By most definitions, "Arab countries" are 22 countries whose citizens' primary language is Arabic. As of mid-2002, [every Arabic-speaking country] is located in one of two general global regions: Africa, particularly in the north, or Asia's Arabian Peninsula. Collectively, these regions are commonly referred to as the Arab world, Arab nations, Arab states, or the Arab homeland. Every Arab country is also a member of the Arab League, an intergovernmental alliance created to unify the Arab nations politically and represent the interests of the people of the Arab nations. Combined, the Arab countries encompass a total area of more than 5 million mi² (13 million km²) and boast a 2022 population of more than 453 million people.
The 22 Countries of the Arab League:
|Djibouti||Libya||Saudi Arabia||United Arab Emirates|
Egypt is the most populous Arab country, with a total 2022 population of more than 106 million. Comoros is the smallest by population, with just 907,000 people. By area, Algeria is the largest Arab country with a total area of 919,352 mi² (2,381,741 km²). The smallest by area is Bahrain, which covers just 303 mi² (785 km²). The largest city in all the Arab nations is Cairo, Egypt, which has a population of over 16 million people. Baghdad, Iraq and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia round out the top three most populous cities.
Modern Standard Arabic is the official language throughout Arab nations, although various Arabic dialects are used as well. The majority of the citizens of Arab countries follow the religion of Islam. About one-quarter of the world’s Muslims are Arabs. However, the Arab states are home to millions of Christian or Jewish people. Throughout the Arab nations, adult literacy is just under 77%, with literacy rates being much smaller among women than men. Some nations have much higher literacy rates, with Syria, Lebanon, and other states posting record highs of over 90%.
Possible future Arab countries and Arab League members
There also exist a small group of countries that are considered Arab countries by only a few sources:
- Chad — This landlocked African country became an observer member of the Arab League in 2005 and counts Arabic as one of its two official languages (French is the other). However, despite applying for membership in 2014, Chad has not been admitted to the Arab League. This may be due to a veto from Libya, which engaged Chad in armed conflict from 1978-1987.
- Eritrea — This small country on Africa's eastern coast is another observer member of the Arab League, but it is arguably too diverse to qualify as an Arab country. For example, while Arabic joins English and Tigrinya as the country's three recognized "work languages," it is not one of the country's eight officially recognized national languages.
- South Sudan — This African country was part of Sudan (and, in turn, the Arab League) until 2011. While South Sudan would reportedly be welcomed into the Arab League, the country is largely Christian and English-speaking—both important factors in its secession from Sudan—which would lead one to suspect it would have little interest in joining the Arab League.
- Tanzania — Formed by the 1964 merger of the Arab state Zanzibar with the former British colony Tanganyika, this African country is more than 63% Christian and counts Swahili and English as its official languages. Arabic is but one of more than 100 languages spoken in the country.
Inaccurate stereotypes about citizens of Arab countries
While many Westerners and Europeans think of Arabs as being universally brown-skinned and dark-haired, the term "Arab" actually has no basis in race or genetics. Rather, Arabs are people with a particular shared history, base language, and culture. As the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee states: "Arabs are not a race. Some have blue eyes and red hair; others are dark skinned; many are somewhere in between."