Religion – As the birthplace of three of the largest religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism), in the world, The Middle East holds religion to be one of the most basic forms of identity.
Islam is the most practised religion in this region except in areas of Israel (where 82% of the population practice Judaism), Christianity is also practised in areas of Lebanon, Egypt and Israel.
The spread of Islam in regions like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and neighbouring countries came with the expansion of the Arab empire.
Smaller minority religions include Bahá’í Faith, Druze, Yazidism, Mandaeism, Gnosticism, Yarsanism, Samaritanism, Shabakism, Ali-Illahism, and Zoroastrianism are also present in the Middle East.
Art and Architecture – Art has been a huge part of the Middle Eastern culture since the time of the ancient civilizations, diverse and reflective of the diversity of its many regions.
Contemporary Middle Eastern artists often work in contexts fraught with conflict, taking inspiration from situations close at home such as war zones or at the crossroads of tradition and rapid development. Many artists in the Middle East find an array of challenges in promoting their art including freedom of expression.
Stunning examples of Islamic architecture, encompassing a wide range of mosques, tombs, forts, public baths and gardens dot the Arab peninsula.
From Hagia Sophia in Istanbul to buildings which speak of African influences in the citadel of Cairo to spiralling minarets in Iraq to perfectly landscaped gardens of Persia and the towering skyscrapers of Dubai, the architecture of the Middle East speaks volumes about its immersive culture and history.
Customs and Traditions – Situated at a location central to Europe, Asia, and Africa, the Middle East has been the gateway for many travellers, traders, explorers and conquerors for a long time. As a result, the population of the Middle East has come to host an amalgamation of vibrant cultures, ethnicities and languages.
Religion plays a large part in the rhythm of daily life. Shops in different neighbourhoods close on Fridays for the Muslim holy day, Saturdays for the Jewish Sabbath, and Sundays for the Christian day of rest.
The family is an important part of the culture in the Middle East, traditionally comprising of an extended family of cousins, grandparents, second cousins, cousins-in-law, nieces, and nephews living together. Largely seen in rural areas, relocation to the cities has changed some of these traditional structures and the number of people living as a nuclear family in urban areas is increasing.
Food plays a very important role in the Middle East and is a gateway to its culture.