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West Asia

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Title: West Asia  
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Subject: Altaic languages, Arab people, Aramaic language, Brass, Demographics of Canada, Central Asia, Lactose, 1980, Brown, London, Ontario
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West Asia

Western Asia
Area 6,255,160 km2
(2,415,131 sq mi) 1
Population 313,428,000 1
Density 50.1 /km2 (130 /sq mi)
Nominal GDP $2.742 trillion (2010) 2
GDP per capita $8748 (2010) 2
Time zones UTC+2 to UTC+5
Demonym West Asian
Languages Abkhaz, Adyghe, Arabic, Aramaic, Armenian, Avar, Azerbaijani, Chechen, Georgian, Gilaki, Greek, Hebrew, Kabardian, Kurdish, Lezgin, Lurish, Mazanderani, Ossetic, Persian, Turkish, Zazaki
Largest cities Iran Tehran
Turkey Istanbul*
Iraq Baghdad
Saudi Arabia Riyadh
Turkey Ankara
Notes 1Area and population figures include the UN subregion, Iran, and Sinai.
2GDP figures include the UN subregion and Iran.
*Partly located in Europe.

Western Asia, or Southwest Asia, are terms that describe the westernmost portion of Asia. The terms are partly coterminous with the Middle East, which describes a geographical position in relation to Western Europe rather than its location within Asia. Due to this perceived Eurocentrism, international organizations such as the United Nations,[1] have replaced Middle East and Near East with Western Asia. This region and Europe are collectively referred to as Western Eurasia.


The world's earliest civilizations developed in Western Asia. For most of the last three millennia, the region has been united under one or two powerful states; each one succeeding the last, and at times, eastern and western based polities. The main states in this regard were the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonian Empire, the Achaemenid Empire, the Seleucid Empire, the Parthian Empire, the Roman Empire, the Sassanid Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Umayyad Caliphate, the Abbasid Caliphate, the Safavid Empire, and the Ottoman Empire.


Western Asia is located directly south of Eastern Europe. The region is surrounded by seven major seas; the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea,[2] the Persian Gulf,[3] the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea.

To the north, the region is delimited from Europe by the Caucasus Mountains, to the southwest, it is delimited from Africa by the Isthmus of Suez, while to the east, the region adjoins Central Asia and South Asia. The Dasht-e Kavir and Dasht-e Lut deserts in eastern Iran somewhat naturally delimit the region from Asia itself.

European geographers historically viewed the North Caucasus as part of Western Asia, as well as much of what is today European Russia.


Western Asia is primarily arid and semi-arid, and can be subject to drought, but it also contains vast expanses of forest and fertile valleys. The region consists of grasslands, rangelands, deserts, and mountains. Water shortages are a problem in many parts of West Asia, with rapidly growing populations increasing demands for water, while salinization and pollution threaten water supplies.[4] Major rivers, including the Tigris and Euphrates, provide sources for irrigation water to support agriculture.

There are two wind phenomena in Western Asia: the sharqi and the shamal. The sharqi (or sharki) is a wind that comes from the south and southeast. It is seasonal, lasting from April to early June, and comes again between late September and November. The winds are dry and dusty, with occasional gusts up to 80 kilometers per hour (50 miles per hour) and often kick up violent sand and dust storms that can carry sand a few thousand meters high, and can close down airports for short periods of time. These winds can last for a full day at the beginning and end of the season, and for several days during the middle of the season. The shamal is a summer northwesterly wind blowing over Iraq and the Persian Gulf states (including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait), often strong during the day, but decreasing at night. This weather effect occurs anywhere from once to several times a year.[5]


Western Asia contains large areas of mountainous terrain. The Anatolian Plateau is sandwiched between the Pontus Mountains and Taurus Mountains in Turkey. Mount Ararat in Turkey rises to 5,137 meters. The Zagros Mountains are located in Iran, in areas along its border with Iraq. The Central Plateau of Iran is divided into two drainage basins. The northern basin is Dasht-e Kavir (Great Salt Desert), and Dasht-e-Lut is the southern basin.

In Yemen, elevations exceed 3,700 meters in many areas, and highland areas extend north along the Red Sea coast and north into Lebanon. A fault-zone also exists along the Red Sea, with continental rifting creating trough-like topography with areas located well-below sea level.[6] The Dead Sea, located on the border between the West Bank, Israel, and Jordan, is situated at 418 m (1371 ft) below sea level, making it the lowest point on the surface of the Earth.[7]

Rub' al Khali, one of the world's largest sand deserts, spans the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula in Saudi Arabia, parts of Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Jebel al Akhdar is a small range of mountains located in northeastern Oman, bordering the Gulf of Oman.


