posted on Nov, 16 2008 @ 07:35 AM
POSTED HERE FOR GENERAL REFERENCE
Middle East. Until World War II, it was customary to refer to areas centered around Turkey and the eastern shore of the Mediterranean as the
"Near East," while the "Far East" centered on China. The Middle East then meant the area from Mesopotamia to Burma, namely the area between the
Near East and the Far East. In the late 1930s, the British established the Middle East Command, which was based in Cairo, for its military forces in
the region. After that time, the term "Middle East" gained broader usage in Europe and the United States, with the Middle East Institute founded in
Washington, D.C. in 1946, among other usage.
With the disappearance of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, "Near East" largely fell out of common use in English, while "Middle East" came to be
applied to the re-emerging countries of the Islamic world. However, the usage of "Near East" was retained by a variety of academic disciplines,
including archaeology and ancient history, where it describes an area identical to the term Middle East, which is not used by these disciplines (see
Ancient Near East).
The first official use of the term "Middle East" by the United States government was in the 1957 Eisenhower Doctrine, which pertained to the Suez
Crisis. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles defined the Middle East as "the area lying between and including Libya on the west and Pakistan on the
east, Syria and Iraq on the North and the Arabian peninsula to the south, plus the Sudan and Ethiopia."
In 1958, the State Department explained that the terms "Near East" and "Middle East" were interchangeable, and defined the region as including
only Egypt, Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar.
At the United Nations, the numerous documents and resolutions about the Middle East are in fact concerned with the Arab-Israeli conflict, in
particular the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and, therefore, with the four states of the Levant. The term Near East is occasionally heard at the UN
when referring to this region.
The Levant is a term that traditionally describes the Eastern Mediterranean at large, but can be used as a geographical term that denotes a large
area in Western Asia, roughly bounded on the north by the Taurus Mountains, on the south by the Arabian Desert, and on the west by the Mediterranean
Sea, while on the east it extends into Upper Mesopotamia. The term Levant is somewhat synonymous with the term Mashriq derived from the Arabic
consonantal root sh-r-q, relating to "the east" or "the sunrise". An imprecise term, Levant refers to an area of cultural habitation rather than
to a specific geographic region.
The Levant region covers the eastern Mediterranean nations of Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan, Palestinian territories, Iraq, Cyprus, and parts of
Turkey and Egypt. The term Levant, which first appeared in English in 1497, originally meant a wider sense of "Mediterranean lands east of Venetia."
It derives from the Middle French levant, the participle of lever "to raise" - as in soleil levant "rising Sun" - from the Latin levare. It thus
referred to the Eastern direction of the rising Sun from the perspective of those who first used it and has analogues in other European languages,
notably morgenland - or a closely related word meaning morning land- in most Germanic languages. As such, it is broadly equivalent to the Arabic term
Mashriq, "the land where the Sun rises".
It is similar to the Ancient Greek name (Anatolía) which means the "land of the rising Sun", or simply the East. It derives from “the rise,
especially the sunrise”, resp. from “to rise,” esp. said of the Sun or Moon “to go, rise,” come into existence. For the Greeks, Anatolía is
a synonym of (Mikrá Asía) Asia Minor, not of Levant.
Arabia. The Arabic term Rub' al Khali which translates as Empty Quarter in English, is one of the largest sand deserts in the world, encompassing
most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula, including southern Saudi Arabia, and areas of Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The
desert covers some 650,000 square kilometers (250,000 sq mi), more than the combined land areas of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France and almost the
land area of Texas.
Desertification has increased through the millennia. Before desertification made the caravan trails leading across the Rub' al Khali so difficult,
the caravans of the frankincense trade crossed now virtually impassable stretches of wasteland, until about AD 300. For example, Iram of the Pillars,
a lost city, depended on such trade. More recently, tribal populations were also present in certain parts of the Empty Quarter, with the largest in
the Najran region. A few road links were connected with these tribal settlements to the water resource and oil production centers.
Geologically, the Empty Quarter is the second most oil-rich places in the world. Vast oil reserves have been discovered underneath the sand stacks.
Sheyba, in the middle of the desert, is a major Arab light crude oil-producing site in Saudi Arabia. Also, Ghawwar Field, the largest oil field in the
world, extends southward into the northernmost parts of the Empty Quarter. From Wikipedia