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Middle East Studies: Patterns of Peoples, Cultures and Settlements

Jenkins Macedo
Prof. M. Eskandari
23 February 2010
Chapter 4

Patterns of Peoples, Cultures and Settlements

This chapter provided specific demographic details concerning the patterns of peoples, cultures and settlements of the Middle East. The Middle East has several complexities relating to the distribution of the population and people. These complexities are influenced by the region’s biophysical, cultural and historical developments over centuries.
Over the years, the populations of the countries in the Middle East increase exponentially and this can be attributed to the region’s favorable environmental conditions and its increasing economic importance in both the regional and the global sphere. Since the early 1950s, urbanization in various cities in the region greatly increased which can be directly linked to the result of population shift from settling in rural areas to urban communities. For example, “Turkey, Iran and Egypt have population approaching 70 million” (Held, 2003). These three countries constitute the hub of the power core of the Middle East with Iraq following behind as one of the most important country in the Middle East with immense historical, political and economic influences. Also, the trend of the forms of migration in the region also play significant role in defining its people. The issues of civil unrest, political instabilities, and the search for better economic opportunities, and war influenced the force migration of people as emigrants to the United States, Canada, Western Europe, and Australia. This forced movement of people from the Middle Eastern countries greatly impacted the population and economic development of the region in so many ways.
The people of the Middle East have a long history, which makes the region very interesting to study. The importance of the diversities among the people of the Middle East can be seen in the variations in their languages, religion, history, and cultures, which include their customs, dress, and values. The variations in their languages, religion and cultures serve as the platform for the establishment of different group identities and nations that is distinctive and peculiar from each other. Language and religion are two of the paramount cultural features to consider when studying the Middle East, because these are intertwine. More than half of the countries in the Middle East are Arab states; notwithstanding, about half of the population of the region is non-Arab.
The essential element through which every cultural value can be taught to current and future generation is language. It is the paramount characteristics in defining ethnic groups specifically if the variation has to do with ethnic-oriented linguistics. The Middle East has six predominant linguistic groups with about twenty-five other languages spoken by inhabitants of the “less accessible basins, valleys, and plateaus” (Held, 2003). The main languages spoken in the Middle East in accordance with the number of speakers are as follows: Arabic, Turkish, Farsi, Kurdish, Azeri and Hebrew. Other languages such as Baluchi, Luri or Caspian, Tajik, Pushtun, Punjabi, Hazara, Greek, and Armenian are also spoken there, but with fewer speakers.
Religion is an important aspect of the Middle East, because the Middle East is the birthplace and nucleus or epicenter of the three major monotheistic world religions, which are Judaism, Christianity, and Islamism. The historical, cultural, social, economic, and geo-political development of the Middle East has been a product of the region’s endless connection with religion. As of 2003, statistics show that the population of the Muslim faithful was around 297 million, which constituted about 92 percent of the region’s population. Christianity is the second largest religion with about 13 million believers and Judaism with about 5 million adherents. Other religions found in the Middle East include Kurdish Yazidis, Zoroastrianism, Mandaeans, and Baha’ism also with fewer followers.
The kind of settlement patterns found in the Middle East is dependent on each individual cities and states. There are varieties of settlement types, forms, and functions established in the context of each individual city and state historical, environmental, traditional and national systems. Settlement type is a function of the population size of the location, city or state.

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