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Middle East

Land and Resources

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The total land area of the Middle East is 7.3 million sq km (2.8 million sq mi). Much of the region consists of flat plains or plateaus. Extensive desert areas stretch across the southern reaches, including the Libyan Desert and Arabian Desert in Egypt, the Rub‘ al Khali in southern Saudi Arabia, and the Syrian Desert at the junction of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq. Northern mountainous areas include the Taurus Mountains in Turkey, the Elburz Mountains and Zagros Mountains in Iran, and the mountains of northern Iraq. Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel contain the northernmost extension of the Great Rift Valley, a depression that extends from the Middle East to southeastern Africa. The Caspian Sea, the largest inland sea in the region and the only one of any economic significance, indents Iran’s northern border. The area is particularly susceptible to earthquakes, which have caused massive devastation in the second half of the 20th century, especially in Iran and Turkey.

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