Cultural Relatedness Between The Middle East And North Africa

North Africa and the Middle East are not divided naturally. This political division includes Arab countries which are located geographically in a certain region

The strange case is Egypt, which belongs to the North African geographical region but is part of what we know now as the Middle East.

“The two main things that keep the MENA (this is how the sum of the regions is usually called) together are religion and language.”

Religion And Language

The two main things that keep the MENA (this is how the sum of the regions is usually called) together are religion and language. On one hand, the Arab is what most people speak, and to defeat a common myth, Arabic is not a religion, but a language and a bloodline that can be inherited.

The true strongest religion among them is Islam, although, the region was created politically and it would be unfair not to recognize the huge amount of minorities that live there. As an example of this, the territory that was given to the Jewish people after WWII known as Israel today bears a huge amount of very orthodox and enthusiastic people who don´t practice Islam, but their own religion.

“According to a recent study by the Oil & Gas Journal, more than half of the world´s oil and gas reserves is found in this region.”

The World’s Reserve

According to a recent study by the Oil & Gas Journal, more than half of the world´s oil and gas reserves is found in this region. The importance of this economic fact is that the flourishing society in these countries has a strong impact on both, cultural and social growth. It´s estimated that the investments being made in education, arts and culture will make the region even more powerful bringing most ethnical differences to an end. An example of this effort is the action being carried on by the information network On the Move who are financing entrepreneurs to develop cultural actions within the MENA territory and Europe with the aim of fostering collaborative actions in the field of cultural management. Another aim of the program called EUNIC is to develop skills through coaching that might be necessary for participants to reach a new understanding on several areas like mapping out and professionalizing the cultural and creative sectors as well as managing cultural projects.


Political stability and economic wealth will turn directly into a new cultural paradigm for the entire region. Both Middle East and North Africa are composed of countries that have a lot in common as well as a great future ahead of them through collaboration.

The strong historical legacy might lead into a bright cultural future if collaboration occurs.

The Amazing Cultures That Are Exclusive To Middle East

Well, for starters, we have to say that the Middle East is not a geographical denomination.

The borders that make the region are not based on natural phenomenon or continent distinction, they are continuously shifting and reshaping as is human culture and religion.

That being said, the strong links between the different people of the region are rooted deeply. Here are some of the most important and amazing cultures to be found in the region.

“Jordan is mostly an Arab-country and as such, it remains a very friendly and warm environment very hospitable for foreigners.”

Jordanian As An Example

Jordan is mostly an Arab-country and as such, it remains a very friendly and warm environment very hospitable for foreigners. Breaking the rules of etiquette is usually forgiven easily and the effort made to respect them is always very welcome. Although arranged marriages are still very common, women play a significant role in society, they are entitled to a full education, can drive and vote.

When it comes to beliefs and religion, the borders of Jordan contain a mix that´s incredibly varied and complex. There are Bedouins who claim to be the first and only real Arabs living in the same place with Muslims, Christians, and Dom-gypsies.

“The cultural divergence between the city and the country-side is very notorious.”

The cultural divergence between the city and the country-side is very notorious. For Bedouins, the only modern civilization artifact in their lives might be a motorized vehicle to move faster while the more modern Jordanians favor a full-on city life which involves theatre, music, and cinema from abroad. The strongest legacy and cultural interaction among Jordanians are still oral but after WWII there has been a great number of authors who have gained recognition for their prose or like Mustafa Whabi Al-Tal who is one of the most important Arab poets of the 20th century. There´s a filming institute in the country backed by Steven Spielberg that has given formed directors and cinematographers who are world-class.

Another very interesting fact is that Jordanians are very young, more than a third of the country is currently under fifteen years old and education is very strong.


We selected Jordan for the simple reason that it is very much the way life is lived in the whole of Middle East. The cultural and religious clash within the same political territory is something very common as well as the mix between antique customs being practiced for thousands of years with very modern state-of-the-art education and arts.

The countries that form the Middle East are developing into a better way to include all elements into the same mix.

Ancient Art And Craft Originated From North Africa: Hieroglyph

Commonly associated with Egyptian monuments, tombs, and statues, hieroglyphs are a form of pictorial writing that mostly represent sounds, groups of them or the objects depicted in them.

“The words of the gods.”


Hieroglyph is a Greek word that means ‘sacred carving’, but is actually a translation from the Egyptian term ‘the words of the gods’. It became clear with a further historical investigation that those beautiful symbols were made to be carved and drawn in temples and important places, but not for everyday commerce in which the hieratic was handwritten and a much more abbreviated symbol to use. It is often said that the demotic (still used today) is a natural descendant of it. The very strange and important thing to understand about Egyptian art is that it wasn´t conceived as we conceive art today. The most important use given to it was ritual and everlasting, but not especially for the public eye, instead, for the inside of tombs and hallways which entrance was forbidden many times for the artist itself. It was an art not to be shown as the great article by the Khan Academy explains.

