letting them know what the Soviets were up to in Iraq, allowing listening posts to be set up for Britain's use, and even sabotaging Opec agreements for them.
    • Another possible Qurac in Yes Minister is "The People's Democratic Republic of East Yemen". In reality Yemen was divided into the communist People's Republic of South Yemen and North Yemen (first the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen and then the Yemen Arab Republic).
  • Several of 24's Big Bads have come from Qurac. The show has also featured America attempting to start war on Qurac and its neighbours several times.
    • The second season was particularly egregious, only referring to the respective Quracs as "three Middle Eastern countries." Names for the countries on Television Without Pity ranged from "Isn'treal" to "Tofurkey."
    • Season 8 gives us the Islamic Republic of Kamistan, which seems to be a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Iran, with Anil Kapoor as a reforming President.
  • Although many missions took place in Ruritania or the Banana Republic, Mission Impossible did venture into Qurac from time to time.


Music

  • The music video for '80s new-wavers Blancmange's "Living On the Ceiling" was filmed in Egypt and features all the stereotypical money shots of riding camels at the pyramids, crowded bazaars, and dancing veiled harem girls. The song itself has a Mideastern-sounding beat as well as sitars (thus overlapping with Sim Sim Salabim).
  • Shows up in the music video for R. Kelly's song "Snake"


Newspaper Comics


Tabletop Games

  • Played straight by Araby in Warhammer Fantasy, except the source of wealth is not oil, but slave trade.


Videogames

  • Video Game Example: The Full Spectrum Warrior games use Zekistan, a Qurac setting for modern desert combat that lacks the real-world political aspects of Afghanistan or Iraq.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog's adventures in the 1001 Nights, as seen in Sonic and the Secret Rings.
  • Call of Duty 4 uses a nameless Middle Eastern country taken over by a violent, nuclear-armed and militarily aggressive regime as the setting for the first third of the game. The actual location of the country isn't made clear, as the pre-mission satellite photos jump from areas along the Red Sea suggesting Yemen, to the interior of Iran to the epicenter of a nuclear bomb's explosion in Kuwait. It also doesn't help that the country is described as being small, which doesn't make sense if it stretches from the Red Sea to the River Euphrates. Some of the missions actually seem to take place near Mecca, judging from the map. Leftover bits of old data on the disc indicate that the Qurac was going to be Saudi Arabia.
    • The final mission of Modern Warfare 3 takes place in the "Arabian Peninsula", but is very obviously meant to be Dubai.
    • Averted in Modern Warfare 2 - a few missions are directly stated to take place in Afghanistan. Only one of them actually features you fighting against insurgents, though.
  • The first Act of Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots takes place in a war-torn desert country identified simply as "The Middle East". The "Moroccan Research Team" mentioned in the game's credits gives a clue as to which country this fictional place is based on.
  • ASP Air Strike Patrol \ Desert Fighter has you fighting in Zaraq, against the Zaraqis, in 1991, where the dictator bears an uncanny resemblance to a Middle Eastern leader captured and executed in 2003.
  • Not one but two Quracs feature in Strike Fighters, both as primary protagonist (USA-supported Dhimar--an Iraq) and antagonist (USSR-supported Paran--an Iran) states.
  • Since Earthbound is an Affectionate Parody of American culture, one of the towns is built entirely on the Hollywood view of the Middle East: Scaraba! Complete with Kebab, snake merchants, and a short walk to the pyramids.
  • The Arm A II expansion Operation Arrowhead has Takistan, a deliberate Played for Laughs Culture Chop Suey version of this trope.
  • While all 3 countries of Neroimus in Chrome Hounds are Middle-Eastern, Sal Kar is definitely this trope.
  • Battlefield 2 has you fighting against the "Middle-Eastern Coalition", or MEC. While they seem to be based on Iraq heavily, they are never actually called that. The US and China don´t get this treatment.
    • Bad Company is even more blatant about the Iraq parallels, actually going so far as to have the MEC fly the Iraqi flag, as opposed to the made-up one from Battlefield 2.
    • Battlefield 3 seems poised to buck the trend, though, with campaign missions explicitly set in Iran and Iraq, and with the MEC nowhere in sight (though the bad guys fought in said countries are still fictional).
  • Command and Conquer Generals had a Central Asian country called Aldastan with heavy GLA presence. Since the names of cities are real, it implies that Aldastan was formed from the breakup of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan rather than being a fully fictional country. Considering how unstable some Central Asian Republics are (Tajikistan being near the top), this example may turn Harsher in Hindsight in the near future.
  • The first mission of Metal Slug 2 and Metal Slug X takes place in a Middle-Eastern town. They do have deadly weapons, though, as seen by the stage boss (a Cool Plane in 2 and a large-walking robot in X).


