Ethnic Groups in the Middle East

The Middle East is a territory that approximately encompasses most of Western Asia, North Africa, and Egypt. They commonly know this transcontinental region as the Middle East. The Middle East territory has been an intersection of different cultures. From the 1960s, the revamping of political and economic factors in oil wealth has notably altered the ethnic structure of groups in the region. While some ethnic groups have been living in the territory for millennia, others have joined recently through immigration. 

The biggest ethnic groups are Arabs with Turks, Kurds, Azeris, Jews, Copts, Somalis, Armenians, Druze, Persians, Assyrians, Maronites, Turkomans, Circassians, and many additional minor ethnic groups shaping other significant populations. 

In addition, their religion differentiates from ethnicity. Islam is one of the most followed religion in Middle East, besides Israel and Palestinian.

Majority of the people in the Middle East are part of the Sunni sect of Islam. The other sect is known as Shiite or Shia Islam.The Shiite religion is mainly found in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Bahrain. There is also a Shiite minority that is part of Lebanon, Kuwait, and Yemen. 

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Other smaller sects are the Alawites, the Druze, the Ibadis, the Ismailis, the Shafis, and Sufis. 

Besides Islam, there are other religions in that area such as Jews who practice Judaism that make up about 82% of the population in Israel. This is the only country in the Middle East that doesn’t practice Islam. They also practice Christianity in countries like Lebanon, Egypt, and Israel. 

The people of the Middle East have a powerful sense of nationalism, like they know people in Syria as Syrian, while they know people in Iran as Iranian. They consider ethnic and religious identities as most important in the Middle East. They give more importance to their country of origin than their ethnic and religious background. 

Comparisons of Population:

The Middle East has about 246 million in population. It varied them in their distribution. While the fertile lands are densely populated, some are lightly populated, and in deserts, it is empty. It is noted that Turkey, Egypt, and Iran are mostly populated with over 50 million people each. The Persian Gulf countries like Bahrain and Qatar have the smallest population with 400,000 each. Saudi Arabia, which has the greatest area, has a small population of 10 million as most of the land is desert. 

Because of the sparse population in the Middle East, and the challenge for employment that was created because of the discoveries in oil in these regions, there has been an increase in immigration. These migrants mostly come from South Asia, predominantly Indian Subcontinent.  


The basic elements of cultural identity in the Middle East are language. The most frequently spoken language in that region is Arabic. Turkish and Persian or Farsi, are the languages of Iranians. Kurdish is a relative of Persians. The Hebrew spoken in Israel is like Arabic that is a Semitic tongue. Most educated people in the Middle East speak either French or English.  

Primary civilization in the Middle East consists mainly of agriculture and most people still now earn their daily bread as farmers. Like all other countries, lately, the Middle East people have migrated to big cities for their livelihoods from small towns and villages. 

In some circumstances involving transnational migration or colonial expansion, we find that ethnicity is linked to nationality. In the 19th century, modern states tried to seek legitimacy through their claim to represent “nations”. However, Nation-states invariably included populations who have been eliminated from national life. So, these members of excluded groups will try to demand inclusion based on equality or seek autonomy. Under these circumstances, they formed the ethnic groups by those people who identified with one nation but lived in another country. 

I, Priya Nagarajan, is a past Assistant Professor, mentor, tutor, counselor. Writing has always been a passion of mine and so changed my path to my passion. I believe language is the best way to convey your thoughts and dreams to get the results. I believe it takes a personal approach to reach individual success. I write with a flair for creativity and a keen eye for the professional.

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