World Cultures Portfolio/Middle East: Population Density
World Cultures Middle East Report about Population Density
The Middle East, a mosaic of cultures mixed together in a volatile world. Ready to blow up at a moment's notice, the Middle East often considered by many as one of the world's most troubled spots. Vast stretches of desert exist where almost nothing can live. On the other hand, next door, the cradle of civilization exists with fertile valleys stretching as far as the eye can see. Then, in another few miles, comes the sea full of shipping and commerce.
Geographical diversity, one of the defining factors of the Middle East, creates its character. From deserts to lush valleys, from mountains to oceans, the different sections of the Middle East define it. Vastly different geographies support vastly different population levels. Lush valleys support large amounts of crops which support a large population. Deserts, however, are devoid of life. They support nothing but a few creatures, if that. Thus the population of the Middle East finds itself concentrated in a few select places, while vast stretches of desert sands lie practically empty.
One of the most fertile valleys in the Middle East lies along the banks of the Nile River. The Nile River makes up the heart of Egypt, both modern and ancient. Until recently, the river flooded every year, depositing rich soil over the desert. This soil let crops grow along the river, and could support a large population. This gave rise to one of the most recognized ancient civilizations on earth, Ancient Egypt. The rulers of Ancient Egypt managed to build huge pyramids with their large population. In present day, the Nile valley supports more then 250 people per square mile, the densest population in the Middle East (Ahmad et al). Nowadays the river has a dam blocking it, modern means have replaced the floods, but the river still provides the basis of life for many people living in Egypt.
However, the large population causes overcrowding. Cities especially suffer from the problem. Overcrowding breeds disease and lowers the living standards. The worst of these areas are the slums where the poorest of people live. Such peoples' lives are cut short by the filth around them caused by the high population density. However a large population also helps a society become more productive. Thus a dense population represents a mixed blessing.
The section of the Middle East which included Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories also pack a lot of people into it. The region has always had a large population because of its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea. Much history has accumulated here. All of the large western religions lay claim to part of the region. However, this led to a conflict which forced many Palestinians out off of their lands and left them with nowhere to go. As one moves into Saudi Arabia, the land quickly becomes uninhabitable desert (Ahmad et al). As with everywhere else on Earth, there's only a certain amount of livable land available. This forces the population density to increase, and again, causes a decline in the overall standards of living. This problem, because of the cultural and religious differences between the groups, makes the problem only worse.
The northern party of Turkey also crowds many people into its land (Ahmad et al). This section in near Europe and the Black Sea. In fact, Turkey even extends into Europe near Istanbul. The climate here matches most of southern Europe's, but not, however, the rest of the Middle East (Encarta Climate Map).
On the other hand, the desert in the middle of Saudi Arabia has almost no people living in it (Ahmad et al). Less then 2 people per square mile live here (Ahmad et al). However, in the middle of the desert the city of Riyadh exists because of seasonally flooding stream beds (Encarta "Riyadh"). Riyadh actually means water bed in Arabic (Encarta "Riyadh"). 50-99 people per square mile live in the middle of the desert and it has become a center of commerce (Encarta "Riyadh", Ahmad et al). The definition of a desert, although often thought as a hot place, only needs to be a place which receives little rain. People, of course need water to live. Without water, no life can be supported.
Water, the life blood of the Middle East, controls the population. Much of the water available comes from rain. Rainfall appears greatest around Turkey, which reaches about 40 inches per year (Encarta Annual Rainfall Map). It's especially heavy around the Black Sea, to the north of Turkey (Encarta Annual Rainfall Map). Also rain comes down in sizable amounts to the south and southeast of Turkey, extending partly into the northern part of Iran (Encarta Annual Rainfall Map).
The area near the Caspian Sea also supports a large population because of the Elburz Mountains (Ahmad et al). The mountains block the moisture coming off the sea from floating over into most of Iran. The clouds get stuck and empty over the region making it very fertile. This rain supports up to 100 people per square mile in this little sliver of land in Iran (Ahmad et al). In this region even lies the countries' capital city, Tehran. This effect has similarities to the one of the west cost of the United States. The Rocky Mountains block the rainfall from entering the great plains like the Elburz Mountains keep most of Iran dry, and therefore sparsely populated to levels around 25-49 people per square mile (Ahmad et al).