Web Originals

  • Parodied in this article on Cracked, where they sarcastically mention "Madeupbullshitistan".


Western Animation

  • Naturally, Agrabah in Disney's Aladdin is an Arabian Nights version of this trope. Doubly so as when the show was released in other countries, the writers were careful about name and design choices to not potentially offend anyone.
    • Well, except for the lyrics in the opening song. Disney removed the reference to mutilation as a criminal punishment, but left in the line "It's barbaric, but hey, it's home." Despite Agrabah very clearly being a civilized monarchy.
    • That was referring to the "immense sand" and "intense heat". The full lyric is "Where the sand is immense and the heat is intense, it's barbaric, but hey it's home.
    • In the source material, the story of Aladdin is set specifically in China. But since it's an Arabic folktale, and everyone in the story has Arabic names (the original storytellers presumably not being too familiar with the actual China), Disney moved it to Qurac.
  • Transformers had the fictional state of -- wait for it -- Carbombya (Full Title: Socialist Democratic Federated Republic of Carbombya) as a stand-in for then-newsworthy Libya. The country's main resources are oil and camels, its people frequently swear on the lives of their mother's livestock, and is ruled by a paranoid, egotistical dictator (whose similarities to Muammar Gaddafi are purely coincidental). The degree of racial/ethnic stereotyping in this case was so extreme that Casey Kasem, a Lebanese-American, quit the voice cast in disgust, causing his most prominent character, Autobot computer Teletraan I, to be replaced by Frank Welker as the more advanced, visually identical, and different sounding Teletraan II.
    • The Movie (2007) was much nicer about it even though Qatar looks absolutely nothing like the dirt-choked slum shown in the film: Scorponok's attack was ended by a phone call to a nearby base from a little town in Qatar.
  • Stewie and Brian once accidentally ended up in a version of Qurac in Family Guy.
  • On The Venture Brothers, the space station Gargantua-1 landed in "Iranistan". It crashed straight into a secret hideout where all the world's terrorist leaders were meeting.
  • Inspector Gadget featured several fictional Middle Eastern countries; Alpacastan (there are no llamas in the Middle east, damn it!), Pianostan, etc.
  • The Young Justice version of Qurac is, surprisingly, not this trope, but apparently a fairly developed country with a democratically elected leader, and also apparently contains a savanna region that resembles Tanzania or Kenya. However, its neighbor Bialya, ruled by the Mind Controlling supervillainess Queen Bee, fits much better.
    • Even Bialya, for all of the Unfortunate Implications of being run by a supervillain, somewhat subverts the stereotypes associated with Qurac. It has a highly-advanced military whose firepower and organization threatens even a team of (admittedly young) superheroes!
      • They are apparently equipped with modern first-line U.S. army weaponry up to and including M1 tanks and Predator Drones armed with miniguns for some reason. That's not to mention that their queen is a woman who a) appears to be black rather than arab/middle eastern and b) tends to dress rather stripperifically.


Real Life

  • In Tony Blair's memoirs, he recalls a visit to Pakistan where on the way from Islamabad Airport to the city he saw people on the embankment, men in white robes and veiled women. This despite the fact that there is 1) no embankment anywhere near the route, it is pretty much an expressway almost all the way, 2) that Pakistani men do not wear anything that can be remotely construed as "robes" and Pakistani women do not usually wear a veil and especially not in the region where Islamabad is located. They might not have been native Pakistani's but rather visitor's from Saudi Arabia or Yemen, but it has been noted by the field of psychology that, dispositions notwithstanding, the brain is a very generous organ; when there is need, it will supply.
  • Following the 2010-2011 protests in Tunisia (resulting in the resignation of President Ben Ali and dissolution of the current administration), a specific interview had one protest leader quoted as demanding certain democratic ideals from the incoming government, most of all "...national dignity! We are not a Bananas [sic] Republic!"
  • During the Republican primary race in 2011, Herman Cain was asked a question about his knowledge of foreign policy; his non-answer included the country of "Uzbeki-beki-beki-stan-stan".

Notes

  1. Persia is Iran.
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