“Theodosius I was a Byzantine Emperor who shut down all pagan temples in the whole empire around AD 390.”

Almost Lost

Theodosius I was a Byzantine Emperor who shut down all pagan temples in the whole empire around AD 390.

This tremendous action included all Egyptian temples and writing, which lead 4,000 years of writing tradition into a violent ending and the banning of it for almost 1,500 years.

When the first discoveries were made in terms of tombs and temples entering, the writing found there was not legible and very little was known about the inscriptions and their meaning.

“This discovery allowed mankind to know more about the old Egyptian society than any other ancient culture.”

The Rosetta Stone

In 1799 the key to unlocking the mystery of the hieroglyphs was finally found. The Rosetta Stone featured the same text in three languages: demotic, Greek and hieroglyphics. The stone itself said that the text would be the same in the three languages and based on the knowledge acquired to that point about the Greek symbols, the code was cracked. There were several attempts to make a proper translation, but it was French prodigy JeanFrançoise Champollion who made the final determination about the phonetic values of each symbol. Champollion could, by age 16, proficiently use Greek as well as six ancient Oriental languages. Since his understanding of the meanings based on the Rosetta Stone, many other studies have been done only refining and emphasizing the Frenchman´s assumptions. This discovery allowed mankind to know more about the old Egyptian society than any other ancient culture.


The importance of hieroglyphs as a form of communication as well as a work of art is key to understanding some of the unsolved mysteries that have driven humankind to believe in alien invasions and superhuman help to build pyramids. As much as it was a milestone to understanding a huge civilization, the legacy remains in modern art through a movement called the Egyptian Revival involving not only in architecture (obelisks and pyramids) but also furniture and many other forms of media.

Although the discoveries regarding Egyptians were made hundreds of years ago, the impact is still among us today.

Cultures In North Africa That Have Been Lost To Civilization

“The Berber People”

The Berber People

Named this way, the history of this nomadic civilization that was present in the west side of the Nile Valley is very extensive and also diverse. They are non-Arabic tribes related only by culture and language but with no fixed territory. They inhabited the region for such a huge amount of time that was even referenced by the Egyptians under the name of Temehu (3,000 BC). There has never been a political unity among them, we can´t speak even today about a Berber Empire, but many that have lived along with each other for thousands of years.

The Berber lands have always been very important since they were crossroads for all the people trading between Africa. The Middle East and the South of Europe.

Because of this and their nomadic kind, the Berbers have mixed with many ethnic groups and hence can be recognized because of the language they speak rather than the distinct facial features among them. Actually, the language they share is one of the oldest known to man.

“The Kingdom Of Aksum”

The Kingdom Of Aksum

Have you ever heard of the Rastafari movement? Well, they are not just a group of reggae listeners, they worship their messiah named Haile Selassie I, the last Emperor of Ethiopia, the only country in the whole of Africa that wasn´t dominated by Europe. They have created their own version of the Christian faith and claim that their royalty is the product of an affair between the Queen of Sheba and none other than King Solomon, meaning that they descend directly from the Biblical House of David.

Now, it´s well-known among historians that in the 13th Century, an Amhara noble who claimed to be descendent from the Iron Age dynasty called Aksum founded the Solomonic dynasty. This noble, named Yekuno, was the one who gave birth to the legend that the bastard son of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba founded Aksum. Haile Selassie, the Messiah, was a member of the Solomonic dynasty

Much like the Ethiopians do nowadays, the inhabitants of the Aksum kingdom, the Aksumites spoke a Semitic language. The kingdom is also widely connected with modern Israel and features a very large population of Jews from an indigenous kind (also known as the Beta Israel).

The olden Kings of Aksum had brought much of what we now know as Yemen, Sudan and Ethiopia under their control around 3rd and 4th centuries AD as well as smaller percentages of Saudi Arabia and Egypt and was one of the four greatest empires humankind has ever gotten to know along with ancient China, Roman, and Persian.

Jewish queen Yodit overthrew Aksum in the 10th Century. Regardless of this, the legacy in terms of politics and culture survived more than a millennium to the present date. Institutions such as the Amhara people, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the line connecting the Solomonic dynasty to the ancient Judea come from the memories of a huge empire.

Foods That Can Only Be Found In the Middle East

As we all know, the globalized world we live in every day has blended all cultures and found new market niches to commercialize foreign food in virtually every country in the world.