Plate tectonics

Three major tectonic plates converge on Western Asia, including the African, Eurasian, and Arabian plates. The boundaries between the tectonic plates make up the Azores-Gibraltar Ridge, extending across North Africa, the Red Sea, and into Iran.[8] The Arabian Plate is moving northward into the Anatolian plate (Turkey) at the East Anatolian Fault,[9] and the boundary between the Aegean and Anatolian plate in eastern Turkey is also seismically active.[8]

Water resources

Several major aquifers provide water to large portions of Western Asia. In Saudi Arabia, two large aquifers of Palaeozoic and Triassic origins are located beneath the Jabal Tuwayq mountains and areas west to the Red Sea.[10] Cretaceous and Eocene-origin aquifers are located beneath large portions of central and eastern Saudi Arabia, including Wasia and Biyadh which contain amounts of both fresh water and saline water.[10] Flood or furrow irrigation, as well as sprinkler methods, are extensively used for irrigation, covering nearly 90,000 km² across Western Asia for agriculture.[11]


The population of Western Asia is over 300 million. The most populous countries in the region are Iran and Turkey, each with around 75 million people, followed by Iraq with around 32 million people. The major languages are Arabic, which is an official language in 14 regional countries, followed by Turkish, and Persian. Islam is the major faith in Western Asia.


The economy of Western Asia is diverse and the region experiences high economic growth. Turkey has the largest economy in the region, followed by Saudi Arabia and Iran. Petroleum is the major industry in the regional economy, as more than half of the world's oil reserves and around 40 percent of the world's natural gas reserves are located in the region.

Current definitions

United Nations Statistics Division

The countries and territories in the UN Subregion of Western Asia,[12] listed below:

Though not included in the UN subregion of Western Asia, Iran is commonly included within Western Asia.[13][14] Afghanistan is also sometimes included in a broader definition of "Western Asia", although Afghanistan is more commonly included in Central Asia,[15][16] or South Asia.[17][18] The Sinai Peninsula of Egypt geographically belongs to West Asia.

Government of Canada

The Canadian government uses "West Asian" in its statistics.[14]

General data

Country, with flag Area
(per km²)
Capital Nominal GDP[19]
Per capita[20]
Currency Government Official languages
 Turkey1 783,562 73,722,988 94.1 Ankara $741.85 billion $10,399 Turkish lira Parliamentary republic Turkish
Arabian Peninsula:
 Bahrain 665 1,234,596 1,646.1 Manama $22.66 billion $20,475 Bahraini dinar Constitutional monarchy Arabic
 Kuwait 17,820 3,566,437 167.5 Kuwait City $131.32 billion $36,412 Kuwaiti dinar Constitutional monarchy Arabic
 Oman 212,460 2,694,094 9.2 Muscat $55.62 billion $18,657 Omani rial Absolute monarchy Arabic
 Qatar 11,437 1,696,563 123.2 Doha $129.49 billion $76,168 Qatari riyal Absolute monarchy Arabic
 Saudi Arabia 1,960,582 27,136,977 12 Riyadh $443.69 billion $16,996 Saudi riyal Absolute monarchy Arabic
 United Arab Emirates 82,880 8,264,070 97 Abu Dhabi $301.88 billion $59,717 UAE dirham Federal Constitutional monarchy Arabic
 Yemen 527,970 23,580,000 44.7 Sana'a $31.27 billion $1,282 Yemeni rial Presidential republic Arabic
South Caucasus:
 Armenia 29,800 3,262,200 108.4 Yerevan $9.39 billion $3,032 Armenian dram Presidential republic Armenian
 Azerbaijan 86,600 9,165,000 105.8 Baku $62.321 billion $6,832 Azerbaijani manat Presidential republic Azerbaijani
 Georgia 69,700 4,636,400 68.1 Tbilisi $14.67 billion $3,210 Georgian lari Semi-presidential republic Georgian
Fertile Crescent:
 Iraq 438,317 33,635,000 73.5 Baghdad $144.21 billion $4,288 Iraqi dinar Parliamentary republic Arabic, Kurdish
 Israel 20,770 7,653,600 365.3 Jerusalem $213.15 billion $28,686 Israeli new shekel Parliamentary republic Arabic, Hebrew
 Jordan 92,300 6,318,677 68.4 Amman $27.53 billion $4,500 Jordanian dinar Constitutional monarchy Arabic
 Lebanon 10,452 4,228,000 404 Beirut $39.25 billion $10,044 Lebanese pound Parliamentary republic Arabic
 Palestine 6,220 4,260,636 667 Ramallah3 $6.6 billion $1,600 dinar, shekel Presidential republic Arabic
 Syria 185,180 23,695,000 118.3 Damascus $59.33 billion $2,877 Syrian pound Presidential republic Arabic
Iranian Plateau:
 Iran 1,648,195 78,868,711 45 Tehran $357.22 billion $4,741 Iranian rial Islamic republic Persian
Mediterranean Sea:
 Cyprus 9,250 1,088,503 117 Nicosia $23.17 billion $28,237 Euro Presidential republic Greek, Turkish
Sinai Peninsula:
 Egypt 2 61,000 850,000 82 Cairo $218.47 billion $2,789 Egyptian pound Presidential republic Arabic


1 The figures for Turkey includes East Thrace, which is not a part of Anatolia.
2 The area and population figures for Egypt only include the Sinai Peninsula.
3 Ramallah is the actual location of the government, whereas the proclaimed capital of Palestine is Jerusalem, which is disputed.
4 Jerusalem is the proclaimed capital of Israel and the actual location of the Knesset, Israeli Supreme Court, etc. However, it is not internationally recognized as the Israeli capital.

Map of Western Asia

See also

Geography portal
Asia portal


External links

  • Edward Stanford
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