Geographically, the Middle East is a region that is located in Western Asia and extends into Egypt. There are a total of 17 countries that make up the Middle East, which has a history that dates back to the Middle Ages and was the birthplace of many major religions still practiced today. The Middle East is made up of a vast number of ethnic groups, and as of 2016, the region has an estimated population of over 411 million.
The Middle East is used to describe a region of countries that is located in West Asia and extends into Africa. It is made up of 17 different countries. The Middle East has many different ethnic groups sprawled across its countries, including Arabs, Bengalis, Egyptians, Filipinos, Jews, Hindus, Greeks, Sri Lankans, Sikhs and Pakistanis, just to name a few. Its estimated population of over 411 million includes 13 million Arab migrants.
One of the things that the Middle East is known for is its religious diversity. Many major religions originated in this region, and those religions include Christianity, Judaism and Islam, among other religious beliefs that have been formed there. Islam is the most practiced religion across the region, although this can vary by country. Lebanon, for example, has over 40% of people that follow Christianity.
Because this region is made up of different countries, there is not just one official language. There are five languages that are spoken throughout the Middle East: Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish and Berber. Arabic is the most spoken language in Middle Eastern countries, with Persian taking 2nd place. In many Middle Eastern countries, English is taught and used as a second language.
The economy of the Middle East is very hard to pinpoint, as there are some countries that are very wealthy, while others are very poor. Saudi Arabia, one of the richest countries, is just one of the countries in the Middle East that relies heavily on the export of oil and oil-related products to maintain its economy. Other areas of the Middle East, such as Turkey and Israel, have a much more diverse economy that includes textiles, cattle, agriculture, cotton and banking.
Most Populous Countries in the Middle East
With a population of over 411 million people, it's easy to assume that there are extremely populated countries located in this region. Iran is by far the most populous, although Turkey is not far behind in numbers. The 3rd largest country, Iraq, has a population that is less than half of the observed numbers in Iran and Turkey, individually. The five most populous countries in the Middle East are:
- Iran: 81,824,270
- Turkey: 79,414,269
- Iraq: 37,056,169
- Saudi Arabia: 27,752,316
- Yemen: 26,737,317
Least Populous Countries in the Middle East
While Iran is the most populous country and has an astounding population of over 81 million, not all Middle Eastern countries are so populated. However, all countries have populations that have surpassed 1 million, and some of the least populous countries, such as Qatar, have an average annual growth rate that is up to 6 times as high as some of the more populated areas. The five least populous countries of the Middle East are:
Largest Cities in the Middle East
Looking at its 2016 estimated figures, it isn't hard to tell that the Middle East has some of the largest cities in the world contributing to its population. Cairo, Egypt, is the most populated metropolitan area, and its population is over double the size of the 5th most metropolitan city, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The five most populated metropolitan cities in the Middle East are:
- Cairo, Egypt: 16,300,000
- Istanbul, Turkey: 13,900,000
- Tehran, Iran: 13,300,000
- Baghdad, Iraq: 9,028,636
- Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: 6,300,000
Population Growth of the Middle East
The population of the Middle East is expected to continue rapid growth in the foreseeable future. After the introduction of modern medicine and sanitation measures, the mortality rate of death rates dropped dramatically, while birth rates continued to remain steady, leading to a high rate of natural increase across the Middle Eastern countries. In more recent years, the fertility rate has declined across many countries, which will help slow the rate of growth. However, the region is expected to continue to see rapid growth for some time. This could lead to some problems in the future, as Middle Eastern governments struggle to close the gap between the rich and poor, decrease poverty rates and provide essential necessities (housing, jobs, health care) to its residents. The population of young people and women of reproductive age is also rising, so providing health care options to avoid a rising fertility rate is just one key to slowing the rate of growth.
However, despite these challenges, the growth rate is expected to begin a decline in 2020 through 2050. The growth rate through that period is expected to be just 0.6% annually. After 50 years of rapid growth, it is about time for the region to see a slowdown, and there is nothing to indicate that the growth rate numbers will stay at their current level or rise higher. While the Middle East does face some population challenges, the future looks clear, and while the area will continue to grow, it is predicted that it won't grow at such a rate that it puts additional strain on its resources.