The land which borders the sea to the south of the Middle East also supports a sizable population (Ahmad et al). These lands seem to get a somewhat generous, for the Middle East at least, rainfall. About 20 inches of rain falls here per year (Encarta Annual Precipitation Map). Of course, the inhabitants can't just drink the salt water which they live near. They are reliant on the rain for fresh water, and can only live where it rains.
However this limitation currently finds itself disappearing. Desalination, the process of removing the salt from water, changes the rules of the Middle East. However, still the process costs large amounts of money. But new desalination technologies continue to change the rules by making desalination less expensive. Areas which do not currently have any fresh water might soon change deserts into driving ranges.
In fact, if one looks at the map of annual precipitation in the Middle East, one would notice that the maps almost align (Encarta Annual Precipitation Map, Ahmad et al). The darkest regions on the rainfall map (the areas which get the most rain) for the most part have large populations (Encarta Annual Precipitation Map). Turkey, again finds itself as the example. On the other hand, not many live in the dry deserts of lower Oman (Encarta Annual Precipitation Map). However, there are some discrepancies. Egypt receives almost no rain, but still has the largest population in the Middle East because the water flows down the Nile from the wetter regions in the north (Encarta Annual Precipitation Map, Ahmad et al).
The Encarta ecological map matches almost exactly with the population density map (Encarta Ecological Map, Ahmad et al). The more green the region on the ecological map, the more temperate and wet the region finds itself (Encarta Ecological Map). It also happens that the more temperate the region, the more people are able to live in that region. For example, the northern part of Turkey, as well as the section of Iran directly under the Caspian Sea are temperate wet forests (Encarta Ecological Map). The eastern section of Turkey gets recorded as Mediterranean woodland (Encarta Ecological Map). 50-99 people per square mile call this region their home (Ahmad et al). This amounts to less then other parts of Turkey, but substantially more then the rest of the Middle East (Ahmad et al). The remaining land mostly gets recorded as subtropical desert (Encarta Ecological Map). Remembering the definition for desert and its effects on the population can explain some of the population diversity in the Middle East.
The climate map, however, does not match up real well except in Turkey, where the climate differentiates itself from the hot deserts of the Middle East (Encarta Climate Map). Somehow the hot and arid conditions do not seem to affect the population levels of the Middle East.
In closing, the Middle East has great geographical diversity. This supports a diverse population spread out diversely throughout the Middle East. Rainfall, mountains, and desalination plants affect where people can live. From empty deserts to crowded oases and marshes, the Middle East finds itself defined by geography. Unfortunately, this can cause conflicts and disagreements, but possibly the future looks better. Desalination can change all of the rules and alter the landscape, as well as the conflicts, of the Middle East.
- Ahmad, Ifikhar, Herbert Brodsky, Marylee Susan Crofts, and Elisabeth Gaynor Ellis. World Cultures: A Global Mosaic. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2001.
- "Middle East Annual Precipitation Map." Encarta. Microsoft. 22 Nov 2006 <http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/features/MapCenter/MapPrintPreview.aspx?lat=25.5131949275313&long=47.6392956305587&alt=2&mapsize=Small&mapstyle=PrecipitationAnnual&mapstyleselectedindex=9&selectedent=47611&entityname=Middle%20East%20(region),%20Asia>.
- "Middle East Climate Map." Encarta. Microsoft. 22 Nov 2006 <http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/features/MapCenter/MapPrintPreview.aspx?lat=25.5131949275313&long=47.6392956305587&alt=2&mapsize=Small&mapstyle=climate&mapstyleselectedindex=8&selectedent=47611&entityname=Middle%20East%20(region),%20Asia>.
- "Middle East Ecological Map." Encarta. Microsoft. 22 Nov 2006 <http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/features/MapCenter/MapPrintPreview.aspx?lat=25.5131949275313&long=47.6392956305587&alt=2&mapsize=Small&mapstyle=ecology&mapstyleselectedindex=7&selectedent=47611&entityname=Middle%20East%20(region),%20Asia>.