The Middle East is a very diverse region composed roughly of the countries in and around the Arabian Peninsula. The Middle East region has one of the most ancient histories in the World with many conflicts throughout. Also, the cultures, religions, and economies of Middle Eastern countries are very dynamic and is why the Middle East is so interesting to study even when confined to a specific time period, say the 20th Century.
The Middle East is a very old region of civilization. The area housed such famous civilizations as the ancient Jews, the Egyptians, and the Phoenicians. Also, other famous cultures did not start here but expanded their empire into the Middle East. These constant culture changes in the Middle Eastern region have molded a very diverse society and have caused many conflicts which in some cases are still lingering in the region today. Even though there has been so much cultural change, relics of once existent ancient culture has survived the test of time. For example, the great Pyramids of Egypt still stand after thousands of years. Also, much of the Holy Land, including Jerusalem has remained somewhat intact from the ancient city we hear about in Christian faith. These relics have been preserved even with the introduction of new cultures into the region.
The Middle Eastern cultures of today outnumber the cultures which originally lived there many years ago, making for a very diversified cultural mix. For example, in the 20th century, there has been a huge rise in Jewish population because of Britain's post war promise to them for a homeland in Palestine. This has caused major problems though. The Arabs in Palestine viewed the Jewish migration as invading on their territory and the Jews and the Israelis are in dispute for the right to live in Palestine still today. These type of conflicts are lingering and make the Middle East's peace very unstable. In the past century or so, there have been four wars between the Israelis and the Jews, a war between Iraq and Iran, and the most recent war, the Persian Gulf War. Many of the reasons for these wars still exist today. The previous wars didn't really solve anything and, due to this fact, there is concern of more wars erupting in the years to come.
As said above, religions play a major part in a country's culture and sometimes are the cause of the conflicts which are present in the Middle East region today. The region is filled with just about every major religion in the World including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism. But the most popular religion in the Middle East by far would have to be Islam. Islam is one of the regions oldest religions still in practice today. Islam's god is Allah and the religion runs on it's followers obeying the five pillars put forth by the father and prophet of Islam, Mohammed. The pillars include praying five times a day to the city of Mecca , giving alms to the poor, making a pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime, following the god Allah, and fasting during the month of Ramadhan. Though Islam is the dominant religion, the other religions in the region have many followers. Conflict between religions is bound to happen in such a diversified area and it has happened in the Middle East since its earliest days of civilization. An example of this is the classic story of Moses and how he freed his people from the bondage of the Egyptians. The different religious beliefs between Moses and the Egyptians played a huge part in the conflict and is why many consider the tale a religious story.
The religious and cultural conflicts present in the Middle East make the region a time bomb for crisis, so how does the Middle East survive? Well, the answer is simple. OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), the major economic organization in the Middle East, produces about 40% of the world's oil and holds more than 77% of the world's oil reserves. The organization formed in the middle 20th Century after the imperialism which existed in the Middle East ended and the countries could run their own economies. The organization is made up of eleven countries, nine of which are Middle Eastern, and literally controls gas and oil prices throughout the world. Although this export brings in much of the Middle East's revenue, oil has been a major cause of many conflicts in the past century including the Iran-Iraq War and the Persian Gulf War. Both of these conflicts involved Iraq trying to take over the oil fields of another country and, as a result, the United Nations has constrained Iraq's production of oil. Needless to say, Iraq is not a major contributor in OPEC today.
Even though the Middle East is often riddled with dispute, the region still flourishes. It's success resides in it's importance to the rest of the world, both in economy and history. The region is very diversified, filled with interesting sites and peoples which historically go back centuries. In the past century the Middle East's economy has strengthened due to the ending of imperialism and is controlled internally by the crucial organization of OPEC. Many may say that OPEC is evil, but it is what keeps the Middle East up and fighting. This is exactly what the region is, a fighter. Since the turn of the 20th century, the region has fought through differences in culture, religion, and economy and still has stayed strong enough to look forward for a better tomorrow.