For the majority of the world the Middle East can be condensed into several streotypes; the oil giants, the strict Islamic orthodoxy, the continued conflict, Israel and Palestine, Saudia Arabia and Iran. The stereotypes do exist within the Middle East and are much discussed by academics and journalists alike. However, beyond these narrow preconceptions there exists a far greater economic and political diversity.
The Middle East is the cradle of civilisation and, as such, the region has become a rich blend of religions, ancient civilisation and modern political ideologies. Within this region of the world coexist the world’s leading Islamic powers (including the holiest sites in Islam), the world’s only Jewish state and the origins of Christianity. Cities like Baghdad, Jerusalem and Damascus have been at the centre of global politics ever since the notion of global politics emerged and their importance is as much to do with their symbolism as their strategic importance.
But whilst the ancient Middle East is crucial to our deeper understanding of the region, understanding the modern Middle East helps to understand the future of the region. Out of the oil wealth of the Arabian peninsula have emerged powerful nations and city states, such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar, have used this vast financial reserve to reshape the global economy. They have invested not only in great infrastructure projects at home that have made them centres of sport and culture but also in projects in Europe, America and Asia that have established an economic blueprint that covers the globe.
“This creed of the desert seemed inexpressible in words, and indeed in thought”.
T.E. Lawrence, (1888-1935) British Army Officer and Arabian Freedom Fighter