Articles in Southwest Asia and North Africa
The spatial distribution of words for a given meaning can reveal interesting patterns of both language spread and language contact. While both factors are always at play, language contact is more evident in regard to words for cultural innovations, such as ‘tea’ or ‘computer’. Another interesting case is the geography of words for ‘book’, which many languages borrowed along with the general concept of ‘book’ and more often than not with one particularly important religious text.
Water struggles in the Nile Basin have recently intensified as Egyptian nationalists denounce Ethiopia’s building of the Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, the river’s largest tributary. Ethiopia is now diverting the river in preparation for construction, angering many Egyptians, whose country is heavily dependent on the Nile flow. Protestors gathered in front of the Ethiopian embassy in Cairo …
Global overpopulation has recently returned to the public spotlight with the publication of Inferno, the latest offering from novelist Dan Brown, author of the 2003 blockbuster The Da Vinci Code. A mystery thriller on the surface, Inferno is ultimately a piece of demographic fiction. As one reviewer notes, “The specter of a catastrophically overpopulated Earth, its desperate people grasping and …
Several earlier GeoCurrents posts examined the history and geography of culinary vocabulary, particularly words for ‘cheese’, ‘onion’, and ‘tea’. It has become clear that the distribution of such words in European languages tells a story of both common descent and borrowing. But a completely different picture emerges if we examine words for ‘cucumber’ (see map on the left). Here, areal patterns are more conspicuous than those of language-family relationships.
Catholics and Protestants celebrated Easter on March 31 this year, in accordance with the Gregorian calendar; Orthodox Christians will celebrate this holiday on May 5, in accordance with the Julian calendar; and Jews celebrated Passover on March 26. But one group, the Samaritans, will observe Passover on April 23, even though they are not considered Jews by Israeli rabbinical authorities. Who are the Samaritans?
Egypt’s troubled and insecure transition to democratic rule has exposed some intriguing political geographical patterns. Yet at first glance, maps of recent elections do not seem particularly revealing. Consider, for example, the December 2012 Constitutional Referendum, a measure favorable to the ruling Muslim Brotherhood that critics claim restricted basic freedoms and democratic governance. The referendum passed with almost 64 percent …
Although Wikipedia classifies the numerous political parties in Israel according to their ideologies, a more accurate description of an Israeli political party would emphasize the segment of the Israeli society that it represents. This point is underscored by the existence of such parties as the Dor Party, which represents the older citizens, the Holocaust Survivors Party, and the Yisrael BaAliyah Party, formed to represent the interests of Russian immigrants (the latter party eventually merged with the Likud). Given these strong demographic ties, it is not surprising that clear geographical patterns emerged from the national election of January 2013; these patterns are largely persistent over time.
Transportation issues may not be high on international media’s agenda when it comes to Israel, yet traffic jams are a common occurrence, especially in and around Tel Aviv, while the newly constructed Light Rail system in Jerusalem has been plagued by problems, including failed terrorist attacks, allegations of inappropriate fines imposed by overzealous ticket inspectors, and controversy surrounding competition with the bus company. But two innovations now explored in Israel may change all that and lead to improved transportation, reduced energy consumption, and decrease in air pollution.
International efforts to isolate Iran and force it to halt its uranium enrichment program have seriously damaged the country’s economy: entire industries have been paralyzed, food and fuel prices are skyrocketing, and the local currency is collapsing. But by causing a plunge of the rial, the sanctions have had an unintended and, for Iran, very welcome consequence: a jump in tourism.
Efforts are being made worldwide to stop the tide of language endangerment and extinction. One group that has recently made efforts to return to its linguistic roots is Christian Arabs of the Middle East. A campaign is now underway to revive the Aramaic language by teaching it at elementary schools, in Jish (Israel) and Beit Jala (PA).
The world’s next hyperinflation episode appears to be underway in Iran, with potentially far-reaching political consequences. Officially, Iran pegs its currency—the rial—at 12,260 to the dollar. In early 2012, black market exchange rates began to diverge sharply from the 12,260 peg, eventually hovering at nearly double the official rate.
Lush, verdant hillsides are not the type of landscape one would expect to find on the Arabian Peninsula. Indeed, most of the region is parched desert where plant life is extremely sparse without human intervention. During the summer monsoon season, however, parts of Oman and Yemen find themselves soaked in rain and wreathed by fog.
Today Berbera is a city of about 100,000 located on the coast of Somaliland, an unrecognized state occupying the northern portion of Somalia. As the only sheltered seaport on the South shore of the Gulf of Aden, Berbera’s economic fate is thoroughly entwined with that of Somaliland.
Most monuments from Egyptian antiquity are grand, conspicuous, stone-made, and thoroughly impractical. The Wadi Tumilat, a defunct Nile distributary branching East from the delta, boasts no such monuments. In ancient times it was a vital part of the Canal of the Pharaohs, a major feat of ancient civil engineering that linked the Red Sea to the Mediterranean via the Nile. …
A development dispute surrounding the destruction of ancient ruins in Beirut stirs debate and reflection on the nation’s past.