Globalized Mutations

Since migration is so common nowadays, it´s fairly easy for any global citizen to find pairs and a restaurant to go eat and have fun, regardless of the city in the world they are currently at. One very interesting phenomenon is that the lack of some specific ingredients to prepare certain recipes makes the imagination of chefs and cooks go wild and give birth to brand new combinations based on ancient knowledge: the famous globalized mutations. This being said, we can´t assure you these would be something that can´t be found anywhere outside the country of origin but are things you should definitely try if you come across with them.


This particular dish takes the name from the recipient (pot) it is cooked in. It is a North African traditional tribal dish found in several countries like Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. Vegetables and meat are cooked together in the same container only in the liquids each ingredient releases during the cooking. No extra water is added and the entire vapor generated within the pot is condensed in its conical hat ‘raining’ over and adding up to the natural juices. This delight is often served with some couscous, which is very similar to rice.


It might sound familiar because of the utterly known kofta that the Indian cuisine has made famous around the world. The kefta is previous, a predecessor that comes in a simpler but equally tasteful presentation: simple ground meat (it can be lamb or cow) seasoned only mildly with parsley and paprika. Once it is prepared, It is grilled like a kebab and served (just with no gravy).


If you like cumin, you´re going to love this dish, it uses heavy doses in its preparation. It is an ideal meal for a cold winter evening made of rice and lentils, which are cooked together along with a huge combination of spices including cumin. This is only the bottom part of this dish which is artistically topped with some crispy fried onions that make that ideal contrast of crunchy and soft, stewed, heavily spiced lentils and rice.


Historically, the Turkish cuisine has not received the attention it deserves. This phyllo dough snack can be filled with an endless variety of fillings including heavily seasoned meat, spinach with cheese and as many others as the imagination can go. These savory pastries do make a great snack but also, in larger quantities, can turn into a lunch or a dinner.


Did anyone say dessert? Well, this is a pastry that can work as a snack for some middle-of-the-night trip to the fridge or a great after-dinner delight. It features a wheat covering, an astonishing amount of pistachios and is completely drenched in treacle. As a snack or as a desert, this is an awesome sweet thing to have around.

The Left Outs

We haven´t included the most popular ones like Shawarma, tabbouleh, hummus, baklava, and falafels because that´s something anyone can buy and try almost anywhere in the world.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try these suggestions and you won´t go wrong.

Amazing Facts Everyone Must Know

There are some facts that draw attention because they are fun or because they are interesting or simply unique, the truth is they all belong to a place on Earth most people refer as distant or strange.

It is very important as globalized citizens we are to dive directly and unveil the mysticism surrounding this part of the globe known as the Middle East and North Africa.

Important Facts

1 – The most saline sea in the world is the Red Sea. This condition appears because the evaporation rate of the water is higher than other places in the world but the precipitation is very little. Since there´s almost no river inflow, the process leaves behind a 41% of saline while the world average is 35%.

2 –What will you see if you are lucky enough to visit the Sahara desert? Well, the answer is not sand, because the moving dunes are only about 21% of the surface, the rest is mainly rocks. So the landscape is as dry as it gets, but it´s also made of huge rocks.

3 – The landscape and natural boundaries of both Middle East and North Africa are not natural or geographical, they are political. Because of this, many different religious activities and political beliefs live in the same place. There are some very strict etiquette rules that should not be broken for every one of them! Anybody said cultural clash? Of course! Within the region and with outsiders.

4 – Can the desert be fertilized and grow basic vegetables in the middle of sand dunes? Of course it can, actually, the Al Khufrah Oasis in Libya, as seen in this great picture taken by NASA is a great example. The importance of irrigating water to one of the aridest places in the world is crucial for survival.

5 – Just to abolish the common belief that women are not as important as men in these regions, 70% of the students in science and engineering aren´t men, are the ladies.

6 – Arab is not a religion, it´s an ethnic group. There are Arab Christians and Arab Jews, in fact, you can be an Arab if you are descendent (bloodlines) or speak Arabic, the main Arab language. The key thing to know is that Arabs were around way before Islam was born.

Fun Facts

1 – There was a time in which Iran tried to reach the Guinness book of records by making the largest sandwich the world had ever seen. It was the year 2008 and the attempt was failed because it was so tasty that people started eating it before time and when it was measured, it was shorter. People in Iran didn´t try to do it again.

2 – There are some very strange illegal things in Iran like Mullets!

3 – In a great move, Iranians removed the waiting list for the kidney transplant using health insurance as well as financial compensation to incentivize unrelated donors.

4 – It was 2007 and the Iranian government arrested 14 squirrels. What were the charges? Spying!