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The traditional definition of the Middle East extends from Egypt to Iran, stretching north to Turkey and south to Yemen. More casual uses throw in North Africa as far west as Morocco and (more rarely) even Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some defintions dont include Iraq in Middle East and some doesnt include Turkey. Also known as Near East, mainly in texts originating in Europe (both English and foreign texts) and Middle East is then area around Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and all those other -stans. And Iraq. This can cause translators mess aswell. So better always make sure what is the authors definition of the term and preferably attach your own definition if writing about it yourself.
The Middle East is generally considered the "cradle of civilization"; the earliest civilizations in the world (in the modern sense of the word) - Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian - developed in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) and the surrounding areas about 5000 years ago; Ancient Egypt showed up at about the same time as Sumer, and Mesopotamian and Egyptian empires would later trade territory in the Levant (Lebanon/Syria/Israel/Jordan). The whole area served as an important trade and cultural center in ancient times.
One should note that not all the Middle East is Saudi Arabia. Some states are more liberal (and desert-covered) than others. Additionally, not everyone in the Middle East is even Muslim as Egyptian Coptic, Israeli Jews, Lebanese Maronite Christians, amongst others, would point out. Likewise, even leaving aside Turkey and Iran (Turks and Persians, respectivelly), not everyone in the Middle East is Arab, as Berbers, Jews, Kurds, amongst others, would point out.
Traditional Middle East:
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
Greater Middle East: