Studying Culture in the Middle East

Studying Culture in the Middle East
Generally speaking, culture means those beliefs, traditions, practices, and institutions which make up an individual, community and national identity. What sets apart "those people" from "these people" is what defines culture groups and characteristics.

To understand culture, one understands how the history, geography, economics, religion and other factors are shaped by a culture, or are being shaped in concert together. We want to examine culture in at least 20 categories to have a thorough understanding of each culture in the Middle East and the nuances of subgroups.

  • Land and Climate

  • History

The People
  • Population

  • Language

  • Religion

  • General Attitudes

  • Personal Appearance

Customs and Courtesies
  • Greetings

  • Gestures

  • Eating

  • Family

  • Housing

  • Dating and Marriage

  • LifeCycle

  • Diet

  • Recreation

  • The Arts

  • Holidays

  • Government

  • Economy

  • Transportaiton and Communications

  • Education

  • Health

In the Middle East, there are at least 24 major people groups, including but not limited to: Arabs, Turks, Persians, Somalis, Jews, Kurds, Assyrians/Syriacs (Chaldo-Assyrians), Egyptian Copts, Armenians, Arameans, Azeris, Maltese, Circassians, Greeks, Turkomans, Shabaks, Yazidis, Mandeans, Georgians, Roma, Gagauz, Berbers, Mhallami and Samaritans.

Not only that, but the Middle East is home to three of the world's major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The three major language groups are Persian, Turkish, and Arabic. Hebrew is the only revived ancient language spoken today in the Middle East, in Israel, of course! Arabic has influenced many words in Persian and Turkish.

Persian and Turkish are relatively easy languages to learn - Persian grammar is most similar to Spanish grammar, and Turkish grammar is similar to word can be a whole sentence! Our family has learned Farsi (a dialect of Persian), and we are working on Turkish, which we've found isn't so hard since we already know Latin. Because of this, we know a little Arabic, and our next goal is to learn Hebrew so we can read the Bible better!

If you can master the basics of these three major culture groups, you will generally feel comfortable wherever you travel in the Middle East, and if you learn the basics of each of the three largest languages, you'll find a very warm welcome among most of the people groups. At least learn the greetings before you go to the Middle East!

Extra Resources:
  • Embassy of Turkey, 2525 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008


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You Should Also Read:
Introduction to Middle Eastern Culture
Key Cultural and Social Values in the Middle East

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