Western Asia. It includes Anatolia, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, the Levant, Mesopotamia, the Sinai Peninsula, and Transcaucasia. The region is considered to be separated from Africa by the Isthmus of Suez, and separated from Europe by the waterways of the Turkish Straits and the drainage divide of the Caucasus Mountains. Central Asia lies to the northeast of Western Asia while South Asia lies to the east.
20 countries are located fully or partly in Western Asia, out of which 13 are part of the Arab world.
“Western Asia” was in use as a geographical term in the early 19th century, even before “Near East” became current as a geopolitical concept. In the context of the history of classical antiquity, “Western Asia” could mean the part of Asia known in classical antiquity, as opposed to the reaches of “interior Asia”, i.e. Scythia, and “Eastern Asia” the easternmost reaches of geographical knowledge in classical authors, i.e. Transoxania and India. In the 20th century, “Western Asia” was used to denote a rough geographical era in the fields of archaeology and ancient history, especially as a shorthand for “the Fertile Crescent excluding Ancient Egypt” for the purposes of comparing the early civilizations of Egypt and the former.
Western Asia is located directly south of Eastern Europe. The region is surrounded by seven major seas; the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea.
To the north, the region is delimited from Europe by the drainage divide of the Greater Caucasus, to the southwest, it is delimited from Africa by the Isthmus of Suez, while to the northeast and east, the region adjoins Central Asia and South Asia.
The economy of Western Asia is diverse and the region experiences high economic growth. Turkey has the largest economy in the region, followed by Saudi Arabia and Iran. Petroleum is the major industry in the regional economy, as more than half of the world’s oil reserves and around 40 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves are located in the region.
The population of Western Asia was estimated at 272 million as of 2008, projected to reach 370 million by 2030 by Maddison (2007; the estimate excludes the Caucasus and Cyprus). This corresponds to an annual growth rate of 1.4% (or a doubling time of 50 years), well above the world average of 0.9% (doubling time 75 years). The population of Western Asia is estimated at about 4% of world population, up from about 39 million at the beginning of the 20th century, or about 2% of world population at the time.
The most populous countries in the region are Turkey and Iran, each with around 79 million people, followed by Iraq and Saudi Arabia with around 33 million people each, and Yemen with around 29 million people.
Numerically, Western Asia is predominantly Arab, Persian, Turkish, and the dominating languages are correspondingly Arabic, Persian and Turkish, each with of the order of 70 million speakers, followed by smaller communities of Kurdish, Azerbaijani, Hebrew, Armenian and Aramaic. The dominance of Arabic and Turkish is the result of the medieval Arab and Turkic invasions beginning with the Islamic conquests of the 7th century AD, which displaced the formerly dominant Aramaic and Hebrew in the Levant, and Greek in Anatolia, although Hebrew is once again the dominant language in Israel, and Aramaic (spoken largely by Syriac Christians) and Greek both remain present in their respective territories as minority languages.
Western Asia contains large areas of mountainous terrain. The Anatolian Plateau is sandwiched between the Pontus Mountains and Taurus Mountains in Turkey. Mount Ararat in Turkey rises to 5,137 meters. The Zagros Mountains are located in Iran, in areas along its border with Iraq. The Central Plateau of Iran is divided into two drainage basins. The northern basin is Dasht-e Kavir (Great Salt Desert), and Dasht-e-Lut is the southern basin.
In Yemen, elevations exceed 3,700 meters in many areas, and highland areas extend north along the Red Sea coast and north into Lebanon. A fault-zone also exists along the Red Sea, with continental rifting creating trough-like topography with areas located well-below sea level. The Dead Sea, located on the border between the West Bank, Israel, and Jordan, is situated at 418 m (1371 ft) below sea level, making it the lowest point on the surface of the Earth.
Rub’ al Khali, one of the world’s largest sand deserts, spans the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula in Saudi Arabia, parts of Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Jebel al Akhdar is a small range of mountains located in northeastern Oman, bordering the Gulf of Oman.