THE MIDDLE EAST
The Middle East is variously defined. Egypt and Israel are sometimes included, sometimes not. In this blog Egypt has been treated as part of Africa. The Random House Dictionary includes these countries as part of the Middle East Region: the United Arab Republic, Sudan, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and the countries of the Arabian Peninsula.
Much of the region is desolate desert, semi-desert, or mountainous. Summer heat can be debilitating. Temperatures in parts of the Arabian Peninsula reach 130 degrees. In Kuwait summer temperatures reach 140 degrees and rainfall averages less than four inches annually. Most of Saudi Arabia is desert, including Rub al-Khali, the vast empty quarter. The country has no permanent rivers or lakes.
Pleasure travel to the area has been sharply limited in the last several years because of wars in the area. Travel for business and religious reasons to Saudi Arabia and Israel continues high. About 2.2 million Muslin pilgrims visit Mecca in Saudi Arabia each year.