Friday, March 18, 2011

middle east

i keep reading articles that refer to libya as being part of the "middle east." which is strange because i don't think of it as part of the middle east. instead, it is part of north african, i.e. the maghreb (egypt is the only country that is both north african and middle eastern in my mind, though it is not part of the maghreb). for some reason i thought the historic definition of the "middle east" was the land between the nile, the oxus and the indus rivers (the land beyond the oxus being transoxiana, the ancient name for central asia. the land beyond the indus being india)

i googled around and can't find anyone else who defines the middle east that way. still, my impression seems to roughly correspond with the "traditional definition of the middle east". wiki says that libya is part of the "greater middle east", but so are a lot of countries that i can't believe anyone would consider to be middle eastern, assuming he/she knows where those countries are actually located (somalia? kazakhstan? the comoros?)

not that i haven't been aware that some people do consider the arab countries in north africa to be part of the middle east. i once spoke to an italian guy who referred to morocco as "middle eastern."  "how can it be middle eastern when it is to the west of italy?" i asked. he didn't really have an answer.

on a related note, the only thing harder to define than the middle east is the middle west. i can't count the number of discussions i had about that when i lived in the midwest (or when i lived in the midwest and st. louis. lots of midwesterners contest the inclusion of any part of missouri, though people in st. louis seem to think they are midwesterners. the only place that everyone agrees is midwestern is chicago).

what is it with all those middle places?